The Jewish People pride ourselves as being “The People of the Book”, but what does that really mean? It means that for the past 3,000 years, while the rest of the world was going through scientific revolutions, philosophical revolutions, ages of enlightenment, dark ages, renaissances, and otherwise fluctuating in terms of their relationship with knowledge, the Jewish people have faithfully studied their Holy Books and maintained a tradition of knowledge that remained steady for over 3000 years. How do we do this you ask? The Torah itself tells us (in Shema) “וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם–עַל-לְבָבֶךָ. וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ – These words of the Torah should be in your heart (ie. you should understand them and think about them) and you should teach them to your children and talk about them when you sit around your house and when you walk around through your daily life and when you lay down and when you wake up” The Rambam cites this pasuk (line in the Torah) as the source for God’s instruction to learn Torah, it is pointed out that the Rambam specifically uses this verse because it also includes teaching the words of Torah to someone else (in this case your children) which teaches us that it is not enough to learn Torah, but we must teach it to others as well. This teaches us the secret to the continuity of knowledge amongst the Jewish people throughout the last few thousand years…being part of a chain that links one generation to the next, learning is not a static thing, but an active process which preserves and grows knowledge and understanding.
Being a Jew means being “A Person of the Book” or a person who values knowledge, understanding and is committed to maintaining the stability of thousands of years of accumulated knowledge. This doesn’t mean you need to sit down with a Chumash (Bible) or some boring book, it means that each of us needs to take some time out of our day to connect to this chain which is thousands of years old and actively participate in the transmission and growth of our Jewish knowledge. The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) teaches us that when a person ‘meets his maker’ in the end of his or her life he or she will be asked a number of questions, one of which is: “Did you set aside time for daily Torah Study?” Why is this amongst the questions asked? Because this is one of the primary parts of our Heritage, we are here to be a “light onto the nations” and a big part of that is maintaining our tradition of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
So try it out! Today, and everyday for the next 60 days, be a part of our Heritage that is over 3,000 years old, pick up a book, find a cool teacher, go online and listen to Torah class…don’t spend too much time at first, just take a few minutes to learn something new about Judaism or the Torah (I will list some websites below), I promise you won’t regret it!
PS. Don’t forget to talk to the Big Man today!
Check out some places to learn online:
- http://dgormin.podbean.com/ – This is a podcast by a friend of mine, Derek Gormin, who is one cool guy, you can subscribe to the iTunes podcast here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/torah-for-the-times/id302711486
You can always pick up a book on Amazon or stop by your local Jewish bookstore or Synagogue or write in the comments below with questions or ideas!
Some books I would recommend:
- The Thinking Jewish Teenager’s Guide To Life
- Letters To A Buddhist Jew
- Living Inspired
All those books are by Akiva Tatz http://www.google.com/search?tbs=bks:1&tbo=p&q=+inauthor:”Akiva+Tatz”