Torah in our Times: 48 Plus 7 Ways to Learn

After a week of wet winter weather in Jerusalem, Israel, the sun came out on Thursday morning, and I finally had a chance to walk to the Old City.

Nothing like the view from above the Kotel, Western Wall, with winter clouds hovering above. Sadly so few people were there to be able to enjoy it.

I was not early enough to see Santa on his camel at Jaffa Gate. But I did spot the last lone tree in the annual giveaway. The Municipality, along with JNF, gives away small pine trees each December to residents who arrive early.

I was on my way to see what was happening in the Old City, during what usually is a very busy time of year.

I decided not to share the empty streets this week. The lack of tourists, the closings, and corona news are all well known by now. The latest bad news – bird flu – may cause an egg shortage.

Looking into the Beit Midrash at Aish on the way to the roof view, the study hall was an impressive scene filled with young men studying.

The Torah has guided the Jewish people for millennia.

Exploring new ways to integrate its ancient words and writings into the skeptical 21st century has become a topic of lively and varied discussions.

Thursday Bar Mitzvahs were being celebrated in the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. It was good to see this section being used.

Jerusalem Western Wall near Robinson's Arch on Tisha B'Av

As you can see, the repair scaffolding has been removed. This is where a stone fell in the summer of 2018. Afterwards, the entire section was checked and the wall repaired.

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In the Artist Colony, Kol Haot strives to impart Jewish values, texts, and history using a creative synthesis of the visual and performing arts.

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Kol Haot was another venue for the 5th Jerusalem Biennale. The exhibition for Jewish Contemporary Artists concludes at the end of December. 

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Lining the gallery walls were works from 48 Jewish artists done last year during the time of the corona closings and quarantine.

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There were various media used and artists with various experiences, backgrounds, and locations, but the subject of the Creative Quarantine was the same – Torah is acquired in 48 ways.

What connected them all together was a list found in the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avot in the Mishnah – a list of 48 ways to acquire the Torah. Each artist began by taking an item from the list.

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Number 1 was Talmud, study, followed by attentive listening, proper speech, an understanding heart, awe, fear, humility, and joy, and so on.

One evening in the gallery surrounded by the 48 artistic works, two more recent approaches of this generation relating to Tanach were discussed.

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Yael Unterman explored the technique of Bibliodrama, first-person group role-playing based on a text. Rachel Sharansky Danziger demonstrated how modern Israeli authors are using the Hebrew Bible to join in an ancient conversation and at the same time rebel against it.

Both women contribute to 929, the program began seven years ago to read Tanach: one chapter a day, every day, in sequence. 929 is the number of days to study a complete cycle of all the books. Now there is an English 929 version as well.

929 Shir Hashirim study at Beit Hanasi

BC, before corona, President Rivlin hosted large 929 groups regularly.

This week on Thursday evening, the Herzogs, at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence, are slated to host Rabbi Benny Lau’s 929 for the 38th time.

Each night at midnight, the chapter on the 929 website changes, and the next chapter appears, along with interesting information, brief explanations, video clips, pictures, and even narration of the text, for those who prefer to listen.

The project to learn a page of Talmud a day, Daf Yomi, has grown in popularity.

In addition, there is a new cycle to learn two Mishnayot a day, Mishnah Yomit, and finish the entire six orders of the Mishnah in under 6 years.

And for those new-gen and tech fans, there’s an All Mishnah App, that you can download for free to help you stay on track with your study.

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The Tiferet Israel Synagogue was destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948. Today work on its reconstructed dome can be seen rising over the buildings in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

From the innovation of outreach to the young and unaffiliated to Talmud study begun by Rabbi Weinberg z”l in the Old City at Aish HaTorah, times have changed, moving to online groups and apps.

Will the young audiences on Tik Tok, Instagram, Netflix, and YouTube in the new generation attend synagogues and have the Jewish knowledge to appreciate their history and Torah sources? They will, if they take advantage of the seemingly endless digital resources at their disposal to study Torah.

Menachem Begin announced he would lead a “Jewish style” government.

Will future generations be Jewishly literate?

Jerusalem: Wet, Windy and Wonderful

In Jerusalem, Israel,

it was a wet and wild week.

On a clear day on a walk into town,

Street scene Jerusalem Israel

I found this interesting door, but did not enter.

Man blowing shofar and son watches and soldier passes by

A man was blowing a large shofar in front of

a gift shop on Ben Yehudah Street.

Nearby,

Israeli security women at lunch on Ben Yehuda

 female border police officers were having a lunch break

Arab girls shopping in Jerusalem Israel

as these two young women were shopping.

But the wet weather this past week

Rainy day in Jerusalem Israel, dark, wet and cold

often made for dark and dreary photos.

Walls of Old City seen through rain covered window at Begin Center Jerusalem Israel

Can you tell those are  the walls of the Old City

through rain drops on the Begin Center’s windows?

After heavy rains

Water after heavy rain in Jerusalem Israel

 this unsightly puddle remained.

Broken IKEA umbrella in street garbage bin after heavy rain.

This IKEA umbrella could not withstand the Jerusalem weather.

IKEA is to open another Israeli store in Beer Sheva.

When it rains and the wind blows,

it’s best to forget using any umbrella.

Besides the weather,

Rubbish bin overflowing with trash during Jerusalem strike

trash piled up in bins during a brief strike.

which closed Agrippas Street with mountains of mess.

The only good part of it was that it was short and soon cleaned up.

However,

while the weather and strikes made news,

there were good things happening too.

International visitors gathered to celebrate weddings,

bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs, and more.

Off the Jerusalem streets,

in Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence,

another 929 Bible Study group was held.

Beit Hanasi for 929 study group

The chapter of the day was

 from Shir HaShirim, the Song of Songs,

read by actor and radio announcer Dan Caner.

He read beautifully.

Rabbi Benny Lau speaking at Bible Study lesson at Beit Hanasi

Rabbi Benny Lau and President of the Israeli Supreme Court Esther Hayut

were at the head of table with President and Mrs. Rivlin.

929 Shir Hashirim study at Beit Hanasi

This is the 16th time the Rivlins have hosted

the daily Bible study initiative.

The main hall was filled with guests as speakers

elaborated and studied the text.

Another closed event was held at the King David Hotel.

King David Hotel lunch for NATO Ambassador countries in Jerusalem Israel

Ambassadors to Israel from the NATO countries.

had lunch with the Israeli Prime Minister.

Wet and wild weather

left the skies clear and clean and blue,

and it was hard to figure out what to wear.

Will it be hot or cold?

No one knows what will happen next .

But of one thing you can be sure,

Flowers on display in King David Hotel lobby

the flowers in the King David Hotel lobby,

rain or shine, hot or cold outside,

 will be impressive.