This week's parsha
The Cycle of Life
AGE 5: “Thanks, Rabbi, but we’ve decided to send our kids to the local public school. We’ll reconsider Jewish education for high school.”
AGE 13: “Rabbi, it’s nice of you to offer to continue learning with him even after he’s finished his bar mitzva, but now that he’s in high school, it’s time he got serious about his schoolwork. Maybe when he’s settled down a bit with his new schedule...”
AGE 16: “Bring him to shul on Sunday morning to study Talmud? Are you kidding? He’s about to start matriculation and that’s his priority for the next two years!”
AGE 19: “No, my parents thought about letting me go to Israel, but we decided to head straight to university. I’m hoping to take a gap year after my undergraduate degree.”
AGE 27: “Yes, it does sound like an interesting lecture, but I get home from work exhausted and I’m working extra hours on Sundays to save up for the wedding next year.”
AGE 35: “Thanks, Rabbi, but we’ve decided to send our kids to the local public school. We’ll reconsider Jewish education for high school.”
When to Learn
It’s easy to understand why there is a perception that studying for a degree or our jobs should be our priority, while studying Torah is the cream that floats on top; nice enough, but not exactly crucial to life. However, the opposite is true. It is precisely by studying G‑d’s word, with no ulterior motive, that we express ourselves as Jews and bring ourselves closer to Him.
Think of the way you’ve outfitted your house. Most of your time and money was spent buying functional objects such as chairs and couches to sit on, tables to sit at and pots and pans to cook with. But it’s the decorative objects that make a house into a home; the bric-a-brac in the corner, the paintings on the walls, and that interesting object dárt that you picked up on your overseas travels.
Likewise, in the Tabernacle, there were a number of so-called “functional vessels” used in the service. They lit the golden menorah (candelabra) every evening and arranged the showbreads on the shulchan (table). Aromatic incense was offered on the golden mizbeach (altar) and they utilised a variety of golden dishes, pans, and bowls. But the foundational vessel of the Temple was the Aron HaKodesh, the Ark of the Covenant, which rested in the Holy of Holies.
In Kabbalistic thought, the aron is compared to Torah. It was the single most important vessel in the Temple and the main reason for G‑d’s presence in the Sanctuary. However, the aron had no defined use; it just was. Nothing was placed on it, nor did it give off light. It was the central fulcrum of the Tabernacle, around which the entire service revolved, but it itself had no specific function.
When Jews study Torah we justify our existence and transform the world, but we do it for no other reason than to serve G‑d and make Him happy.
Torah is the foundation of the world and studying Torah is studying G‑dliness. You’ll never be nominated for an award, and it probably won’t help your future employment prospects, but nothing else you do will ever be as important or as influential as when you learn G‑d’s Torah and thereby bring yourself closer to the Author.