This week’s parashiyot, Nitzavim-Vayelech, describes Moshe, at 120 years old, passing along his role of leading B’nei Yisrael to Joshua. As his days were nearing the end, Moshe is told by God to relate the Shira, the portion of Ha’azinu that is the Song of Moses, to B’nei Ysrael. The last verse in Vayelech reads: “Moses spoke the words of this song into the ears of the entire congregation of Israel,” עַד תֻּמָּם, “until their conclusion” (Deut. 31,30).
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a Lithuanian Rabbi from the late 19th century asks, why does the Torah say “until their conclusion?” Wouldn’t everyone assume Moshe would recite the entire song? Rabbi Feinstein answers that Moshe was not just reciting the words, but also providing in-depth meaning to these words “Until their conclusion” implies Moshe provided the deepest understanding of the true meaning of the Song.
Every day, my colleagues and I seek to create authentic Jewish experiences for our students that will ignite in them a spark to form their own Jewish identities. And I am thrilled to see so many moments in the Schechter program that grapple with text – through Tefillah, Talmud and Tanach – in order to find purpose, meaning and deep understanding. Just this week, I sat in on the 6th-grade Tanach class where Lianne Gross emphasized to students that “every translation is an interpretation.” There is so much beauty in the concept of the p’shat (literal translation) and the drash (deeper meaning/interpretation) of the Tanach. That is why I personally love studying Tanach – because it is a place to think deeply about the possibilities of what specific words and texts mean. And it is up to us to find personal connections.
Just as Moshe acted as a facilitator to B’nei Yisrael to help them form a deep understanding in the scripture, so too are the faculty at Schechter facilitating a community of purpose and meaning seekers. And I am truly grateful for the work they do every day with our students.