In the parasha from last week, Va’etchanan, the Torah expresses three themes in Judaism: To find unity with God, to love God, and to know God through the study of the Torah. In my eyes, these themes are too limiting: how can we as human beings exist together in harmony if our focus is entirely on God? If our lives are centered only on showing love to God, how will we learn to love one another, to find unity within a community or learn with each other, or study texts, issues and ideas we have a passion for?
Fortunately, the themes referenced in this portion do not reflect the entirety of Jewish thought presented in the Torah - rather, it provides a snapshot of a 5000 year old tradition of literature and law. As we will see during the upcoming high holidays, the charge to love and find unity with God is meant to model and inspire us to love and build relationships with one another. Similarly, the commandment to study Torah is not only to expose us to those five books - rather, it is to also inspire us to become lifetime readers and learners across broad subject areas, with the eventual goal of finding our individual areas of passion and our own individuality within those passions.
As this parasha represents only a small fraction of the entire Torah, it is important that we do not define all of Torah according to this message (to focus our life solely on God). It’s simply a small snapshot, just like our time here at Weber. There is only so much time we have on this campus together - it is our job to look past the flaws we may see and the hardships we may face at a particular moment. We must unify together, love one another, and study that which we love. It is important that we don’t get stuck on life’s negative and momentary snapshots but, instead, to keep on reading.