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Torah as Teacher

06/02/2022 10:44:33 AM


Beth Schafer

As the school year has wrapped up for most and the end-of-year and grad pics are popping up, I find myself reflecting on my teachers. When I think of my best teachers, they were the ones who made me fall in love with a subject and encouraged me to do deeper dives and sharpen or broaden my understanding. While my music teachers were certainly at the top of the list, I also recall with great fondness English and history teachers as well as rabbis who fanned my spark of interest into a flame in the pursuit of knowledge.

As we approach the end of the Counting of the Omer and reach Shavuot this weekend, I can’t help but think about the Torah as teacher. While one can endlessly study Torah and be inspired to do deeper dives, the pursuit leads to something more than facts and stories. When one studies Torah, a divine doorway is open. In Jewish mysticism, we learn about 10 sefirot/attributes of a person-three are considered heavenly, seven are considered of a human nature. The heavenly sefirot include Binah, understanding, and Chochma, wisdom. To study Torah, is to transcend the learning of things, and pursue the learning of self. Torah is a mirror. When we study it, we see ourselves; in the stories but also in the spaces between the stories where we stitch together earth and heaven and experience revelation. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner wrote in his commentary on Pirkei Avot, “At the time of teaching, it is the who-by some word, deed question, a blow, or simply through silence-forces the student to hear a voice that comes from within. All genuine learning is thus the self’s disclosure to the self.”

The Torah is the who. While it tells us the story of our people as a nation, it, more importantly, leads us to wisdom and understanding of ourselves. As we celebrate Matan Torah, the giving of Torah, I am thankful for this most self-indulgent gift and look forward to the studying, the grappling and the secrets it will continue to reveal.

Sat, December 10 2022 16 Kislev 5783