I am now in my third week of Choref Zman and it is very evident that
guys have certainly become more intense and 'lamdish' individuals.
After all the excitement of Elul and the chagim, the enthusiasm has
definitely not subsided. An average day is always filled with a myriad of
Torah topics ranging from the rationalism of Gemarah to the romance
and emotion of Chasidism to the mysticism of Kabbalah. No day is
complete without having delved into many different areas of Torah study
and Jewish life.
In this week's Parsha, Chayei Sara, we conclude the Parsha with Avraham's death. At this
point in the Torah it seems appropriate to reflect on the legacy that Avraham left behind for
the future of Am Yisrael. There certainly has to be more to Avraham's contribution to the
founding of all Western Religions than his "discovery" in God. After all there are other
characters, such as Avimelech and Melchizedek, who recognised God's existence
seemingly before they met Avraham.
Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel z”l, former Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, suggested that it was the
replacement of only one word in the Torah which made Avraham the great individual we
know him to be. In the time of Adam, we see that he identifies his wife, Chava, in physical
terms. When Adam meets his wife Chava for the first time (after she has been formed from
his rib), he identifies her with the words: “This time, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my
flesh” (Bereishit 2:23). Why would Adam not refer to Chava in spiritual terms, but use
physical terms? It doesn't make much sense seeing as they hadn't eaten from the tree of
knowledge so they still lived very spiritual lives in Gan Eden. Even for centuries after Adam
and Chava do we see that human beings are being referred to as flesh. Take the story of
Noach, for example; "And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all
flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.".
It is only when Avraham is introduced into the Torah narrative, are human beings never
again described as flesh. From here on in, man is refer to as nefesh, soul. This illustrates
that Avraham's most important contribution was less the "discovery" of Hashem, but to
teach humanity that we are not so much flesh as we are soul. As soon as the word flesh is
replaced with the word soul, the foundations of morality and ethical behaviour become
possible and the entire notion of religion is able to experience a profound development.
Religion not only makes one aware of Hashem's existence, but becomes the motivations
behind moral and ethical values. It is due to Avraham that man is aware that he has a soul
and is now responsible for being a moral person, accountable for his actions.
Having a soul is something that I have noticed in every fellow student and certainly all of my
Rabbis in Orayta. Not only is Orayta a place of great Torah study and Yirat Hashem but it is
undoubtedly filled with chessed and Ahavat Yisrael. I was concerned that being the token
British guy in Orayta would have its challenges. Except the playful banter about the 1776
Revolutionary war (or "War of Northern Aggression", which sounds more riveting,) and my
accent, all my concerns quickly disappeared. I immediately felt part of a warm loving family
that treats everyone with the utmost respect and kindness.
A great difficulty with modern Jewish education is the lack of soul in teaching. The
mainstream Jewish education system rewards achievement, not effort. One thing I have
found whilst studying in Orayta is that the goal of Torah study is not to perform better than
the next person, but to find happiness through internal growth, and understanding our
mission in this world and our connection to Hashem.
Daniel Clements lives in Birmingham, UK and studied at King Edward's School. He plans to
attend university to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Daniel's favourite thing
about Orayta is the perfect balance between formal and informal education, which enables
him to develop his knowledge and ability to live a Jewish life, whilst also developing close
relationships between Talmidim, Rebbeim and Hashem.