I believe Torah is the collective wisdom that has evolved up from my people’s continuing encounter with God. It is a way of thinking and living that seeks to bring the divine will into the world. As a rabbi I am called to be a servant of God and the Jewish people by teaching Torah.
I am a trustee— the first Torah we are enjoined to teach a child is “Moses commanded us Torah, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). I must demonstrate that Torah is valuable and relevant to the lives of my students and they in turn must feel empowered to possess it. This is a double act of faith, I have faith that the Torah is valuable to our students and I have faith that my students are worthy to inherit it. They will take ownership of the Torah and by adding their unique voice, enrich it.
I am a matchmaker—Torah and those that study her must always be in dialectic. The classic texts make demands on us and transform us. We also make demands on our texts and transform them. This is how our tradition lives. Content, student and teacher are all in relationship together. It is my job to understand my subject, my students, and the best ways to connect them together so both may grow.
I am a locksmith—I believe many today feel that they do not have the tools necessary to navigate Torah. For many the doors of the beit midrash are closed and locked. I am here to make and hand out keys, to open gates, to remove barriers. The highest form of tzedakah is to create a self-sufficient person. So too with education.
I am a torchbearer—I believe many today feel that the Torah is not relevant to their lives. Whether the beit midrash is open or closed, it is not an important place where anything of value happens. I am here to inspire, to light fires. To show how our inherited tradition has the ability to instill our lives with joy, meaning, and purpose.
I am a mapmaker—The Torah that I am called to teach is not a simple collection of facts. It is rather systematic ways of thinking—midrashic consciousness that shows us how to interpret and create meaning, the halakhic process that can lead us to proper action, and mysticism that can reveal the sacred sparks present in every moment. The facts are essential and there are plenty of them. A vast sea. But I do not believe education is to simply scoop out one glass of water after another, but rather to give my learners the tools needed to navigate the ocean for themselves.
I am a nurturer—students need to first feel safe with the material and with each other. Only from that foundation of safety can they move on to gain confidence, take risks, and grow.
I am a bar raiser—I ask for and expect excellence from my students as they should ask for and expect the same from me. If we are not kings and prophets we are the children of kings and prophets.
I am a healer—The world is broken and Torah, when properly applied can provide healing. By living Torah I do my part to fix the world and empower my students to do the same.
I am my Prayer—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel warned us that any teaching we teach that cannot be transformed into a prayer is mere Wissenshaft. We must transform our teaching and learning into prayers to bridge the gap between the world as it is and as it could be, as it should be.
Holy Blessed One, may I always live my life as a ben Torah and never lose faith in myself, my Torah or my students. May I be worthy to be the next link in the chain of Torah and may no action or inaction on my part be an impediment to the Jewish People receiving their rightful inheritance, the Torah which is a tree of life to those who grasp her.