stolen torahs 58.
(photo credit: Israel Police)
Moses in his final words to the Jewish people describes the Torah as being the
inheritance of the entire congregation of Jacob – of all of Israel. When it was
given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, tradition posits that all the souls
of all of Israel throughout the generations were somehow present. Thus there
exists within all Jews a spark of memory of Sinai and an affinity to Torah and
its study and values.
It is that spark that lies deep within our souls
that makes us Jewish – a people and a nation, a faith and a potential light unto
the nations. The rabbis of the Talmud expressed their confidence in the
existence of that Torah spark by stating that (my paraphrasing) it will turn
Jews back to good and wisdom.
The prophet tells us that eventually no one
will be permanently pushed away from his Jewish identity. The power of Torah is
too great to be eternally sublimated or forgotten. It gnaws at us and gives us
little peace. It has made us a different people, great and peculiar at the same
time. We recognize this in ourselves. So does the non-Jewish world, and its
reaction to it traverses the entire spectrum of emotion from admiration and
acceptance to revilement, hatred and destruction. Be that as it may, it is the
Torah, the moment of its revelation to us at Mount Sinai, that has made us a
distinctive people throughout our history.
Torah therefore is a treasure
that all Jews have the right and ability to possess, study and analyze. It does
not belong to any specific Jew or group of Jews. In fact, the prophet warns us
that “those who hold the Torah closely only unto themselves know not Me.” The
Torah does not belong only to the haredim or to the national religious or to any
particular political party or rabbinic group. It belongs to all Jews, and its
healing and inspirational words, ideas and values are public
The error of many in holding the Torah as belonging to only one
particular group is one of the spiritual tragedies of our time. It apparently
leads those who do not ally themselves with the observant community to believe
that they are free from their Torah study obligations, but that is not a true
assessment of the situation and only polarizes our society. The Torah belongs to
all and should be studied by all, each in his own way and abilities. And we
should have confidence that the holiness of the Torah will, in the long run,
affect people’s lives and turn them towards good.
Seventy years ago the
great rabbi of Ponivezh, Shlomo Yosef Kahaneman, established a fledgling yeshiva
on a barren hill on the then outskirts of Bnei Brak. There were many who were
doubtful about the success of this ambitious undertaking. When asked “Who are
you building a yeshiva for?” he answered in all seriousness “For the inhabitants
of Ein Harod,” then an extremely leftist and anti-religious kibbutz.
month, members of Kibbutz Ein Harod spent a day studying Torah, praying and
discussing serious topics with the students and faculty of Ponivezh Yeshiva in
Bnei Brak. Ein Harod has been conducting a weekly class in Talmud for the past
nine years. The class was established by a young man by the name of Zisling, who
lives on the kibbutz. Zisling’s grandfather, Aharon, was the first minister of
agriculture of the State of Israel and one of the signers of the Declaration of
The Torah belongs just as much to Ein Harod as it does to
Mea She’arim. There is a quiet revolution occurring in our country as more and
more Jews search for meaning in their lives and a stability of spirit and
outlook. Throughout Jewish history, the Torah has always preserved the people of
Israel, even in its darkest hours. It is available to all, and its study by all
should be a major goal of our society and its leadership.
The words of
Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon (ninth century, Iraq), “Our nation is a nation because of the
Torah,” ring loud and true in our generation as well.