Thursday, September 25, 2008

Through the Torah shall we be blessed

Being a college student concurrently at two institutions is not always easy, and this week was filled with reading, paper-writing, and waking up early for selichot services in anticipation of the approaching Yamim Noraim (high holydays). But it was also filled with much blessing. One special blessing that I was given this week was the opportunity to meet in a small, intimate forum with prominent Israel author and intellectual Amos Oz and approximately 25 other undergraduates. Although I have not yet had the privilege of reading Oz's work, it was fascinating to hear from and ask questions of someone with such broad life experience and depth of insight. Although Professor Oz's words were sometimes difficult to hear or agree with, especially regarding sacrifices that Israel would be forced to make in its future, they came from a place of honesty not often heard from politicians or other public figures.
But aside from being blessed with this special opportunity, I am happy to be in a community where serious Torah study and community building occurs daily. At JTS, I feel lucky to have learned about the development of Halacha with Rabbi Joel Roth, the laws of inheritance from Massachet Bava Batra with Dr. Jonathan Milgram, Medieval Jewish History with Dr. Benjamin Gampel, and Isaiah and Jeremiah with Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky.
However, one of my greatest pleasures is learning Torah lishmah, for its own sake. I again had the pleasure of learning Midrash with my friend Yossi, and we were inspired by halachic lessons on this week's parashah, and philosophical musings from Pesikta D'rav Kahana (a Palestininan collection of midrashim related to special Torah and Haftarah readings).
I was especially inspired from a piece in D'varim Rabbah (8:2):
רבנן אמרי: אמר הקב"ה: אם ברכת את התורה לעצמך את מברך.

שנא' (משלי ט): כי בי ירבו ימיך ויוסיפו לך שנות חיים.
The Rabbis taught: If you make a B'aracha over the torah [study or reading], you will recieve a blessing for yourself... as it is written: "Through me shall your days multiply, and years of life shall be added to you" (Proverbs 9).

The shoet parashah of Nitzavim has deep meaning as we approach Rosh Hashanah. We are told (D'varim 30:8): " See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil." After learning this midrash and examining the parshah, I will try to be more concious of the blessings in my daily life, and increase Torah and the blessing that comes with it. Just as we are told in the Torah, we too can choose in our own activities to choose the paths that highlight life and good.

On this not, I pray that we shall all be blessed with a Shabbat Shalom and a Shanah Tovah umvorechet (a good and blessed year)!

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