Friday, July 02, 2010

Devorah Torah

Did you ever find yourself struggling to stay awake during a sermon?

Who hasn’t?

Did you ever find yourself giving a sermon and wonder why so many people were sleep-deprived lately?

Yesterday someone asked me if I could help his daughter with her “Dvar Torah” for her Bat Mitzvah. He wanted me to send him some thoughts about her Torah portion.

More specifically, he wanted me to send her ideas about the portion of her portion that was her portion, or at least a portion of the portion of her portion that was her portion.

I asked him if she felt that she had to speak specifically about a portion of her portion of the portion. Or should she necessarily speak about any portion of the portion?

For example, another young lady in San Francisco chose to speak about the hugely-important mitzvah of not speaking gossip (lashon hara). She even made a public commitment not to speak OR LISTEN TO lashon hara.

Thanks to her, there has been an estimated 7.7 percent decline of lashon hara levels in San Francisco over the past 30 days.

That’s the nature of a good Dvar Torah – it inspires the audience to think about their own lives in a new way.

So now I’d like to share a most unusual Dvar Torah at our own Friday night dinner table.

First we sing “Shalom Aleichem”. (To learn one of the classic tunes for this great song, click here.)

Then the children line up for their parental blessing. We go oldest to youngest, but we've heard there are families who go youngest to oldest. (The traditional blessing is here.)

(but I always add my own words).

Then we sit down, say “Shabbat Shalom” or “Gut Shabbos” or “Good Shabbat” to each other and do Kiddush and Hamotzee.

Then I start to ask the kids what they learned this week. In their schools and camps, they USUALLY learn something about the Portion. But if they didn’t, I try to have a story ready for them. (looking for great books of dinner-table-friendly stories? see below.)

(At some point, of course, I tell over the week’s Table Talk, of course...)

Lately, at some point in the meal, our 4-year-old Devorah gets out of her seat, strides over to the bookcase I keep by the table, takes a large book and announces, “I have a Devorah Torah!”

She insists that everyone listen.

We listen.

She opens the book and, pretending to read, starts to improvise a story that can go on for quite a long time.

It’s entertaining… for a few minutes.

What keeps it going is her radiant joy, and our reluctance to stop her.

There are two morals to this story.

The first is what makes a great Dvar Torah?

1. Be happy
2. Be personal - tell a story
3. Be brief

Question for your Table: What’s the second moral to this story?

Shabbat Shalom

“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” – Churchill

Some recommended books of meaningful stories:

1. (or use this for paperback)
2. (or use this for paperback)

If you use one of these links, a portion of your purchase is donated to support JSL’s programs.

Need more ideas? Send me an email.


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