Learning on Shabbat

May 30, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, May 30, 2014.

Learning on Shabbat

I remember my Junior High School Teacher telling us all about having a “well-rounded education.” We would be finished with school, know reading and writing and arithmetic, maybe we’d read Shakespeare, perhaps listen to Brahms... and then… Zap! We’d be finished. We’d have a well-rounded education. Nice. Jewish tradition, however, tells us that we’re never finished learning – no matter how well rounded our education is, there’s always room for more learning. And there’s no time of the week that’s clearer about learning than the Shabbat. In fact, we can break down the Shabbat learning experience to two categories: Learning FOR Shabbat, and Learning ON Shabbat.

Learning for Shabbat: Since the Torah is divided into Parshiot - weekly Torah Portions – many of us study the portion once or more often during the week to prepare for hearing the Torah read in the synagogue. So many synagogues and JCC’s have weekly Torah classes. The internet is full of weekly Torah portion learning opportunities.

Learning on Shabbat: Many synagogues have special Shabbat Torah study – usually before or after Shabbat services. In addition – the rabbi’s drashah – sermon – is a learning opportunity. In many families, there’s a tradition of a D’var Torah – a brief Torah learning opportunity – during meals. Many congregations have regular Talmudic learning sessions on Shabbat – particular studying “Pirkei Avot” (Ethics of the Fathers, a section of the Mishna  - Law Commentaries on the laws of the Torah). Learning abounds – we are the people of the book, and a learning people.

The Talmud (The Book of Jewish Laws derived from the 5 books of Moses) tells us that “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam” – Studying Torah is as important as all the other laws combined!

Learning is so important, that at this year’s JCC Annual Meeting we are honoring the current and former students of my “Back to the Sources” class here at the JCC which has been running continuously for 36 years! This class was created as a women’s Bible Class by the legendary teacher Ateret Cohn. Such a class was unconventional in 1978. Aterret received special encouragement of Rabbi David Shapiro and formed a class that has been running ever since. When Ateret retired, she asked me to take over the class which I have been teaching as a newcomer since 2000.

Please join us on June 9th for the JCC's Annual Meeting! See details here.

IF ANY OF YOU HAVE BEEN PART OF THIS REMARKABLE CLASS OR KNOWS OF SOMEONE WHO WAS IN THE CLASS, WE’D LOVE TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE! CONTACT ME (414-967-8199 or JHIRSH@JCCMILWAUKEE.ORG) – YOU SHOULD BE PART OF THIS HONORED GROUP.

Shabbat Shalom