Friday, May 18, 2018

Torah as Jewish Culture

by Moshe Feiglin

If you ever go to the Jaffa flea market in the afternoon, you will be treated to a unique experience. At a designated moment, the peddlers stop hawking their wares, the shoppers stop inspecting the merchandise heaped in piles on the sidewalks and all gather for an open-air mincha (afternoon prayers) session. I love this marketplace prayer. It has a special grace. I always prefer to pray with working-people who stop in the middle of their toil to praise G-d than to recite the prayers in the synagogue. When the Torah becomes our national way of life, a culture that bursts forth far from the walls of the study hall, it carries the whisper of redemption on its wings.

The Scroll of Ruth that we will be reading on the holiday of Shavuot this Sunday is the story of the Jewish People living their Torah culture in their Land. Boaz is not a yeshiva head or a famous rabbi. He is a Jew who works his land. The working people in the Scroll of Ruth remain in their Land despite the famine and abandonment by their leaders. They conduct themselves according to the cultural code of faith and loving kindness that they absorbed from the Torah and that is part of their lives.

That is also our goal; to turn our Torah into our culture. “You know,” said one of the senior managers of the Knesset channel after I finished an interview there, “all sorts of religious MK’s come through our studio. I am secular – I try to understand them, but I just can’t. You are the only person with a kippah on his head that I can understand.”

I do not think that he meant that the religious MKs are not expressing themselves with enough eloquence. I think that he sensed the connection that Zehut makes between Judaism and reality.

The Scroll of Ruth teaches us that this authentic connection bears the secret of redemption. May we merit to bring it soon!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Shavuot.

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