When I was 17 years old, I went to Jewish summer camp. That summer there was an ambitious program of Judaic study at camp. We each received a copy of The Torah-A Modern Commentary recently edited by Gunther Plaut (tz”l) and we were going to study … Torah. Whether we were in the youngest unit, or the oldest staff member, we each received a copy of this tome with our names printed in gold on the front. This was the summer I got my first Torah commentary and it was the summer I decided I wanted to become a rabbi.
I still have my copy of the Torah from that summer. Scribbled in pencil in and around the margins of my commentary are notes, questions and insights I found from that time forward. It did not matter that I could not read the Hebrew (at that time) nor that I had never studied Bible in a college class, it was a matter that I read the stories of the Torah and asked the question, ‘why does my tradition want me to read these words?’ While my skills in Hebrew and pulling apart a text have increased since that time, I have never fully answered my question, ‘why does my tradition want me to read these words?’
I want to invite you to begin our search for an answer to this question this Saturday morning as we take out our Torah commentaries and study Torah. We’ll start at 9:30am and study on the Saturday mornings following every weekend with a Shabbat evening service. I can’t tell you that we will ever find an answer to my question; I can tell you that we will join together and work to find what we feel God is trying to say to us.
To me Torah is more than a book or scroll; it is the basis of the conversation that binds Jewish communities together. Whether it is today in the 21st century, or with Jews 2,000 years ago, it is this text that was and remains the centering conversation of our sacred community.