Cantor Paula Pepperstone
The Torah teaches of God’s power through the creation stories, and of Abraham’s journey, literally and spiritually, to become the first person in a covenantal relationship with God. It retells how we survived slavery to became a people with rituals and laws that continually invite us to be in a dynamic relationship with God.
And yet, sometimes we feel removed from this connection. Maybe you don’t relate to the people and narratives. Maybe the laws seem obscure. Maybe you find some stories disturbing, or the miracles seem too… miraculous.
Your struggles aren’t new. Our rabbis have had the same struggles for generations. And they stuck with the Torah and continued to study it because, as Rabbi Neil Gillman (z"l) said, "It’s ours." The Torah is our family - our matriarchs and patriarchs (even if you chose to be Jewish, these are your ancestors now, too.) It’s the story of our growth as individuals and as a people. We have evolved as a species and as a religion and we now forego some of the practices in the Torah, and yet God’s goal to turn us into mensches, into people who do the right thing, is still good.
What I see is that we are afraid to love the Torah, and even more afraid to show our love for Torah.
I invite you to love our greatest gift. Explore it. Get to know it better, so you can love it.
Study it in a class or with a friend. The rabbi or I will point you toward resources to do it.
Read the chumash when you’re in shul - or buy one and read it at home. And if you want to be blown away, read the articles in the back.
Come on Shabbat mornings for the Torah reading, and hear the D’var Torah.
Come up for an aliyah, and get up close and personal with it.
Read Torah yourself. Contact our Shabbat reader coordinator, or learn how to read Torah in my class this Spring.
We’re going to try an experiment soon at CBS-CS that Hanita Blair has done in other congregations: some of our Torah readers will be inviting you to hold the yad/pointer when you come up for an aliyah. Take the opportunity when it’s available. I hope when you do that you’ll feel more connected to the Torah.
When you have the opportunity to carry or dance with the Torah this Simchat Torah, take it.
Carry it with respect, because the author(s) of the Torah crafted an incredible narrative.
Dance with it like it contains your story, because it does.
Cling to it, because it teaches us to be compassionate to those who need it most.
"Turn it, and turn it, for everything is in it.” (Pirkei Avot/Teaching of the Fathers 5:22)
And love it, because it makes us, us.