Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha - Chumash
Lately I've been feeling religiously stale. The things that once inspired me didn't have the same umph; the sedorim that I try to keep, weren't inspiring me or stimulating me Jewishly. I haven't had much energy for delving into my learning. I haven't felt connected.
But something started to change - and it's funny, because there's no legitimate reason that I didn't do this earlier - it's called Chumash.
Gemmara is nice, but it does little for my Yiddishkeit. Chassidus is always beautiful, but lately I wasn't connecting with it for some reason. I "learned" Chumash & Rashi daily, and have done so for years (well, usually anyway), but most of the time I'd rush through it like a water skier skimming the surface, without really looking around the page to see what the underling issues were. Sure, we constantly hear or see insights, and contemplate them, but I seldom took an analytical approach passuk by passuk to try to get a fuller experience - until now that is. Maybe I'm the only one who has been sitting in the dark all these years, but it seems like the Malbim or Ramban, Ohr HaChaim, Baal HaTurim, Klei Yakkar & Ibn Ezra were virtually hiding from me on the pages; of course, I always knew they were there, and I even glanced at them once in a while, but I never sat down and tried to delve into them systematically. Well, I started to, and you know what? I found what I've been missing.
We often fall into a trap - we rethink or reexamine less and less as we get older. The ideas we picked in school are often not updated or analyzed again, and so they remain that way for life - as a result, we can maintain a child's understanding of Chumash, sometimes forever. This is a true tragedy and a stifling of the human spirit. If we don't update and reexamine, trying to better understand things, than it would seem that we relegate ourselves to a decidedly superficial existence. Incidentally, this is what attracts me to Chassidus; it was never the movement (as I am not a movement person), nor was it for the socially benefits (since we can find a social circle anywhere) - it was predominantly that from sifrei Chassidus I found that I was encouraged, and taught, to think.
It's funny, because I mentioned this to our friend A Simple Jew and he sent me this quote by Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky that really sums it up nicely - and I couldn't agree more:
"One of the greatest tragedies of intellectual human experience is that we study Torah stories when we are 55 in the same manner as we studied them when we were 5."
It always gets me looks, but for years I have been saying that the chinuch our yeshivos offer really does our sons a disservice. There is no curriculum - who would ever think that a single subject curriculum makes sense? If it was up to me, I would close the Gemmaros a little and redefine the goal. Our Yeshivos don't attempt to educate, they attempt to provide skills (not even all that successfully either), but is that Yiddishkeit? I would like my kids to really understand Chumash; I'd like them to learn seforim like the Kuzari and really understand what we believe; how can we raise inspired serious Jews if these things are neglected?
So this is my new goal: Back to basics, I hope to really begin to learn Chumash now.