Jewish Education, Learning Torah and Connecting to Hashem

Mosaic Magazine has an article by two prominent Jewish sociologists, Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen, titled “The Pew Survey Reanalyzed: More Bad News, but a Glimmer of Hope.” (link). One of their conclusions is that the non-Orthodox movements are facing major challenges keeping their constituents involved and their descendants Jewish.

On of their recommendations is “to persuade more Jewish parents to enroll their children in strong programs of Jewish education—and to support what those programs are teaching.” I agree with their conclusion that more Jewish education will lead to more identification with the Jewish community and less intermarriage. However, their report highlights for me one of the major problems with the non-orthodox Jewish education that I received in my youth. And that is the lack of focus on connection to Hashem as the goal of Jewish Education.

When I became observant, Jewsish Education was replaced with Learning Torah. One of the the central axioms of Learning Torah is that Hashem transmitted the Torah to Moshe and the Jewish People through the prophetic process. This axiom puts Hashem front and center with respect to Learning Torah.

However, even with the G-d centered focus of Learning Torah, there is no guarantee the result will be a deeper connection to Hashem. In fact for many students and BTs who have not become high achievers in higher-level learning of Gemorah, learning Torah is more likely to invoke an eye-roll, rather than represent a tremendous opportunity to get closer to Hashem.

The path to a solution is not to rail against the system, but rather for each one of us to consciously refocus our goals when we learn, daven, or perform any mitzvah. Our front and center goal has to be to develop an awareness, a connection and a deep relationship with Hashem. The Pew Report is a lesson for the entire Jewish People, that we all, regardless of denomination, need to deepen our connection to Hashem. All the rest is commentary.

One comment on “Jewish Education, Learning Torah and Connecting to Hashem

  1. Being a Shomer Torah Umitzvos , for men, entails a comittment to Limud HaTorah-even if you don’t become a high level learner. However, just by learning the Daf or going to a weekly shiur or having a steady chavrusa either in Gemara, Halacha or Tanach, which requires you to drop all of your secular bases of knowledge at the door in order to have any understanding and real appreciation and enjoyment of Limud HaTorah, you will and should gain a deep connection with HaShem. Both the CI and RYBS were very emphatic in stating that one cannot begin to talk about the Jewish view about any issue without being aware of and knowing what the Mesorah of TSBP says on the issue. Moreover, the more that you learn, the more you will be humbled by the vastness of the amount of knowledge there is in the world of Torah and the fact that by dedicating yourself to learning even a fraction of the same, will render you a far more literate Jew than any secular person in the street and a Jew who has a far deeper connection with HaShem and the Jewish People than someone who has never opened a Chumash, Mishnah or Gemara.

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