The Torah of Joy by Rav Natan

וְנִשְׂמַח בְּדִבְרֵי תוֹרָתֶךָ וּבְמִצְוֹתֶיךָ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד

We shall rejoice in the words of your Torah and in your mitzvot forever and ever.

It is crazy for me to realize that while I feel like I just arrived here not long ago, we are already getting ready to celebrate a milestone. I am talking about our graduation class of Torah Trope 2021!

Over the past three months, twelve students have dedicated a lot of their time to learn the melodies and structures that guide our Torah reading. In less than two weeks, on Thursday morning minyan Feb. 4th and on Shabbat Feb. 6th we will listen to them chanting Torah (some of them for the first time!). It will be a meaningful ceremony as they will read Parashat Yitro, that contains the 10 Commandments. Please join us to celebrate our friends: Barry Altman, Deborah Kaplan, Deborah Bash, Deb Cohen, Elisa Rosman, Irene Bleiweiss, Jack Lynch, Jeremy Bronheim, Leeyat Tessler, Morah Laura Naide, Naomi Halpern, and Sue Hamm.

Trope class has been fun, inspiring, structuring the foundations of a learned community. Learning Torah is meant to be a pleasant activity, that brings a deep and empowering feeling, a connection to our roots. We say this phrase every night right before the Shema: “We shall rejoice in the words of your Torah and in your mitzvot forever and ever”, as a reminder that Torah is a source of smiles, laughs, positive energy, and our source of inspiration for a good life. Learning Torah with this special group of amazing people reminded of the torah of joy. It was a highlight of my weeks and I’m already looking forward to our next cohorts to bring the same kind of joy.

I’m passionate about Torah learning. I believe that learning is the foundation of our communal and spiritual lives. One of my famous stories in the Talmud (Kiddushin 40b), teaches:

And once Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were reclining in the attic of the House of Nitzah in Lod and this question was asked in front of them: Is study greater or action greater? Rabbi Tarfon answered and said, “Action is greater.” Rabbi Akiva answered and said, “Study is greater.” They all answered and said, “Study is greater, since study brings about action.”

Torah study roots me in Jewish tradition and heritage, contemplating its wisdom and guidance, I can align my beliefs, with my thoughts and actions. As we learn from Pirkei Avot (1:2) the world stands upon three things: the Torah, spiritual service, and the practice of good deeds.

This is an invitation to you: join me in exploring these three elements that are core to our tradition and can be a source of joy that will lead into action.

We are just starting our Beit Midrash (every other Wednesday, 7-8:30pm, more info on the weekly e-mail) as an opportunity to learn a variety of topics that will hopefully enrich our lives and lead us to action.

In two days, we will be celebrating Tu Bishvat – new year for the trees! – a holiday that recently became an opportunity to work on our commitment with a sustainable world through study and action. In our tradition, the trees are a divine creation that requires our work and commitment and a symbol for life and renewal. Etz Hayim is the Tree of Life, our source of inspiration and comfort.

May we keep finding moments of joy in learning, sharing, reading and chanting Torah.

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