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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Take the Life Yomi Challenge!

Daf Yomi Moed Katan 16

What is the driving force of the Jewish people?  For the last fifty years, we have been led to believe that Jews would stay Jews with the memory of the Holocaust and pride in the State of Israel. 

It’s not working anymore.  A generation of North American Jews has grown up without the terror of anti-Semitism; and the Holocaust, tragically, is fast becoming but a distant memory.   Our youth don’t understand why the Jewish people need our own country.  In many ways, sadly, they feel a greater affinity to their Asian-American or Irish-American neighbours than their coreligionists in Israel. 

That doesn’t mean we should ever, Heaven forbid, cease teaching and reminding our children about the horrors of the Nazis.  We have a duty to the world and to future generations to remind them never to forget.  And anyone who comprehends the existential threat that Israel faces on a daily basis understands that the safety and security of world Jewry – nay, Western civilization – hangs on the safety and security of the State of Israel.

But anti-Semitism and national pride alone do not sustain the Jewish people.  The key to our longevity is, and always has been: Torah.  We are the People of the Book and it is Torah that has driven our survival, beyond all odds.  How do we instill a love of Torah in our people?

King Solomon writes in the Song of Songs, “Your hidden thighs are like jewels.”  Rebbe (Rabbi Judah the Prince) explains:  Just like one’s thigh is concealed, so too should Torah be concealed.  He then proceeded to decree that Torah should not be taught in the marketplace.

Rabbi Chiya went out and taught his nephews, Rav and Rabbah bar bar Chana, in the market.   Rebbe heard and was annoyed.
“Why did the master do this?” he asked Rabbi Chiya.
“For Solomon writes in Proverbs: Wisdom sings outside,” he responded.
“But does King Solomon not say concerning Torah: Your hidden thighs are like jewels?” inquired the rabbis.
“No, that teaching refers to charity and acts of kindness, which should be performed covertly,” explained Rabbi Chiya. 

Every morning we chant “The Torah that Moses commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob.”  Torah is for every Jew.  It is not the domain of a private elite class.  Torah should be taught ‘out in the marketplace.’  Everyone has the right to learn Torah.  Everyone has the right to own Torah. Torah belongs to the entire congregation of Jacob (Israel).  It’s your inheritance!

Three times a day, we recite the prayer, “Grant us our portion in Your Torah.”  The meaning of this prayer is that each and every one of us has the ability and obligation to discover his/her unique contribution to Torah wisdom.  The more we publicize Torah learning, the more opportunity we have for every Jew to take ownership of their heritage and become driven by Torah.

Over the last seven months, you have heard me provide my insights from the Talmud for daily living. I am deeply indebted to all of you for joining me on this spiritual journey.  I look forward, with G-d’s help, to continue sharing my ‘portion in Torah’ with you for many years to come.

But now I turn to you.  Torah doesn’t belong to the rabbis.  Torah belongs to every Jew.  I invite you to take the Life Yomi Challenge.  You too have insights for daily living from the Talmud.  All it takes is commitment to study the Daf (page of the Talmud) intently and ask ‘what does this mean to my life?’ 

Maybe you’d like to take the challenge in honour of a yortzeit.  Perhaps for a birthday or anniversary.  I’m not asking you to come up with chiddushim (novel understandings) every day – pick one Daf over the next twelve months and spend some time delving into its meaning.  And when you’re ready to share it with the world, I look forward to sharing it on as a guest post!

You can do it.  The Almighty has granted you a portion in His Torah.  Your challenge is to discover it.  Let the Life Yomi challenge begin!

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