Text Based Learning

Sayings & Sayers of the Sidrah: Concluding Thoughts – Where are the Heroes?
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Thursday 15th May 2014

For the past six months, this series has focused on ‘Sayings and Sayers of the Sidrah’. This was intended as an opportunity not only to see how the sages of old accessed the text of the Chumash, but also to provide biographical sketches of their lives and accomplishments.

In the process of writing these articles, I have repeatedly been struck by the disparity between these heroes of Jewish history and some of the people who are today often considered national and international superstars.

However, rather than taking a swipe at any such superstars, I would like to offer a few observations of what qualities are needed to merit a place in the Talmudic Hall of Fame:

1. Passion. You do not get to grace the pages of Jewish history unless you are deeply driven in your love of learning and propagating Jewish education and life. These sages poured their energies into this labour of love.

2. Vision. To see beyond the page of the volume in front of you and understand how knowledge is actualised in the world. As my Rabbi instructed me before my wedding: “Take all those books and pour them into the cup of coffee you make for your wife in the morning.”

3. Values. A conscience of unwavering virtue needs to be internalised, never deviating from Jewish goals. This may necessitate tough and unpopular decisions in order to ensure the survival of Torah and the Jewish spirit.

4. Spirituality. To see the sparks of holiness scattered in abundance across the globe. To grasp, nurture and cherish them.

5. Humanity. I have attempted to include accounts that testify to the fallibility of our protagonists. These should not be seen as unfortunate aberrations to be swept under the carpet of hagiography, but rather beautiful portraits of individuals that struggled, failed and then tried again, repeatedly and relentlessly.

It has been inspiring to write accounts of these giants. I hope that you have also been inspired; not only to read of the heroes of old, but also to seek out today’s true heroes.

We would like to thank Rabbi Landau for his incisive and entertaining articles over the last six months.