Below are the 3 Divrei Torah that were shared by our teachers at our incredible Simchat Torah Celebration
Boker tov and Chag Sameach, everyone!
I have been asked to share the meaning of Torah this morning, and to do this, I would like to have your participation as well. If you will please think of the oldest person in your family… whether or not they are still here with us… just keep them in mind.
Now think of the youngest person in your family… maybe a younger sibling, or for the parents and teachers here, maybe your own child. Everyone thinking of these two people? Great…
So my reason for asking you to think of these two people is to make a connection with your family and Torah. When I think of the oldest people in my family, I think of my great-grandparents. I was fortunate enough to know six out of eight of them, and many of them were not born in this country. When I think of the youngest person in my family, I think of my 8 month old son.
The reason that Torah is so amazing to me is that it spans the generations. The same Torah that my great-grandparents read in the Island of Rhodes and Lithuania is the one that my son will hear as he grows up. This goes for my students as well – they are hearing and learning from the same Torah of their great-grandparents.
It is up to you students, the future generations, to carry it forward. May we all strive to find something special in the Torah this year!
The word “Torah” can mean many things. A Torah—or a Torah scroll— refers to the parchment roll containing the Five Books of Moses. Torah can also mean teaching. Torah to me specifically applies to this idea of teaching and guidance. Torah is the sum of all the knowledge of the Jewish people.
Torah also teaches us about making choices, good and bad. The choices that we make every day can be small or large in our lives. I think the biggest influence of Torah on me has inspired me to always continue learning—to be a constant student, no matter what my age is.
With all this talk of Jewish learning, some of you may know that I finished my conversion to Judaism this past April. It took me about five years. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was hard, but I always kept learning. I made a conscious choice to join the Jewish people. Without Torah in my life, I would not have experienced the richness of my journey to make Judaism part of my life.
Sometimes you hear of torah as Capital Letter T-o-r-a-h, which is the scroll of Jewish tradition that surrounds you today, supported on the fingertips of the middle school students. Sometimes you can think of torah as lowercase t-o-r-a-h which means different things to different people. When Rabbi Micah asked me to speak about torah today I didn’t think I had anything to share. I don’t really have a connection to torah. You see…
I didn’t grow up in a religious home,
or go to a jewish school.
I didn’t learn Hebrew
or have a Bat Mitvah.
So what connection do I have to the torah?
I do have a connection to being Jewish. I have memories of being in synagogue with my father. While my lack of Hebrew kept me from understanding the service, I felt the Ruach, the energy, in the singing and the ritual.
I did grow up in a home where we celebrated Jewish holidays and told stories of Passover, ate in a Sukkah and lite Hanukkah candles.
But I still didn’t feel a connection to the Capital T-o-r-a-h.
And when I first started at Davis I felt I really didn’t know anything about Capital T-o-r-a-h. What’s Tefillah? (Thank you Stacy Schleicher for teaching me.) What are the four names of Rosh Hashana? (Thank you Suzanne Friedman for teaching me.) What’s that prayer? (Thank you to every class for teaching me.)
I came into the gym for simchat torah that first year with no experience and no expectations. I sat with my third graders anxious to see what would happen. Then I watched in wonder as two teachers started to unroll the two torahs.
I had Torah Euphoria. Uncontrolled tears and laughing. The wonder of it! We are surrounded in torah, not just this scroll, but what this scroll means for all of us. We are surrounded in our history. In our education. In our community. In our desire to learn. In our shared goal to change the world. Suddenly, as I was surrounded by the Torah I felt a connection to Capital T-o-r-a-h and to our shared history – full of differences, but very much the same.