This week I experienced one of the most special moments I've had since moving to Sioux Falls. Together with a fellow community member, Stephen Rosenthal, we concluded a tractate of the Talmud. We started studying this together several years ago, and endeavored to study once a week.
As a Yeshiva student, I'd spend several hours a day studying Talmud. Some people dedicate their entire life to this.
But Judaism, and higher Jewish education and scholarship, is not limited to Yeshiva students, or to the times we go to Synagogue, or Shabbat and religious holidays. Rather, it belongs to every Jew equally, and each one of us can incorporate and maintain a real commitment to Judaism in our daily lives, regardless of our profession, background or social status.
Part of the secret of Jewish continuity has always been our commitment to Torah study. It can be done by every woman, man and child, and anywhere. Many times over the past few years, Stephen and I learned during his work hours, while at his office. With zoom and facetime, we also learned on those occasions when one of us was out of town. As we say in the hallowed words of the Shema "when you are at home, and when you are on the road, when you lay down and when you get up."
Beyond everything else, studying Talmud is enjoyable and engaging. On a given page we can learn intimate details about the lives of the Sages, read anecdotes they heard from their teachers, explore theology, or delve into the complex laws of mundane matters like commerce, contracts and inheritance, or the religious intricacies of marriage, divorce and prayer.
There we also discover the Jewish methodology of preserving tradition, of reasoning, debating, challenging, understanding, and coming to a final resolution. (Indeed, a common misconception is that the Talmud is a book of debates. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The Talmud is complete with resolution, always authoritatively arbitrating and giving the final ruling and its methodology Jews have respected and followed for millennia.)
This may very well have been the first time two people studied and completed an entire Talmudic tractate together in South Dakota. But it definitely won't be the last.
Let me know if you would like to study Talmud. It is never too late to start!
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.