Torah Study Shines a Light
You shall teach [it] to your children and
speak its words when you sit in your house,
when you walk on the way, when you lie down
and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy
The word Torah means to guide or teach; its teachings shine a light on life and show us which way to go. Given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, the Torah is the basic text of Judaism and consists of the five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It contains the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, of which the study of Torah is one.
At the Jewish Home’s Eisenberg Village campus, Rabbi Robert Bonem, currently serving as interim rabbi, leads a new class focused on Torah study. Rabbi Rob, as he is known to one and all, has the synagogue set up Yeshiva style, meaning the resident students sit facing one another across the table. The format lends itself to eye contact, a sense of sharing, and the feeling of an informal group. This helps everyone feel comfortable about asking questions and expressing their thoughts.
“When we study Torah, we can’t just read it,” says Rabbi Rob. “We have to ask questions and try to understand. By asking broad questions and discussing as a group, we hear different perspectives and learn from each other.”
The group is studying Genesis, Chapter 1, verses 1-6: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… Attention is paid to the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, bet, which is the first letter of the first book of the Torah, Bereshit. Rabbi Rob asks the group some interesting questions about the Hebrew letters: Were they created intentionally by man or by God to teach us something? Were they created with meanings in mind, or were they interpreted later? A mystical point of view is the letters came from God and are holy.
In Genesis, we learn that “God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light, and God saw that it was good.” This implies that God created with speech. The students are openly sharing their thought-provoking ideas and posing questions. Who was he speaking to? Of course the light was good….it was created by God, so why wouldn’t it be?
“In this class, Torah is the springboard to talk about life,” explains Rabbi Rob. “My goal is for people to learn and discuss, to connect to each other, and to maybe become clearer on some things. The beauty is many of us have questions we carry around inside of us….Here we ask the questions.”
Resident Suzanne May is an active participant in the Torah Talk class. “I’m always looking for inspiration and a feeling of calmness,” she explains. “When we discuss the Torah, I feel a connection to God, much like I do when I meditate. I’m very happy the Home and Rabbi Rob are making this class available to us.”
One of the questions most asked of Rabbi Rob is Why is there evil in the world? When we look read the news or turn on our TVs, one can easily understand why this question is so often asked. In a future class, Rabbi Rob will focus on this question. Perhaps through the study of Torah we can reach a better understanding of each other and the world around us.