Details, details, details – such is the stuff of life and certainly of Torah. We seemingly spend acres of ink – and time – to parse out what all these details signify, both in meaning and practice. I spoke on Shabbat about Torah being the social media of its day – where we learned together about our responsibilities as a people who said yes to the mitzvot and to God. We had much to learn, then and now, and the conversations continue.
The learning we engage in about how to best have a good life are a constant. How many conversations do we even have at home about housework? Who is responsible for what, when, and how? How do we handle our finances – separate accounts, joint accounts, pre-nups, savings, budgets? Who is cooking and who is shopping – and who is cleaning? Torah, the mitzvot ask another level of engagement and learning, for us as Jews: How do we navigate Jewish observance – or not – in our respective households?
I am yet again teaching a class in Torah trop. As I always do, when I talk about the trop – or ta’amim – I describe them as an embellishment, an exaggeration if you will, of the music of our simple spoken words. When we speak with each other, we use all manner of vocal cues – intensity of sound, lengthening or shortening of words, for example – to add flavour, tam, to our voices. The ta’amim are used to embellish the reading of Torah, to make it more beautiful and more understandable with song, as we learn to pronounce and phrase the words of Torah.
So too are these teachings from Torah necessary embellishments for the running of our lives. If we are to choose life, if we are to be upright and honest and generous and just people – we need to learn how to best do so. A congregant asked this week for several classes that he would like to see offered. One class he mentioned he would love to see is a class on Pirke Avot. These teachings emerged about 200 CE, and are very closely linked to the first editions of Mishnah. Pirke Avot are wonderfully engaging teachings that guide our ethical and moral choices – in everything, including our business dealings. Hopefully soon, we will continue our ongoing learning by examining a few teachings from the Ethics of our Fathers, Pirke Avot. Watch this social media site for details!!