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Congregation Ahavath Achim logo Congregation Ahavath Achim

A Modern Orthodox Synagogue

In our morning prayers we proudly declare:  "ashreinu mah tov chelkenu, u'mah yafah yerushateinu."  How good is our inheritance as Jewish people!
 
But what, exactly, is this inheritance of which we so proudly boast?
 
Certainly, the Jewish people are the rightful inheritors of a familiarity and even intimacy with matters of the spirit, and that is our inheritance and lot in this world.  The late Israeli philosopher and theologian, Rav Shagar (1949-2007), put it this way:
 
"In effect...not only is faith not a public language, it is not a language at all.  That is why it is so difficult to fully depict one's faith.  Something will always remain unspoken, a mystery and intimacy that cannot and should not be revealed, for baring it would violate the intimacy of faith.  This is not to gloss over the communal aspect of faith, which is by nature a public language as well; however, the collectivity of faith is the second stage, not the first."
 
(Rabbi Shagar, Faith Shattered and Restored: Judaism in the Postmodern Age, page 22)
 
How does one nurture and develop such a familiarity and even intimacy with one's faith?  Certainly, by studying and internalizing the classic Jewish texts, beginning first and foremost with the Torah, the Five Books of Moses.
 
In a world where modern Jewish communities boast groups dedicated to studying Daf Yomi, Mishnah Yomit, Navi Yomi, Halacha Yomit, etc etc, it is worthwhile to note that there is only one regimented daily-learning cycle whose imperative is codified in the Shulchan Aruch.  This regimented study is the obligation to review the weekly parsha bit-by-bit every day, shnayim mikra v'echad targum, each verse of the parasha in its original Hebrew twice, with its accompanying translation once (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 285:1).
 
The idea here is that familiarity and intimacy with the text, enforced and reinforced by constant review year-in and year-out, may subsequently bring the individual to a deep familiarity and intimacy with his or her Jewish faith generally.  Indeed, to this end emphasis is placed on the comprehension and internalization of the narratives, mitzvot, and messages of the weekly parsha.  Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch urges us to study Rashi's classic Torah commentary on each of the parasha' s verses, in order that we may come to understand our most basic and seminal text- the Five Books of Moses- at least on the basic peshat level.
 
Some commentators have pointed out that the roshei teivot, the initial letters of the four words that convey this obligation to review the parasha every week,- shnayim mikra v'echad targum- spell out the word "Shemot'- the name of this week's parasha.  As we read Parashat Shemot this week, may we be strengthened to remember the obligation incumbent upon us to study the weekly parasha, and how this course of study might help bring us to a deep familiarity and intimacy with our classic Torah texts, our Jewish faith, and even to the Creator Himself.
 
All the best,
 
Rabbi Peretz Robinson