Every Soul has a Torah
As we read the Torah portions of the Book of Sh’mot last week this month, we might ask why there is so much law, so many rules, and so few profound statements about God, faith, and the purpose of life.
Midrash Sh’mot Rabbah answers this question with the following story: It can be compared to a prince whom his father exhorted to be careful not to stumble over anything and hurt himself because he was as dear to him as the apple of his eye. God, likewise, exhorted Israel concerning the mitzvot, because the Jews are more beloved to God than the angels, as the Torah says ‘You are the children of the Lord your God.’
Just as a good parent knows that reasonable and consistent rules are the clearest demonstration of caring possible, allowing the child to internalize a sense of right and wrong, so God, our heavenly Parent, continues to provide for our training for a life of goodness and of meaning.
The laws are intricate, complicated and numerous, yet no where do we learn that the Torah intends these rules only for the highest level of student, the Jew who learns with ease, or the experts. These laws are for all of the Jewish people. We were all together at Sinai and midrash teaches that God spoke to each individual in a way that he or she could best understand.
So too, parents must teach each of their children in the way that they best learn. In the Jewish community, teachers are equal to parents in the reverence owed to them by children. What a great responsibility and privilege it is to be a teacher of Jewish children, whether parent or teacher.
From its inception, RJA has been a place where each child is given Torah – by which I mean all learning – in the way that he or she can best receive. In this month of Jewish Disabilities Awareness, we have much to celebrate in our community. With the strength and passion of our school, each child is celebrated, educated and nurtured.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner speaks eloquently of the reward to a community for such tender and careful tending of each precious soul:
Each person has a Torah, unique to that person, his or her innermost teaching. Some seem to know their Torahs very early in life and speak and sing them in a myriad of ways. Others spend their whole lives stammering, shaping, and rehearsing them. Some are long, some short. Some are intricate and poetic, others are only a few words, and still others can only be spoken through gesture and example. But every soul has a Torah.
Our prayer for RJA, now more than halfway through its first year, is that we should continue to be a place that proves that every soul has a Torah.