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Friday, July 19, 2024 - 13 Tammuz 5784
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People of the Book
Two Jews, three opinions.

No two Jews share the exact same opinion on how to relate to the Torah. Do you believe the Torah the absolute word of G-d, an instructor and guide for everyday life? Or, like some, do you hold that it is an eclectic collection of wisdom and fanciful legends, penned by many diverse individuals over time? Are the characters in the Bible are real people, our ancestors in fact? Or do you insist that most are mythical heroes, and the events described mainly metaphorical?

Some question why others accept the word of an archeologist at face value while rejecting the historic testimony of an entire nation. Others, on the other hand, can't comprehend how this ancient document filled with puzzling statements serves as a guide for 21st century living. They can’t understand the gullibility of believers - how they credulously accept Bible stories as perfect truth. We can try to explain the need to study the oral Torah - the interpretations handed down to Moses on Sinai, passed from one generation of sages to the next. However, the skeptics still don't understand why the group decisions of men who lived centuries ago should be followed with such scrupulousness today.

The skeptics and the believers. We’ve been playing round after round of this game for generations, for centuries. Yet something has remained consistent. We’re still playing the same game. We’re still discussing, debating, rationalizing, arguing. Regardless of which side of the divide one falls upon, one thing is unquestioned: The Torah belongs to us. It is our treasure; our wisdom to study, to grope, to grapple with.

What is it that drives us? Why do we play the game? Accepting, rejecting, teaching, analyzing—what do we find in this book that excites our intellect and our emotions; that evokes our deepest feelings of identity, of truth? It's our stubborn Jewish soul asserting itself, screaming for expression. The Torah speaks to us because, on some level, it is us. The Zohar states, “Three things are intertwined one with another: the Torah, G-d, and the Jewish people.” We debate, we grope, and we struggle to define the eternally relevant message of Torah. Beneath the surface disagreements, we share a deeply embedded, unbreakable bond with the Book that made our nation famous.

It is Simchat Torah. In the synagogue, we take out the Torah scroll, unopened, wrapped in its mantle. Holding it aloft, we hug it close to our hearts and dance. We embrace its totality, as we celebrate our unique relationship with this scroll that has kept us and molded us into the People we are today. Reaching back through history, forward for eternity, the Torah is ours, and we are hers.


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