It’s astounding to me how quick the seasons seem to change when the school term begins again. It could be mid-June or late-November but I’d swear the official switch to Autumn-feeling™️ happens the week that school returns. Though the weather is still lovely, I can’t help but crave a pumpkin spice latte and start planning my Halloween costume. In many ways, it’s a wonderful time of year!
Part of that joy, of course, comes from the resumption of learning. Yet, it is not just the little minds among us who should relish the opportunity to dedicate themselves to learning something new. Learning, after all, is a life-long pursuit – or at least it should be.
Judaism is somewhat unrivaled in the attention it gives to learning as a concept. Talmud Torah (Torah study) is a value in and of itself. Our Sages prioritise learning above all else; they say that one who is learned is better than a priest, and even better than a king (Pirké Avot 6:6). They say that you must always have an occupation, but that it should be secondary in priority to the task of learning (Avot 1:15). Learning, studying, analysing, contemplating– ours is a fairly cerebral religion, and that focus doesn’t end with adulthood.
Rather, Judaism has always advocated that learning is an aim for every age. Our Sages called this learning lishmah (for its own sake). That means that we’re not learning for an exam or a job or for the prestige it brings– we’re learning just to learn, especially as adults. That is why synagogues and rabbis – ours included – spend time crafting and teaching adult education as a primary part of the job of building a community. Indeed, just like the school term, a new year of learning is kicking off at SAMS– and I’d love for you to join me in learning.
All and every class, discussion, and study is open to everyone. There are no prerequisites, there are no stupid questions. If something is of interest to you, come along and join us– and you’ll find that the spirit of non-judgmental community building informs our learning lishmah as it does other aspects of our community.
There is something for everyone: Hebrew language, text study (A Taste of Talmud), spiritual enlightenment (Magical Mystery Book Group), casual community discussions (Havdallah @ Home), coffee-morning discussion groups (Touring the Ten Commandments), and a course (re)covering the basics of Judaism (Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Judaism (But Were Afraid to Ask)).
The flier with all the details for our new Lishmah 5780 programme is available from the Synagogue. I hope you seize the opportunity of the season changing to do a bit of learning lishmah– for its own sake.