Every morning in the opening prayers of the service there is a study passage from the Talmud that lays out what our tradition sees as the essentials of Jewish living—the “obligations without measure.” Here they are:
To honour father and mother, to perform acts of kindness, to hasten to the house of study both morning and evening, to welcome the stranger, to visit the sick, to rejoice with bride and groom, to accompany the dead to the grave, to pray with sincerity, to make peace between one and another . . .
And then, we have the phrase in Hebrew, “v’talmud torah k’neged kulam.” It can be translated as “but the study of Torah rivals them all,” or “is greater than them all, “or perhaps “is equal to them all,” or maybe “the study of Torah encompasses them all.” The phrase is ambiguous and therefore, I think, wonderful.
Whatever our phrase about Torah study means, I think that it is a truism that Torah study, any serious Jewish learning, is not just one thing—it’s not just sitting down and reading a text. It is multi-disciplinary. When we are studying we are engaging with God, with the community, with our own sense of meaning and obligation, with history, with music, with art, and the list goes on. I would like to give an example from an upcoming program at Holy Blossom.
On the last night of Pesach, after the Yom Tov service, we will be having a special evening called “A Different Night.” We will celebrate the end of Pesach with music and an inspiring story told through the beautiful art of ancient manuscripts of haggadot. Acclaimed composer Srul Glick’s “Music for Passover—Haggadah Suite” will be performed with our Temple Singers, LACHAN Chamber Chior, and a string quartet. Interspersed throughout the music will be the inspiring story told by master teach Rouhama Danto of the Jewish people’s connection to the Haggadah and how it survived the often tumultuous eras of Jewish history. Texts, art, music, discussion—this is Talmud Torah—the study of Torah that we at Holy Blossom specialize in. Torah of passion, meaning, emotion, and intellect.
When I prayer the words in the siddur “v’talmud torah k’neged kulam,” I think about how my study of Torah can help me become a more engaged and mindful Jew and, hopefully, a better person. I encourage us to browse the offering of the Schwartz/Reisman Centre for Jewish Learning to find how you can engage in Talmud Torah.