Parshah Ki Tisa

Candle lighting  18h53
Shabbat ends 19h47

Hindsight, the saying goes, is a wonderful thing. Experience is also a wonderful thing. I think that experience is valuable because we can learn lessons from it. Neurologically, learning is associated with some change in the brain – either to the strength or number of connections between different neurons.  We experience something, a stimulus, we interpret and encode it, and our neuronal connections adapt accordingly. We are thus constantly learning in our lives. To live is to learn.

Learning is deeply entrenched in who we are – as individuals and collectively as a nation. Jewish people have always held education dear and Torah learning is a tenet of our faith. Millions of pages have been filled with ink for the sake of learning Torah. Indeed, one of the greatest accolades that one can achieve is to be a Talmid Chacham – a wise scholar.

We often talk of Moshe as the great teacher and leader of the Jewish people. But he was equally as great a learner as he was a teacher. Moshe learnt the entire Torah in order to teach it to the Children of Israel. This was no easy task. As the Maharal of Prague points out numerous times, the Torah is a gift from God. It is of divine origin and therefore it is beyond us, it is beyond our understanding. It would seem that the Maharal means that the totality of the Torah is beyond our human comprehension. There may be parts that we understand and can learn, but the Torah, with its immense depth, is beyond us. Even Moshe, who was the greatest student of Torah, never understood it entirely because, at the end of the day, he was human.

This week, we are told that Hashem gave Moshe the tablets (luchot). Our sages explain that Moshe tried his best to learn the Torah while on Mount Sinai but it was beyond him. He could not comprehend it. Eventually, however, Hashem gave it to him as a gift. He let Moshe understand ‘for free’.

When I ask children what we can pray for, I invariably get a whole host of answers along the same lines. We can pray for things that we need. We can pray for recovery of the sick. We can even pray for help on a test. They are all correct but we can also pray for understanding. We can pray to be able to learn something in the Torah. The first request in the Amidah is a request for Hashem to give us understanding. This is at the forefront of our pursuit of Torah wisdom. Yes, we need to put in our best efforts. We need to study with intensity, we need to engage. But we also need to remember that Torah is beyond us and that anything we achieve in our studies is from Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom.

Head of JLL Highlands Primary