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Homemade Torah

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CHIEF RABBI DR WARREN GOLDSTEIN

It’s probably not what we would have chosen. But there’s an opportunity here. An opportunity to fulfil, perhaps like no generation before us, the great directive in Pirkei Avot: “Let your home be a meeting place for the sages.”

The literal interpretation is that our home should be a place where great Torah sages gather to teach Torah and discuss the affairs of the day so that we may “drink thirstily from the words” of those who embody the values they learn and teach, absorbing their ideals, ethics, and character.

However, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, in his commentary on Pirkei Avot, has a different interpretation. He says that this mishna isn’t just referring to sages of flesh and blood, but also to the Torah books and commentaries authored by the sages.

He explains that when we learn Torah at home, we invite the sages throughout the thousands of years of Jewish history into our home. Delve into a page of Mishna, and Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Meir walk through the door. Open up a Rashi, and suddenly there’s the great French medieval commentator on the couch beside us taking us through the simple meaning of the verse. Read in the Chumash about Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, and they become personalities tangibly involved in our lives.

This is the thinking behind our first ever South African Tikkun Leil companion: to make our home a meeting place for the sages in precisely this way.

After the warm and enthusiastic feedback we received from the Hagaddah companion, which brought inspiration to our seders at a challenging time and exemplified the unity and togetherness of our community, I invited our community’s amazing rabbis and rebbetzins to write a counterpart for Shavuot.

The result is a book, collectively authored, filled with inspirational Torah ideas to learn and share on the night to uplift and enrich our experience of the chag.

We can’t be in shul, we can’t attend their shiurim, but with this compendium of beautiful Torah insights, we’re bringing our rabbis and rebbetzins into our homes.

This year’s Tikkun Leil offers an opportunity to transform our home into a house of learning – a bona fide beit midrash (Jewish study hall) bustling with energy, inspiration, and active engagement.

A “meeting place” is typically a site of robust discussion and debate, of lively conversation. When we learn Torah, we aren’t passively receiving a one-way monologue, but are instead active participants in a dynamic exchange. When the whole family gets involved, our children become active partners in our awesome divine legacy. Learning its teachings can be transformational in a way that permeates our homes, and inspires and guides us to become better people.

That’s why this Tikkun Leil book isn’t just a learning companion. It’s a symbol, a clarion call, that our Torah learning shouldn’t be confined to our shuls and batei midrash, but be brought into our homes to transform our families. It is a potent reminder that the home, itself, can be the most powerful beit midrash of all.

I wish you all a Chag Sameach. May our homes be filled with the light and warmth of Torah. And may G-d bring health and healing to our community, our country, and our world.

  • The Tikkun Leil book can be downloaded and printed from chiefrabbi.co.za

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