Friday, February 17, 2017

Learn It Again, Sam

The goal of this blog is to create an epic Shabbat table ...  Please share.
play-it-again-samThis week, a brief story and seven questions for your table.

Last week's Soul of a Strawberry inspired some happy responses.

Some people sent pictures of their favorite fruit. Someone thanked me for the limerick about resurrection.

But the biggest surprise was when someone said that the email made him more conscious about healthy eating.

Five questions:

1. How long can that last? How do you keep an inspiration going for more than a few days?

2. Did you ever know someone who for years has tried - and failed - to change a single habit? (I see one every time I look in the mirror.)

3. What's worse - to keep trying to turn over a new leaf yet to fail, or never to try at all?

4. Is there such a thing as a personal habit that is impossible to change?

5. If you knew you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

For me, these questions became more focused this week when I was in San Francisco for a very, very special event, a very big simcha.

For six years, a group of women have made the habit of attending a class Friday morning where the teacher doesn't even bother to come - get this - he shows up via Skype.

Why would busy people show up week-in-week-out, year-in-year-out, for so long?

(Certainly not for the teacher. I know him personally and know he won't mind my saying so.)

The main answer I think is very simple: the class is called "The Wisdom and Beauty of the Chumash" (AKA the 5 Books of Moses, AKA the Torah).

But I think the secret to that group is three things:

1. They are learning Torah, the world's greatest book of wisdom;
2. They are learning together. Some people learn best in a group, and this group are all deep thinkers;
3. They take turns bringing breakfast.

Question #6 for your table: Which of those three reasons do you think is the most important?

So this week we celebrated completing the entire Torah together. Yes, it's a "mazal tov".

Yes, I flew across the country for less than 24 hours just to celebrate that siyum. Yes, it is that big of a deal.

It's a big mazal tov for those who came every week and it's a big mazal tov for those who came even once and it's a big mazal tov for those who never came. It's a mazal tov for all of us.

I asked the women to share one special thing that they have learned from the Torah. Their answers were all inspiring and too much to quote here. But here's one that I think resonates universally:

"Everything in life is a test to make you a better person."

Wow. If you could hold onto that idea every day, you would never worry.

So today the class resumes. After all, warns the Talmud, the second question they ask you in the next world is, "Did you schedule regular times to learn Torah?"

And there is an obvious question - which I'll leave for discussion at your table....

Question #7: What should the group do next? Continue through Tanach, or go back to the beginning?

Mazal tov and

Shabbat Shalom

PS - If you'd like to test your own Chumash-knowledge with the 26-question "Final Exam" I gave them, shoot me an email.

Like this email? How about putting your gelt where your gab is: Like it, tweet it, or just forward it.

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