(By David Scott Director of Lifelong Learning and Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center)
“Turn the Torah over and over for everything is in it. Look into it, grow old and worn over it, and never move away from it, for you will find no better portion than it.”
Throughout Jewish history, interpretation of our ancient texts is not only celebrated, but it is also commanded by our prophets, sages, and rabbis. Judaism teaches that everything we see, touch, and experience exists on different levels simultaneously, just as each verse of Torah enjoys multiple layers of meaning. And, as we have come to learn from the Sofer, our Scribe, even every letter in the Torah scroll itself can be infused with new insights.
My passion for Jewish learning has evolved into a professional duty to inspire, teach, and help our children and adults reflect upon the multiple layers of meaning found in our Torah scroll. And though barely on the job a month as Beth Israel’s first Director of Lifelong Learning and Director of the Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center, I have already enjoyed many amazing opportunities to share with our children and fellow Congregants new insights into Torah. Our Congregation’s commitment, as it celebrates its 160th Anniversary, to teaching Torah also provides a fresh opportunity to realize our own heritage. By helping connect the history with the spiritual, we will discover ancient understandings as well as new teachings that keep Judaism fresh and alive.
As Jews, we hold the Torah sacred. Not only is it a holy object, but its teachings are accessible and engaging. All that matters can be found within its pages, and its ancient wisdom holds true just as it did for our ancestors. After years of engaging the Torah as a lay leader, I recently made the profound decision to dedicate my professional career to the devotion, understanding, and transmission of Torah. While I am not asking you to quit your day job, I am respectfully requesting that you take another look at the Torah and its teachings. A great first step is to participate in the Be a Blessing Torah Project where you can fulfill, with the assistance of our Sofer, the mitzvah of writing a Torah. Without every letter, no Torah scroll is complete. By completing your own letter, you are completing Our People’s Torah, which will forever remain in Beth Israel’s Holy Ark for us to cherish, for our children and grandchildren to read from, and for us to remain connected to our community and our Congregation for generations to come.
Please join me on this journey of discovery and learn how Judaism can be more impactful, relevant, and modern to us all.