To all my friends (who are like family) at Heights,
It has been too long since I was last in shul. I miss you all and I miss being in shul so much. I had hoped to make it by Shavuos, but I am not ready yet, to my frustration and sorrow.
I would like to share a Shavuos thought that I’ve shared with you in years past, for the sake of sharing some Torah with you, as well as a form of explanation of how I am feeling now.
In the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos, a number of character traits are attributed to those who learn Torah for its own sake. Among them are being "called a friend", "beloved", "one who loves Hashem, one who loves people… one who makes people happy".
What do these traits have to do with learning Torah? One can open a sefer, learn it cover to cover, and not love people. The same question can be asked about many of the praises that Pirkei Avos showers upon those who study Torah.
The one all-encompassing answer to this question is that we need to properly define what it means to involve oneself in Torah. The fact that Torah content is to found in thousands of books has us convinced that Torah is a form of academic pursuit. Shavuos is called the Time of the Giving of our Torah, yet nothing was conveyed in writing at that time. We heard a voice. Actually, even before we heard the Voice emanating from Har Sinai, we were told to commit to the message because it would be given to us by Someone Who cared about us and acted in our best interest. Only after agreeing with that premise did we hear the voice. And only months later on Yom Kippur did we see the first enduring written record in stone.
It’s not about a book. The book is a record of the love that was expressed on Shavuos. Any topic of Torah that is studied and analyzed is special because it is a topic that is of interest to the One who cares about us more than anything in the world.
And every teacher and student of Torah in every generation since that first one that encamped under the mountain has been able to convey that message, and those halachos, only with an equivalent love and care and concern for one another. That is the true meaning of Torah she’baal Peh. It is Torah conveyed by talking to one another, connecting to one another. No printed volume of Talmud changes that.
This is the meaning of Rabbi Akiva’s first students not surviving to teach Torah to the next generation because they didn’t honor each other sufficiently. This is the meaning of Rabbi Akiva’s message that "Love your fellow as yourself is the main principle of the Torah."
This is the reason why my home library does not soothe my pain at not being with you this YomTov.
I miss you terribly and hope to rejoin you in shul as soon as my health and strength permit.