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Torah speaks to us today

Friday, 25 October, 2019 - 4:27 pm


Although the new year began several weeks ago, this Shabbat we really turn the page and start anew. Upon concluding the Torah reading cycle on Tuesday on Simchat Torah, this Shabbat we start from the beginning once again.

Also, due to the hectic schedule of the high holiday season, many classes were on hold, and now is the time when many communities and individuals restart their learning routines. On  a personal note, this is the time for me to invite the community to join our adult education program with various options for communal and individual learning opportunities. (See here for details).

I am often asked if there are any prerequisites to joining a Torah class. There is a misconception that one need to have been Bar Mitzvahed, have graduated Hebrew school or at least have some Hebrew reading and comprehension abilities before engaging in a Torah setting.

Nothing is further from the truth. Everyone and anyone can join classes or start a private learning session with the Rabbi. Try it and you’ll like it.

There is however one prerequisite to a successful Torah journey, and it is hinted to us in the very first letter of the Torah.

The Torah begins with the story of creation and opens with the word “Bereishis - In the beginning.” The first letter of the first word is a “Bet” which is the second letter of the Hebrew AlphaBet. Would it not have been more appropriate for the Torah to start with the first letter Alef?

Before we get to the answer it is important to know that just as we recite blessings before eating food or doing a mitzvah, there is a special blessing we recite before learning Torah. Here is how it goes:

Boruch atoh ado-noy elo-haynu melech ho-olom, asher bochar bonu mikol ha-amim, v'nosan lonu es toroso. Boruch atoh ado-noy, nosayn ha-toroh.

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all the nations and given us His Torah. Blessed are You L-rd, who gives the Torah.

You may recognize this blessing from the procedure of being honored with an Aliya at the Torah during synagogue services, but this blessing appears in the prayer book in the morning blessings and should be recited by everyone daily before reading even one line of Torah.

This blessing is a crucial reminder for us that Torah is not merely a brilliant scholarly work we received over three thousand years ago, but G-d’s wisdom which is currently being transmitted to us today! “Blessed are You L-rd, who GIVES the Torah” - in the present tense.

Approaching Torah study with this inspired attitude makes it relevant and empowering.

This is why Torah starts with a “Bet.” When reading and understanding comes secondary to and only after reciting and meditating upon the message of the “Beracha - blessing” (which also begins with a “Bet”) the Torah then speaks to us today as well.


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