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Why should a Jew study the Torah?

Simchat Torah is THIS Saturday at 10:30am and Torah Study Bagel Brunch is at noon. Both are at Kol Ami in Kirkland.

You do not need to study Torah to be a good Jew. To be a good Jew, all you need to be is good, and to be a Jew.

But can you be good without the Torah? This I wonder about. Being good, a good person is a lot of work. Most of us think that we are much better than we actually are. We elevate our goodness and dismiss or apologize for our own callousness or rudeness. Therefore, we need constant reminders and challenges. To move us always towards greater goodness within ourselves and the world.

Torah study, weekly Torah study, and diligent Torah study are both a reminder and a challenge for us as Jewish people to extoll, magnify, and uplift all the goodness within ourselves and the world. We do it in groups because discussing important things within the community, wrestling, and debating, and embracing the text together is a spiritual practice and challenge. A good challenge The best. To be heard in the community but also to listen. To embrace the text and to sometimes reject it. We turn the text around and around and in it we find ourselves, we find community and we find inspiration to move forward in this reality.

We will study Bereshit /Genesis this week as we relaunch our weekly Torah study group. We will begin at the beginning with the creation story and the best revelation regarding the essential nature of all creation. This big revelation is this: all creation is fundamentally good. And this revealed truth is but the first of many essential pieces of wisdom we find in the Torah about the nature of our existence. As the scroll rolls and twists and turns so too do we move through an endless story, the story of our ancestors, our people. Each reading, each year, is an opportunity for new understandings. And growth.

Torah is always both old and new. This year we are approaching the Torah, and our study of it from the perspective of the "beginner mind". This is a beautiful Buddhist concept that I want to overlay on our Torah study this year at Kol Ami. I have been teaching Torah for over 25 years. And I want to approach the Torah this year from a place of beginner's mind myself.

What is a beginner's mind?

It’s dropping our expectations and preconceived ideas about something, and seeing things with an open mind, fresh eyes, just like a beginner. If you’ve ever learned something new, you can remember what that’s like: you’re probably confused, because you don’t know how to do whatever you’re learning, but you’re also looking at everything as if it’s brand new, perhaps with curiosity and wonder. That’s beginner’s mind.
But imagine if you could apply this to every activity. Take eating breakfast, for example:
You start by seeing the activity of eating with fresh eyes, as if you don’t know what to expect, as if you hadn’t done it thousands of times already.
You really look at the food, the bowl, the spoon, and try to see the details that you might not normally notice.
You truly notice the textures, tastes, smells, sights of the food, pay close attention as if you don’t already know how the food will taste. Everything seems new, perhaps even full of wonder.
You don’t take anything for granted, and appreciate every bite as a gift. It’s temporary, fleeting, and precious.
As you can see, this practice of beginner’s mind transforms the activity.

If you are new to Torah study, this is your year! We are all beginning again. And we will all come to the text with fresh eyes. Beginner's Mind is a foundation of mindfulness practice but it is also a foundation of Torah study. To begin again. With excitement and freshness.

We are also asking our Torah study group members, if willing, to offer a short Torah teaching based on their own research and independent study. I am available for one-on-one meetings to coach you through the process. We will have a sign-up sheet available at our weekly sessions.

“In everything you do you encounter sparks full of life and light, aspiring to rise toward the heights. You help them and they help you.”

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook in the Classics of Western Spirituality

By engaging in the study of Torah you help it and it helps you. You help Torah by keeping it alive, a living text of the Jewish people. Your study makes it not a dusty boring old scroll but rather black fire upon white fire, vital and energetic. And for you? What is Torah study for you?

Come see. Make it a habit and see what it brings to your life. It has carried us this far. How can it carry you?

Join us EVERY Saturday both on zoom and in person at noon at Kol Ami. Yes, that is every Saturday at noon. You do not need to bring anything but a notebook, pen, and your own copy of the 5 Books of Moses, the Chumash is always welcome!

Please join us this Shabbat and every Shabbat after.

Rabbi Kinberg

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