Always Learning – Parshat Vaetchanan 5780

Parenting is full of obligations we have to our children. I want to teach them to be kind and compassionate. I want to teach them to be productive members of society and to take care of themselves. I want to teach them the alphabet and the alef-bet and help them reach all the appropriate learning milestones so they can succeed in life. The truth is there will always be much more to learn than I have time to teach, or in the case of math, can’t teach them myself. I rely heavily on our awesome community and fantastic teachers to provide the basics, but I know that at the end of the day, there is always more to learn, even as adults.

The idea that you can never really know it all can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a quick learner, and yet Judaism is based around the concept of being a lifelong learner. This week we read Parshat Vaetchanan, the second section of text in the book of Deuteronomy. It is perhaps one of the most famous texts in our Torah. Moses requests to enter the land of Israel, but God remains firm in the punishment of forbidding Moses from stepping foot in the Promised Land. The Torah sends out a caution to observe the commandments therein and reaffirms that idols are prohibited, which we learn in the Shema, stating there is only one God. We also receive the second giving of the Ten Commandments and are told to teach these words to our children. 

In chapter 5, verse 1 we read, “Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the laws and rules that I proclaim to you this day! Study them and observe them faithfully!” The obligation to learn and to understand is not just based in childhood. It is an obligation that is lifelong. Even if we don’t learn everything we need for the world in a traditional educational setting, we have an obligation as adults to continue the process. 

Being a lifelong learner means understanding that we are never complete, that our knowledge base is never full, and that we can always open our minds and learn more about the world and learn from other people. Parshat Vaetchanan reminds us that we are all simultaneously learners and seekers. Knowledge is to be enjoyed and pursued throughout our lifetimes and everywhere we happen to find ourselves.

What will you learn this year?

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