Parashat Tzav Torah Reading: Leviticus 6:1-8:36
Immediately before sitting down to write this message, I had a deloghtful experience. a class from a Brown University adult education program came to Torat Yisrael as part of a course on the Abrahamic faiths.
I spoke about Judaism's roots in the relationship between God and Abraham. We opened up the Eitz Hayyim Humash and discussed the seminal moment in Chapter 15 of Genesis in which God creates the first covenant with Avram/Abraham, I talked about our basic concepts of Covenant and Commandment, of revelation and what Torah means to us.
The group was very appreciative, and i enjoyed revisiting these basic premises of our faith through the eyes of those who are new to these ideas.
As I walked back into my office, after the group left, I realized that there is a whole area of discussion I could not engage in because not everyone in the room was Jewish and because our discussion was meant to be an academic exercise: What does it mean to be following this faith?
That's what I feel moved to share with you, and I am grateful to my colleague Rabbi Harold Kushner for stating this so elegantly in his book To Life!:
"Judaism has the power to save your life. It can't keep you from dying; no religion can keep a person living forever. But Judaism can save your life from being wasted, from being spent on the trivial....Judaism is a way of making sure that you don't spend your whole life, with its potential for holiness, on eating, sleeping and paying your bills. It is a guide to investing your life in things that really matter. It comes to teach you how to feel like an extension of God by doing what God does, taking the ordinary and making it holy."
We do, at times, lament the "high bar" we need to meet in order to understand services conducted largely in Hebrew, and there is certainly a series of skill sets we are challenged to acquire as Jews to increase our literacy. But the holiest task of all, of bringing holoness to the world as Jews, most often requires no expert knowledge, just a commited heart.
That's the most important thing to know about being a Jew.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.