In Derech Hashem, the Ramchal explains that G-d created man for the purpose of connecting and cleaving to Him through mans own efforts. In the the whole universe, only man was placed between perfection and deficiency with the power to earn perfection. The process of earning that perfection is what spiritual growth is.
In order that G-d’s goal of man earning his perfection be best achieved, G-d decreed that man should consist of two opposites, a pure soul inclined towards the spiritual and an unenlightened physical body inclined toward the material and away from the spiritual. Even though man is immersed in the physical, he is able to rise to perfection through his physical activities. The activities which enable man to rise to perfection are the mitzvos.
The Ramchal describes the categories of mitzvos and describes in greater detail the learning of Torah. In addition to learning Torah to know how to perform the commandments, Torah study in and of itself plays a very large role in bringing man to perfection. The Ramchal describes two means of fulfilling Torah study, through the reciting of the words of the Chumash, and through understanding of Torah.
Chazal (the sages) instituted a weekly spiritual growth mechanism which takes advantage of the power of Torah learning called Shnayim Mikra V’Echod Targem, which is reading the weekly Torah portion twice in Hebrew and its translation once.
The Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berurah describe different levels of performing Shanyim Mikra, but let me recommend the easiest way, which will enable you to perform it and achieve its spiritual growth benefits:
1) Read out load the Parsha in Hebrew during the week to fulfill the first Hebrew reading.
2) Read out loud the Art Scroll translation in English during the week. This fulfills the translation component.
3) On Shabbos, during the public leining read along out loud quietly to fulfill the second Hebrew reading.
Each week counts as a separate mitzvah so don’t fret if you didn’t start this year with Bereishis and Noach. You can start this week with Lech Lecha.
David_L, you demonstrate exactly what spiritual growth is all about, continual improvement. Yasher koach and thanks for sharing your experiences.
After several years of practice, my Hebrew sight-reading ability is still very low. If I tried to read the parashah in Hebrew, I would stumble through it a syllable at a time, and it probably take a few hours.
In order to read a passage of Hebrew smoothly, I have to practice reading it, in pieces, over and over again. I’ve done this for large sections of the prayers, e.g., the Shema, the Shemoneh Esrei, Aleinu and Bircas HaMazon. But
I haven’t attempted it for the whole Torah.
So during the week, each day I read the English translation of the daily aliyah and the commentary in the chumash. Then on Shabbat I re-read the full parashah in English.
Maybe someday, IY”H, I’ll be able to sight-read Hebrew at a reasonable pace.