Monday, February 27, 2017

Sweetness and Light

Tree of Life made of Davis Academy Student Thumb Prints

For several thousands of years the Jewish People considered themselves to be God's "Chosen People." Our ancestors felt that God has chosen the Jewish People to help realize God's vision for humanity and all creation. Sometimes the idea of being God's chosen people was a source of comfort and a buffer against the difficulties of daily life. Sometimes it was a source of pride and even a rationale for maintaining strict boundaries between Jews and Gentiles. But the central idea behind the idea of being God's Chosen People is this: that Jews are meant to live the teachings of our Torah, both the ethical precepts and the more mysterious mitzvot. To be God's Chosen People means to live a life infused with Jewish values, inspired by Jewish teachings, and in harmony with God's vision of a world redeemed. Achieving this sense of harmony and purpose isn't meant to be experienced as a kind of weight or burden. On the contrary, a life of Torah broadly understood is meant to be sweet and enlightening. Torah is likened to refreshing water, to a living tree, honey as if from a rock, and pure light. 

"Laasok B'divrei Torah" is the blessing that Jews recite before fulfilling the mitzvah of studying Torah. The words literally mean, "to busy oneself with words of Torah." Colloquially, the blessing for the study of Torah asks us "to make Torah our business." Because the Torah is a rich, generous, complicated, and multifaceted text, perpetual study and engagement is the only way that we can authentically live a life rooted in the teachings of Torah. 

When you listen to the Menschology version of "Laasok B'divrei Torah" you'll hear the sweet voices of Davis Academy Middle School students: Elena Dollinger (lead), (ensemble): Rachel Binderman, Annalise Hardy, Amalia Haviv, Rachel Hertz, Shoshana Katz, Ava Stark and Lily Stark.

In addition to the traditional words of the blessing for the study of Torah you'll hear English lyrics that elaborate on the theme of living our Jewish values. Lastly, you'll hear an additional line of Hebrew: Ki ner mitzvah, v'Torah or (the mitzvot are a candle and the Torah is light).

I hope you find this melody sweet and illuminating. You can listen to it wherever you stream music and download it from CD Baby.

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