My First Partner in Torah
_When I first met Sally, my first Partner in Torah, in 1995, we were both mothers of young children. We traded off weeks and traveled to each other’s home where we learned together and I did my best to excite her about Jewish thought and practice. Sometimes we’d still be deep in conversation when the school bus pulled up in front of my house and we’d hurriedly say our goodbyes as the children spilled into the house. “Who was that?” they’d want to know. “That’s Sally, and I learn with her.” “Do you get paid?” “No, I do it as a volunteer.” “Why?!” they all wanted to know. Thinking about how I might convey the concept of “tinok she’nishbah” to young children I settled them down on the couch to explain. “You are all so lucky to grow up in a Torah home,” I started, “there is so much to know about Hashem and about how to keep his Torah that it takes years to learn it all. Imagine if, chas v’shalom, one of your siblings was kidnapped at a young age and you met them again after you grew up and you were both adults. Only you knew so much Torah because you got to go to Yeshiva and you grew up in our home and they didn’t know anything. Wouldn’t you put your arm around them and lovingly say, ‘come, I’ll teach you everything you missed while we were growing up?’” Wide eyed they looked at me. “Do you mean Sally was kidnapped?!” they asked, astonished. Realizing my parable was a little too literal for them, I tried again. But the truth is, she was. She was kidnapped by pogroms that sent her family to America, by a harsh reality on these shores that was not conducive to mitzvah observance, by public schools whose goal was to assimilated all within it’s walls, by uneducated grandparents and disconnected parents. Her neshama, and the neshamas of thousands like her, was kidnapped and held hostage, for generations, with the only ransom being Torah knowledge and the only one who can pay it being a Jew who cares enough to take the time.
It took several generations for Sally’s family to loose their yiddishkeit, and it will probably take a few generations for them to get it back, but learning together with a caring partner is sure a good way to start.