Friday, September 23, 2011

Open Season on Wisdom

First, a ginormous mazal tov to Harmon and Jorun Shragge of San Francisco, who have completed learning the entire TANACH this week, a 10-year endeavor! Besides kvelling over their achievement, I am grateful to them for being the greatest of study partners - perseverant, yes...thoughtful, yes... but most important, they ask tough questions and have never let me get lazy.

Many thanks to the 75 guests, including leaders and laity, who joined us at the celebration Wednesday from all over the Bay Area, from as far away as San Jose, Mill Valley, Berekeley, Oakland and even Piedmont.

I tried to stump the crowd with a few Tanach trivia questions. Here's a sample for a conversation-starter at your dinner table tonight (helpful hint: print this page):

Tanach: Final Exam
1. What does "Tanach" mean?
2. What does "Torah" mean?
3. What is the first event in Tanach?
4. What is the last event in Tanach?
5. Name the 3 Patriarchs and 4 Matriarchs?
6. Name 3 heroes of Tanach?
7. Name 3 villains of Tanach?
8. List the "10 Commandments"
9. What are the 10 Commandments called by Jews?
10. How many books make up Tanach?
11. Which is longer, Tanach or War and Peace?
12. Which is longer, Tanach or the collected works of Shakespeare?
Answer key:

1. Acronym for Torah (5 Books of Moses), Neviim (Prophets), Ketuvim (Writings)
2. "Torah" means "instructions" and is short for "Torat Chayim" - "instructions for living"
3. The Big Bang, i.e., creation of the universe ex nihilo.
4. Historically, the returning of the Jews to the Land of Israel after the Babylonian exile and rebuilding the Temple. In the narrative, however, the last event is the Persian King Cyrus's proclamation that the Jews may go back "up" to the Land and rebuild the Temple.
5. Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, Leah.
6. Some possibilities: Noah, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, Devorah, David, Solomon
7. Some possibilities: Pharaoh, Haman, Bilam, Nebudchanezar
8. Monotheism, Idolatry, Blasphemy, Shabbat, Honoring Parents, Murder, Adultery, Stealing/Kidnaping, Lying, Coveting.
9. "The 10 Statements" (because we count 613 commandments)
10. 24 (Gentiles divide up their "Old Testament" into as many as 39 books).
11. Tanach is slightly longer (around 600,000 words in English compared to 580,000)
12. Shakespeare's 39 plays contain over 800,000 words

Now here's the zinger for your table: Do these last two answers make the Tanach seem long or short?

In my opinion, here's what the numbers are saying: It is long, especially when you're actually studying rather than merely reading, but those numbers make it clear - it's not out of reach....

You, too, can become literate in the Torah.
You, too, can explore ancient Jewish ethics.
You, too, can taste a little Talmud.
You, too, can learn a little Kabbalah.

Rosh Hashana is next week, what a great time to begin.

(If you'd like my help finding a suitable:

- class (live or online)
- study-partner (live or telephone)
- methodology (that fits your personality)
- plan (that fits your crazy schedule)

...send me an email. Like losing weight, if you don't have a goal and a plan, you're not being real.)

Consider this: the Torah belongs to you as much as it does to me, and great people have observed how much wisdom is there. How about the words of Churchill:

“Some people like Jews and some do not; but no thoughtful man can doubt the fact that they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world…. We owe to the Jews…a system of ethics which, even if it were entirely separated from the supernatural, would be incomparably the most precious possession of mankind, worth in fact the fruits of all other wisdom and learning put together.” (Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 8, 1920)

Isn't it about time you discovered what's in there?

No, really. If not now, when?

(Have I made my point?)


My family joins me in wishing you and yours an amazing New Year signed and sealed for life, wisdom, health, peace and prosperity, deep contentment and soaring joy. (I will try to send a special TT Wednesday for Rosh Hashana, but no promises...)

If you have been enjoying this weekly email for some time and would like to express your appreciation, know that your emails are meaningful and appreciated and your donations to help - quite literally - keep the lights on and make this weekly service possible.

Shabbat Shalom and l'Shana Tova.

You can start your daily pursuit of Jewish wisdom with my iphone app.
Rosh Hashana video #1
Rosh Hashana video #2

Rosh Hashana video #3
"24 Questions to Think About Before Rosh Hashana". Here's the link.
A great affordable shofar: Great Shofar
Our four favorite honey dishes: Here's the link.

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