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Becoming a student of the Torah

Thursday, 29 May, 2014 - 4:42 pm

In a conversation with one of the great Chassidic masters, a man was proudly listing the Torah that he studied. The Rabbi replied, “Dos is altz di Torah vos du host gelerent, ober vos hot di Torah dir gelerent? – This is all the Torah that you learned, but what did you learn from the Torah?” Torah is more than just an intellectual discipline, it is an infinite reservoir of Hashem’s directions for life, indeed Torah is a manifestation of Divine wisdom Itself. Every word and even letter has limitless lessons to teach us about every facet of life ranging from individual interpersonal relationships to matters that have global and even cosmic impact.  

A Chassidic Melamed (school-teacher) in the old country once observed a student refusing to share his writing ink with a friend who forgot his at home. Soon afterwards the class was reviewing their Torah lessons. The teacher called on that student to translate the verse of the Torah that they were studying. The boy read and translated the first word, Bereishis – In the beginning. The teacher interrupted him and said, “No, Bereishis means that when your friend asks you for ink you share with him willingly.” The boy read and translated the next word, Barah – created. The teacher interrupted him and said, “No, Barah means that when your friend asks you for ink you share with him willingly.” The teacher proceeded to do so for the entire verse until he sensed that the message was conveyed. “This is all the Torah that you learned, but what did you learn from the Torah?”

A student of the Torah is not just one who absorbs the intellectual material but one who absorbs the Kedushah – the holiness that is Torah. One who absorbs this Kedushah must come away a changed, more refined person. One who absorbs this Kedushah must have a changed perspective on his purpose in life, a greater sense of urgency in carrying out the Divine will. One who absorbs this Kedushah must come away as a person who serves as a shining example to others as to what a student of Torah looks like.

When Hashem gave us the Torah He opened with the word Anochi, an acronym for the phrase, “Ana Nafshi Kesavis Yehavis” - loosely translated as “I wrote Myself into the Torah.” When we study Torah we are interfacing with G-d Himself. This interaction must leave an impact. This is the Kedushah – the holiness of Torah.

To paraphrase the blessing that the Previous Rebbe traditionally gave before Shavuot, a blessing that was echoed by the Rebbe thousands of times, May we joyously and meaningfully internalize the experience of receiving of the Torah from Hashem.

Please join Chabad for the one or several of the special Shavuot events, most notably the reading of the Ten Commandments on Wednesday morning, June 4 @ 11 at either Chabad location followed by a deluxe dairy Kiddush lunch.

Chabad Uptown will have a late reading at 7:15 PM followed by dinner for young Jewish professionals. Please let us know if you would like to participate. Chabad Metairie will have a late reading at 6:30 PM followed by dairy refreshments.

Mazel Tov to Sandy and Sarah Cohen upon their recent marriage. We wish them a life a happiness together.

Mazel Tov to Charlie and Sandra Brum upon the engagement of their son Yaakov to Chaya Mushka Volkov. We are all very excited for you!

Mazel Tov to Hashem and the Jewish people upon their upcoming wedding anniversary. These 3,326 years have gone by so quickly. Many happy returns!

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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