In Nitzavim VaYelech, this week’s Torah portion, we read about the reception of the Torah. There we read:
For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ (Deuteronomy 30:11–13)
Learning should be hard, but not to hard and definitely not out of reach. Here we see learning Torah depicted as some elaborate scavenger hunt. What zeal would we bring to trying to learn Torah if it was in fact hidden in the heaven or on the other side of the ocean?
I was thinking of this when I saw this article on dangerous journeys to school around the world. Here are two pertinent images:
Not in Heaven:
Beyond the Sea:
It is inspiring to look at the rest of the images. In the world there are so many barriers to education, but as you can see there is still a hunger to learn and grow.
In our community there are many efforts to make Torah more accessible, but still people feel alienated. What are we missing? Perhaps we have made Torah too accessible? We have lost our zeal. Would we try harder if it was in heaven or across the sea? But I do not think that is all of it.
We fail because we have not done a good job expressing the “why”? Yes I am Hassid of Simon Sinek. And if you have not seen this TED talk please stop everything and watch it now.
Why is learning valuable? I have my thoughts on this, but for now I just want to put the question out there. In Sinek’s words,
People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And if you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.
As we prepare for the High Holidays it is interesting to think about your own “why”. And once we figure out our “why” it will not matter if learning Torah is in heaven or across the sea, that is just a “how”.