Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
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To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

Moshe in his final words to the Jewish people describes the Torah as being the inheritance of the entire congregation of Yaakov - of all of Israel. When the Torah was given to the Jewish people at the moment of Godly revelation at Mount Sinai Jewish tradition posits that all of the souls of all of Israel throughout the generations were somehow present and participated in that grand moment of human and Jewish history. Thus according to Jewish tradition and worldview there exists within all Jews a spark of memory of Sinai and an affinity to Torah and its study and values. It is that spark that lies deep within our souls that makes us Jewish - a people and a nation, a faith and a potential light unto the nations of the world. The rabbis of the Talmud expressed their confidence in the existence of that Torah spark within Jews by stating that (my paraphrasing) the spark emanating from that memory of Sinai will turn Jews back to good and wisdom. The prophet tells us that the fate of Jews is that eventually no one will be permanently pushed away from one’s Jewish identity. The power of Torah is too great to be eternally sublimated or forgotten. It gnaws at us and gives us little peace. It has made us a different people, great and peculiar all at one and the same time. We recognize this fact in ourselves. So does the non-Jewish world and its reaction to it traverses the entire spectrum of emotion from admiration and acceptance to revilement, hatred and destruction. Be that as it may, it is the Torah, the moment of its revelation to us at Mount Sinai that has made us a distinctive people throughout our history.

Torah therefore is a treasure that all Jews have the right and ability to possess, study and analyze. It does not belong to any specific Jew or group of Jews solely. In fact the prophet warns us that "those who hold the Torah closely only unto themselves know not Me." The Torah does not belong only to the Charedim or to the datiyyim or to the dossim or to any particular political party or rabbinic group. It belongs to all Jews and its healing and inspirational words, ideas and values are public property. The error of many in holding the Torah as belonging to only one particular group of Jews is one of the spiritual tragedies of our time and society. It apparently leads those who do not ally themselves with the observant community to believe that they are free from their Torah study obligations but that in reality is not a true assessment of the situation and only polarizes the differences within our society. The Torah belongs to all and should be studied by all, each in one’s own way and abilities. And we should have confidence that the holiness of the Torah will in the long run affect people’s lives and behaviors and turn them towards good.

Seventy years ago the great Rav of Ponivezh, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Kahaneman established a fledgling yeshiva on a barren hill at the outskirts of then Bnei Brak. There were many who were doubtful about the success of this ambitious undertaking. When asked "Who are you building a yeshiva for?" the Rav answered in all seriousness "For the inhabitants of Ein Charod." Ein Charod then was an extremely leftist and anti-religious kibbutz seemingly far removed from Torah study and certainly traditional ritual and observance. This month members of Kibbutz Ein Charod spent a day studying Torah, praying and discussing serious topics with the students and faculty of Ponivezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak. Ein Charod has been conducting a weekly class in Talmud for the past nine years. The class was established by a young man by the name of Zisling who lives on the kibbutz. Zisling’s grandfather, Aaron, was the first Minister of Agriculture of the State of Israel and one of the signers of the Independence Proclamation of 1948. The Torah belongs just as much to Ein Charod as it does to Meah Shearim. There is a quiet revolution occurring in our country as more and more Jews search for meaning in their lives and a stability of spirit and outlook. Throughout Jewish history the Torah has always made its way and preserved the people of Israel even in its darkest hours. It is available to all and its study by all should be a major goal of our society and its leadership. The words of Rav Saadia Gaon (9th century Iraq) "Our nation is a nation because of the Torah" ring loud and true in our generation as well.
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