May 23, 2024
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Reviving Tanach to Reach Heaven

I feel it important to mention that Rabbi Moshe Taragin’s article “Actually, Torah is in Heaven” (September 7, 2023), which expounds on the modern lack of awe in Judaism and overemphasis on rationality, provides a vital message. It is difficult to grasp how in an era of endless resources, the Jewish Weltanschauung has given true theology, philosophy and esotericism a sideways glance and moved on to a radically empiricist attitude toward observance. To the average Modern Orthodox Jew, we perform with rote what should be immensely engaging and meaningful. This stems from the feeling that there is no true deep reason that can enhance our observance to pass on to our children. Despite this, in yeshiva, men are pushed to marry as quickly as possible, without any true conception of how ill-prepared they are for maintaining their awe of God in a world which demands so much of them. Awe is discarded and the “wings of religion are clipped” to quote Rabbi Taragin. This needs to be changed, and it all starts with learning Tanach, primarily in yeshivot.

Tanach is not just for women. The yeshiva system needs to reemphasize the vitality of Tanach and Midrash, the fundamental awe-inducing texts. Our yeshivot have practically discarded these. And although the reasons for doing so are beyond the scope of this response, I firmly believe that there never was a good enough justification to have discarded them. I often lament how roughly 85% of my rebbeim throughout elementary, middle school, high school, Israel and college never read through all Tanach. All of them have finished at least five masechtot of Gemara. Do we truly think there was even a single Talmudic Sage or Tanach commentator from before the 20th century who did not read through Tanach in its entirety? What else inspired them? Dry halachic analysis, countless hours of debating what the size of olives were? Yet we thrust all into Talmud with hardly a sound foundation of the Torah itself. Instead of extracting the sponge of wisdom from Talmudic sages with both fists, we use part of our weakest finger, because we don’t have the knowledge of Tanach to understand the depth of their reasoning. Not only that, but we explicitly skip over the Aggadic portions of Talmud in yeshiva for no apparent reason other than it does not help us understand the tiniest nuance in the difference of an opinion between Rabba and Abaye. By skipping over Tanach and Midrash, we deprive our Judaism of its essential theological and philosophical components. If we focus only on the law, we suffocate. Incorporating the Tanach however, will imbue our actions with the fresh air they should be performed with.

For many of us who have completed yeshiva, the yeshiva can no longer provide this essential milestone, and I truly believe it incumbent for all to at least consider going through Tanach once in life. It is the only text we have written by prophets. It would be unwise to continue ignoring it and life is more meaningful with it.

Dovidchai Abramchayev
Teaneck

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