Yesterday I had to transfer a Torah scroll from The Davis Academy Lower School campus to The Davis Academy Middle School campus. The scroll was being stored in an Ark that resides in a room adjacent to our Lower School gym. When I went to get the Torah scroll, I found our kindergarten students sitting politely and receiving instructions for their PE class which had begun only a few minutes prior. As I carried the Torah from the Ark and into the gym, I saw a kindergarten child jump up from his spot, point at the Torah, and shout, “Torah! Torah!!” It was a sweet moment of spontaneous spirituality and enthusiasm.
Imagine if each of us, upon seeing a Torah scroll in the midst of our daily lives, leapt up from our seats, pointed, and cried out, “Torah! Torah!!” What would our lives look like if we had such a natural and authentic love and respect for Torah?
The reason the Torah scroll was at the Lower School campus rather than the Middle School campus is because we needed both of our Davis Academy Torah scrolls for our Simchat Torah celebration. Simchat Torah is the holiday where we conclude an annual cycle of Torah reading only to immediately begin a new cycle, creating a seamless transition and ensuring that Torah remains an unbroken chain connecting Jews with one another and with the foundational teachings of our tradition.
Today, two soon-to-be Bnai Mitzvah will read from this very Torah scroll at our Middle School Tefilah (prayer) service. Somewhere around Middle School, maybe even sooner, something happens to the voice inside of us that used to shout “Torah! Torah!!” The voice doesn’t disappear. But it becomes more self-conscious. It takes its place as one among the many voices that speaks authentically from the soul. Instead of crying out, it’s more like a whisper. More like the “still small voice” that Elijah heard on the mountaintop.
There’s tremendous power in a mighty shout and there’s tremendous power in a soft whisper. There are ample times in life for each, and for most of the other manifestations of voice in between. But something about that kindergarten child shouting, “Torah! Torah!!” touched me deeply and summoned this reflection.
As we begin reading the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, we might do well to consider how we want to relate to Torah as we embark upon the next cycle. For some of us, it’s time to rekindle our awareness and appreciation of the Torah and its teachings. For some of us, it’s time to loosen our grip on what we think the Torah means for us and for others. For most of us, it’s a chance to nurture our spiritual and religious souls, to grow as Jews, people of faith, and human beings, living in a world that could be healed in some small way from our living the values that represent the best of what Torah teaches.
This year, this week, this day, this moment, we have the chance to encounter Torah anew. We have a chance to read, and listen, and study with new eyes, new ears, and with a spirit of delightful openness. We can, with intention and purpose, bracket our assumptions, biases, and opinions and hear the voice(s) of Torah speaking directly to us, perhaps in a shout, or in a whisper. And from that place, we can summon our response(s).