June 19, 2020

Brachot 63

Brachot 63 contains a variety of rabbinic teachings on the beauty and importance of Torah study – which is a timely message as we draw near to the end of our study of Massechet Brachot. Today I would like to dwell on just one teaching, and reflect briefly on my experience of sharing a thought on the daf for most of the past 63 days.

In Brachot 63a we are taught a lesson from Hillel stating that, ‘If you see a generation to whom Torah is dear, share [your Torah thoughts with them] as it says, “there is one who shares but who gains even more” (Mishlei 11:24); but if you see a generation to whom the Torah is not dear to them, hold back [from sharing your Torah thoughts] as it says, “there is a time when we act for God by nullifying the Torah” (Tehillim 119:126)’. The question is – in which category does our generation fall?

There are those who think that our generation doesn’t appreciate deep & nuanced Torah study, and so they hold back from sharing exquisite ideas because they think they won’t be valued. I fundamentally disagree. In fact, I think that there is a tremendous thirst in our generation for deep & nuanced Torah thoughts that reveal the rich wisdom of Torah and its ability to speak to our times. The feedback I have received over the past 63 days from these posts so powerfully affirms how dear the Torah is in our generation, and to paraphrase the above-cited verse from Mishlei, I feel that I have gained much more than what I have shared.

Yet what makes our time even more exciting is the power and reach of social media. Of course, there are those who think that the internet and social media is inherently a bad thing. I fundamentally disagree. As Rabbi Mark Dratch so wonderfully put it in his essay, ‘Panim Hadashot’ (in ‘Developing a Jewish Perspective on Culture’, ed. Y. Sarna p. 320):

“The internet, when used responsibly, is a tool le-hagdil Torah u-le-ha’adirah – that can expand and glorify God and His Torah. It can increase the connections of Jews throughout the world, thus enhancing the opportunities to create stronger bonds among kelal Israel, forging an agudah that transcends space and physical limitations. The Internet is a tool to enhance access to ideas, teachers, and study-partners, creating communities of Torah study and debate heretofore impossible. The Internet is a tool which sparks and enables the creativity of every [Torah teacher].. to contribute to the ever expanding database of insights and expressions of Jewish tradition. And cyberspace, the new makom of the Jewish tzibbur, a space unbound by geographical and material limitations, reminds us moderns how the Mekomo shel Olam, the Omnipresent “Space of the World”, also transcends all physical limitations and is, yet, the very Essence of the World in which we live.”

Given all this, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of your for your wise insights and your generous feedback over the past 63 days, and may we continue to grow from strength to strength from the Torah that we learn and share.

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