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Counting the Omer with

Day 44 — Learning in Order to Teach

Ha’Lomeid al m’nat L’lamed • הלומד על מנת ללמד

By Rivy Poupko Kletenik, Seattle, WA

Rabbi Joyce Reinitz, Bainbridge Island, WA
Rabbi Joyce Reinitz,
Bainbridge Island, WA

I wonder about this attribute. As a teacher, of course, this is a no-brainer. When we pedagogues learn, we immediately, even hungrily search for the willing receptive student to whom we might give over the new teaching. There is no greater joy than the opportunity to share newly gained wisdom. What of those who learn and study who have no intention and no platform to pass their learning instructively to students or to others? Why then is this included as an essential attribute of the quality of Torah study?

In grappling with this question, I recall a powerful text written by Maimonides, the twelfth century luminary, scholar and philosopher. In his work, the Mishneh Torah he unpacks our tradition’s expectation of loving God in the section on the Laws of Repentance. Here he describes a passionate love for God and Torah.

What is the proper degree of love? That a person should love God with a very great and exceeding love until his soul is bound up in the love of God. Thus, they will always be obsessed with this love as if they were lovesick. A lovesick person’s thoughts are never diverted from the love of that person. They are always obsessed with the love; when they sit down, when they get up, when they eat and drink … .

When we are in love we cannot help but share the qualities, the particularities and the attributes of our beloved with all our friends. So too Torah. As soon as we learn a new idea — we are as if intoxicated and smitten; we must share it! Irrespective of whether we are a teacher or not — we want to tell the new teaching, repeat the fresh insight — we cannot help ourselves.

Hence our attribute, “learning to teach” — we cannot help ourselves — we are in love — each one of us. And so, this essential quality of sharing our learning is elemental to being a Jew. From a Mussar lens the middah of Chesed, lovingkindness in its broadest sense includes this phenomenon. Chesed meaning love is expressed in several ways. A Chesed opportunity open to all is the sharing of the love of Torah and the words of Torah with all people. It is a deep expression of caring for the other that is available and readily acted upon.

May we each be of those in love with Torah and engaged passionately in its expansive giving over!

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