Saturday, September 19, 2020 -
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48 Ways to Acquire Torah: Way #6

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #6, “Awe”

I am in awe when I stand at the Western Wall. To stand high the Rocky Mountains, across from Summit Lake and overlooking the shimmering Chicago Lakes below, also fills me with awe.

More awesome than both is the experience of looking at single Hebrew word of Jewish scripture. Even one word speaks volumes. The more I dig into it, the more it says; and it never stops saying something new.

One word.

How much more, complete verses and chapters and whole books of the Torah.

Even the Hebrew calligraphy draws me in.

Of course, I could look at a sacred Hebrew word the same way I look at a word in a newspaper page or a novel: it’s just a word, nothing more. It has no meaning other than via its linkage to the words before and after it.

Not to mention, the meaning in the non-sacred context may be, well, meaningless.

Not so when I look at a word of Torah. It elicits awe, and requires awe. I know that through it G-d speaks to me, and the generations of commemtators also address me.

A single word of Torah: nothing or everything, depending on whether I approach it with awe.

If so, I can acquire the Torah.

If not, I will never acquire the Torah, no matter how great my lingusitic and interpretive skills and no matter how much objective knowledge of Torah I possess.

Knowledge of Torah is more than quantitative. In a way, it is not a measure at all. How does one measure the feeling at the Western Wall? How does one measure awe prompted by words of Torah?

The sixth way to acquire the Torah: Awe.

Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart

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Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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