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Pluralistic Perspectives Speaking Torah: We do not make the journey to Sinai alone

By Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld

Rabbi Sharon Cohen AnisfeldNext week, Jewish communities around the world will gather to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot and the anniversary of the giving of the Torah.

We have been preparing for seven weeks. Counting each day, from the second night of Passover to the first night of Shavuot, through 49 days of wilderness, 49 days of wandering. We offer a blessing each night before we count — a quiet reminder, if we are paying attention, that it is a blessing simply to be able to count each day. 

Several commentators link the 49 days of the Omer to the 48 midot identified in Pirke Avot as the attributes a person needs to cultivate in order to acquire Torah. Each day is dedicated to a different character trait. (For those who are distracted by the obvious mathematical problem here — don’t worry — the 49th day is for review!)

But the Vilna Gaon adds an important observation. No one person can embody all 48 attributes. It is simply not possible; each of us has different strengths, different human qualities, different capacities of heart, mind, and spirit. That, suggests the Vilna Gaon, is why we learn in hevruta, with study companions. We need each other to reveal Torah in all its fullness, beauty, and complexity.

This is the intuition at the heart of our approach to rabbinic education at Hebrew College.  We do not make the journey to Sinai alone. We stand together on holy ground, and the light of Torah shines through each of us in a different way, when we teach and when we learn.

This week, I am pleased to share two pieces about teaching. I invite you to watch a video with two Hebrew College Rabbinical students who develop curriculum and teach in the College’s young adult  Eser program and to read a moving piece about Shavout by Rabbi Or Rose, Director of the Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership at Hebrew College.


Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld is the Dean of the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.

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