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Taking Ownership

Thursday, 31 October, 2019 - 2:41 pm

Yesterday, during a prison chaplaincy visit to FCC Oakdale, I met with a gentleman whom I have known for over a year now. Prior to his incarceration there were many years of disconnect from Judaism. He has been working hard on rekindling his relationship with Hashem. He has been laying tefillin daily, praying from the Siddur multiple times a day, and increased his commitment to Kosher and Shabbat observance to the best of his ability under the circumstances. During our conversation we were talking about the recent holidays; he pointed on his Jewish calendar to Simchat Torah and asked me what that was about. I explained that it was the day we complete the reading of the Torah and when we begin anew. He expressed to me that he wants to start learning the Torah, but he is overwhelmed by the vastness of the (written) Torah and doesn’t know where to begin. It seems he had been just reading randomly and did not get a sense of the structure of it.

I taught him the idea of the weekly Torah portion and that one should study 1/7th of the Parsha each day. In this way there is a structured manner to studying the Parsha each week and the entire Torah each year. He was so excited with the prospect of tackling this new project that his glee was palpable. He thumped his Chumash and declared “I am going to own this thing.” And then he exclaimed with joy, “Next year, Simchat Torah is going to be my celebration.” We wrapped up our conversation, I gave him a hug, and left the prison to begin my 4 hour drive back to New Orleans.

It got me thinking about the idea of taking ownership of the Torah. We already have ownership of the Torah, as the verse in the last Parsha announces “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is an inheritance for the congregation of Yaakov.” But what about our Torah study? Have we taken ownership of that? How many of us are as excited as my friend in Oakdale about studying Torah? Do we look at a volume of the Torah, Talmud, Code of Jewish Law or Chassidus and say “I am going to own this thing?”

Psalm 1:2 states, “But his desire is in the Torah of the L-rd, and in His Torah he contemplates day and night. Why does it begin by referring to the Torah of Hashem and then the Torah is called His Torah? The simple understanding is that His refers to Hashem, but in a deeper sense, “his” could be referring to the person studying who has “taken ownership” and made the Torah his own. This is done by elevating our qualitative and quantitative devotion to the study of Torah. May we merit to be excited over our taking ownership of our Torah study all the days of our lives.

Due to an illness, the weekend with Rabbi Leibel Groner has been deferred to a later time TBA.  

The first session of our inaugural JLI course entitled Worrier to Warrior is being held this Tuesday evening, November 6 at 7 PM – Chabad Uptown. The class is free and open to the public and dinner will be served. You will have an option to register for the entire course if you wish to continue. More info at www.chabandneworleans.com/jli. We look forward to seeing you there. Please let us know that you are coming. The course is being offered on Tuesdays (beginning the 12th) at Chabad Metairie with the same options. For more info www.jewishlouisiana.com/jli.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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