Rabbi Harold Kushner teaches, "When I pray, I speak to God. When I study Torah, I keep quiet and let God speak to me."
One of the ways Jews worship is through study. Through examining and wrestling with the text of the Bible, we find meaning and purpose in our lives. And it's not just a personal wrestling -- usually our study is in groups or pairs, known as chevruta.
Each week, members of my congregation engage in our Shabbat Morning Torah Study. It's a relatively small group, varying from 10-15 people each week. Most of them are "regulars" and most are much older than I am. Most have been through the cycle of Torah reading many many times before.
Because that's what it is. We re-cycle the Torah each year. There is a set rhythm to the year, as we end at the end and begin at the beginning again on the holiday of Simchat Torah (this year on the night of October 3rd). The Torah, divided into its weekly portions, guides our lives, guides our seasons...it's fall, and I know it's time to read Genesis. We come into the winter and I know that we are onto the story of Joseph and his dreams. As the weather gets colder, we sing the Song of the Sea and as spring begins to dawn, we explore the priesthood. We travel with the Israelites through the desert as spring turns to summer, and as the heat turns up, we begin the sad and uplifting final moments as Moses imparts his wisdom in Deuteronomy...and it all begins again in the fall. And it happens each year. Each year we study the exact same words, the exact same portions.
And it never gets old.
I never grow tired of reading and sharing and studying and learning the text of the Torah. I never find it boring, I never find any of it to be dull or ordinary. Each time I re-read the text, I know that I am finding something new. Rabbi Ben Bag Bag said in Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, "Turn it and turn it and turn it, for everything is contained within it."
To know that for my whole life I can be consumed with the study of this one book -- and all the peripheral knowledge that the Jewish people have collected and written alongside it, the ancient and modern writings that accompany the Torah -- to know that there will always be new books written that will try to illuminate and illustrate its ideals, to know that Judaism will always have this learning...it is powerful. It is inspiring. It is amazing.
To know that the Torah will not change but that I will. That each time I read it, I come from a new and different place, a new and different perspective, a new and different opportunity to find wisdom.
May my learning continue to bring me closer to God, with each word that I study. As we come closer to the end of our cycle, may this end bring us strength. The words that we say as we come to the conclusion of a book of the Torah are "chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek" -- Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened. Each conclusion brings the strength to begin again. May it always be so.
Written as part of Scribbit's Write-Away Contest...the theme of Learning.
(and hey...it came out to be my 100th post. Chazak Chazak v'nitchazek!)