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Points of View
Beginning Words
My Point of View, February, 2014
© Rabbi Jack Moline

At the top of this column is the title it has carried for the duration of my tenure. In English. it is called "My Point of View," and that is exactly what it has been. In each bulletin, I have written something from my point of view that I hoped would be of interest to the reader. Mostly, this column was different from a sermon, Torah lesson or class in that its content was primarily topical rather than trying to explore some aspect of the tradition.

But the words in Hebrew characters carry a different meaning. The transliteration is "aliba d'rav," a technical term from the Talmud in Aramaic. It means "according to the rabbi," and it often introduces the opinion - frequently contrary to another opinion - that is the informed position of a scholar. Maybe I was a little more arrogant or a little less secure when I chose that name all those years ago, but I remember doing so to emphasize a lesson that my teachers had taught me. I share it with you in this column in the hopes you will consider making it your own.

A Jewish life immersed in learning breaks down the walls around that learning. One does not study Torah sequestered from the rest of life. Just the opposite! The only Torah study that has genuine value is that which escapes from the study hall. A Jew (not only a rabbi) whose Torah learning is integrated with his or her life does not have need for the old adage "be a Jew in your home and a human being in the street." Home and street - as the words of the Sh'ma remind us - are one and the same when it comes to the wisdom that is contained in the Torah.

The goal of life-long Jewish learning is to make Torah second nature. That is not to say one should become glib or cavalier about one's learning; rather, the words we place on our hearts should be accessible in any and every circumstance. To a lover of Torah, nothing is more painful than the ignorant person who pretends to Jewish authority. Even if the lesson is justifiable and the conclusion consonant with Jewish values, leaving Torah out of the process diminishes their worth. Such teachings are Jewish out of mere happenstance, and the acclaim that the "teacher' receives gives the impression that anything a Jew says advances the cause of Judaism.

To claim that I have spent as much time in study as I might have would be dishonest. But this much is true: I have been conscious that the title I was privileged to earn by academic degree must constantly be renewed. Even a bulletin column, something of a trifle, must be an informed opinion and not merely self-indulgence. I have never needed you to call me "rabbi" because I constantly remind myself of that designation.

In a poignant story in Tractate Avodah Zara, a wayward Jew who comes to terms with his shortcomings is called "Rabbi" by a voice from heaven. By way of explanation, we are told that what some people earn in a lifetime, others earn in an hour. Make it your aspiration to acquire your Torah so that your outlook is not just another opinion, but "aliba d'rav."

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