Rav Wolbe Alei Shur on Learning Torah

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This morning I was learning Rav Wolbe’s classic Alei Shur.

I read a paragraph that made me stop and say to myself, “Did I understand that right?”

I re-read it.

Then I said to myself, “That’s exactly what Thinking Torah is all about!”

Here is my translation (Volume 1, page 37):

You should contemplate this, that the Creator (blessed be His name) does not want that each person should look into the Torah in the same way, or that they should learn it in the same way, or that they should understand it in the same way. Rather, each person should have their own approach according to their unique strengths and effort. Then we will, all together, earn a complete Torah!

What Rav Wolbe writes so perfectly captures what I’m trying to do that I’ve added this quote to both the Thinking Torah Manifesto and to the About page.

Update

I feel compelled to add a comment to the above post.

I don’t think for a minute that Rav Woble is advocating a learning free-for-all. He’s not implying that every interpretation of a verse is valid.

I recall once many years ago sitting in a friend’s home during the break-fast after Yom Kippur.

One of the other guests was a young doctor who had also attended a Jewish day school.

For some reason we started talking about a verse from Exodus / Shemot:

Exodus Chapter 31

16 The Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath for their generations, an eternal covenant.

The young doctor had more Jewish education than the rest of us sitting around him. He explained this verse to mean to whatever the Jewish people decided to do to celebrate Shabbat was a valid expression of Shabbat.

He based his interpretation on the words “to make the Sabbath for their generations.” It didn’t matter how past generations celebrated Shabbat, we could find our own way to celebrate.

He certainly was fulfilling Rav Wolbe’s idea of “each person should have their own approach …”

However, he was also suggesting that potentially every activity could be permitted on Shabbat so long as the Jewish people decided to engage in it!

Summary

According to Rav Wolbe, God wants each of us to use OUR strengths to develop OUR own approach to learning Torah. When we do this we are working together to form a “complete Torah.”

But we should still remember that our goal is to learn God’s Torah and not force our own prejudices and biases into it.

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