The Light of Torah

by Arliene Botnick, May 31, 2022

“‘Words of Torah’ say the ancient rabbis, are like golden bowls. The more you polish and rub them, the more they shine and brighten the faces of those who look at them. So it is with words of Torah. The more they are studied, explored for meeting, discussed, and used as a guide for action, the more they brighten the faces of those who love them. (Avot de Rabbi Natan 31:34b.)“

When Moses came down from Sinai, Moses’ face radiated light, the light of Torah. When we walk into our sanctuary, we see the ner tamid, the Eternal Flame of God’s presence. We begin our Shabbat by lighting candles as we do on all our Yom Tovs, bringing God’s light and Torah into our homes and into our hearts. When someone dies, we light a candle in memory of their spirit and the light they brought to our lives, and that candle burns for seven days – reminiscent of the 7 days perhaps of creation that began on Day 1 when God said, “Vay’hee Or – Let there be light. And then on the anniversary of death, yahrzeit, a candle is lit to burn for 24 hours. Light, enlightenment, the light of God’s spirit, the light of God’s teaching, the light of Torah is our gift. How do we appreciate it, how can we learn from it?

Over the course of a year, each Shabbat, beginning with the book of Genesis (Beresheet), we hear chanted several verses from each of the 54 parashiot of Torah. Rabbi Pollack or our service leader will deliver a d’var Torah (an explanation of what was chanted) to help us understand the message of each of those portions, and why each one still is relevant and meaningful in our modern life. As each and every one of our students becomes a bar/ bat / b’nei mitzvah, the student also is asked to explain the Torah portion, not only in relevance to what it meant 3000 years ago but why it is still relevant today.

We, as members of Solel, have this wonderful opportunity to hear these presentations, to participate in discussing them, and if we want that a little bit of extra study, attend the many learning opportunities and Torah studies offered through our synagogue in addition to the Shabbat study. And it is not just on Saturday mornings that we have the opportunity to learn words of Torah. Each Friday night, Jewish learning is part of our service, and our spirituality is enhanced by the opportunity to understand the values, the responsibilities and the stories that define us a a Liberal Jewish community. And, of course, starting in the Fall, on September 13, yet another opportunity will be made available to share in God’s light as we meet at 7 AM once again for an early morning minyan, and an opportunity to have a “light” breakfast together and open our eyes (quite early) to God’s words!

There is so much that we have to learn and that we can benefit from learning, but that involves getting involved. So I’m inviting all of you to start coming or coming back to us either in person or online, and taste the sweetness of Torah study. Covid has somewhat diminished our attendance in person, and perhaps even on live stream. We are hoping that as Covid recedes, your bright and shining faces bring even more light into our synagogue, our sanctuary. We will continue, of course, to live stream all services, understanding that there are still many of you that may still be uncomfortable for in person services. Even online, the light of your presence radiates through our community.

Torah truly is “the tree of life to those that hold fast to it”. Let us hold and embrace and value Torah by studying, by attending services, even by arguing with Torah, but never ceasing to value its lessons., and by never ignoring its significance. As Solel approaches his 50th year, may the light of Torah that has guided us since 1973 continue to radiate God’s light for our Solel community. Keyn Y’hee Ratzon! May it be God’s will.

Filed under: Educator's Message

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