One of my favourite stories is that of the ‘Magical, Ever-Changing Torah”, which I look forward to telling each Simchat Torah:
It is a normal ‘Ask the Rabbi’ session, until one little boy raises his hand and asks, “Rabbi - why do we read the Torah each year, again and again and again? Why don’t we read another book? Why always the Torah?!”
Instead of getting frustrated, the Rabbi gives the child a baby Torah with a smile, “Ah, this book - this gift - is a Magical, Ever-Changing Book, which you should treasure. Trust me, and study it. It is a magical, ever-changing book.”
As the boy grows, he returns again and again to the text:
- He learns that in the first portion, B’reishit, G-d rests on the seventh day. His mum and him start to play a game. He runs around the room, while his mother counts. When she says “Day 7, Shabbat!” The boy flops on the ground, like a sleeping lion.
- When he is a bit older, he learns in school about the ב - shaped like a house - which is open on one side. Why? Because a Jewish home, he learns, should be open to guests and a welcome place for those in need.
- When he is older, he joins the B’reishit club at his school and helps clean the school yard of litter to keep G-d’s creation clean.
But each year, he gets frustrated as in synagogue and in school they return again and again to the SAME Torah portion. He can’t figure out why the Rabbi called it a Magical, Ever-Changing Torah! Every time he reads it, the book is exactly the same!
Eventually, when the boy has a young daughter of his own, he meets with the Rabbi for the baby naming. As they sat, he turned and said, “Rabbi - I want to give you this toy Torah back. When I was little, you told me that it was a magical, ever-changing book! It was a great joke to get me to stay engaged at religious school - reading it again and again and waiting for the text to transform. It was also fun playing with my mother and being part of a club at school, but here is the Torah back. Nice joke, Rabbi!”
The Rabbi took the little scroll from the father, and replied, “Ok - I’ll take it back if you want but don’t you realise - it IS a magical ever-changing book! The book doesn’t change but something does change each time you read it. This is a special kind of book because this book changes you.
Are you sure you want me to take it back?”
“No, Rabbi” the father quickly snatched the book from her hands. “You see,” he said to his daughter with a glint in his eye, “This here is a special book for you to inherit - a magical, ever-changing book!”
Starting in May, Student Rabbi Lev and I will be hosting a Torah breakfast each Shabbat. Year after year we hope to return to the same Torah portions and topics of interest, and each time deepening our learning as the text continues to change us. From the most advanced Torah scholar to someone new to the text, all are welcome to learn and contribute.
Our people have been reading Torah for over 2,000 years, asking questions, and wrestling with the answers. Please join us as we dip our toes into this sea of learning, and see how we come out different than when we entered into the waters.
The first class is Saturday, 7 May at 9am - and please let the office know if you can make it, so we can have enough bagels and tea bags to share.