Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are You Illiterating Your Judaism?

So the illiterate fella in prison hands over the letter he just received to his literate friend. As the friend reads aloud the good news contained in the letter, joy slowly overtakes the face and movements of the one who cannot read. Ecstatic, he sets off on a somersault delirium. An onlooker questions, "Say, aint that strange? The one bearing the good news lifts nary a muscle in the smile direction and he with no paper and no literacy is awash in tears of gladness..."

What the Ba'al Shem Tov and the Alter Rebbe taught us was to make the good news ours. To stop reading Torah from papers and start living it in our daily actions. To internalize it and to feel it. To be passionate about it and to be intellectual about it.

Make Judaism Yours....
....Realize It Always Has Been.


ISchier said...


So the illiterate is the one who may not understand everything but does it all with joy in the spirit of naase venishma once he is told about it, whereas the literate one is the teacher who reduces it all to an intellectual discipline?

But why does the third one react positively to neither of them?

Is it because the one who does it with joy does not have the skills to take the time to explain his joy to the one on the outside, or because he is selfish with his joy? The literate one, if he is like those who reduce Torah to an intellectual, rote discipline, is like those who would rather keep Yiddishkeit an exclusive club and fear questions from newcomers.

Is this the difference between, say, a certain group in E"Y which stops traffic and dances in the street as their ikar avoida, and we in Chabad who are supposed to bring all Jews into our circle to dance with us, using joy or intellectual explanation or a combination of both to get them to join in?

(Now after this you just might miss my alter ego...)

Pennie said...

well put - was just reviewing this mashal -pre chai elul and had a bunch of thoughts on it - but you really pulled em all together well...yay for you! (pun intended)

the sabra said...

AHHHH! I really tried to find it!! You so got me, sicko! :D

I think I ought to switch the order of reactions in the onlookers question. More emphasis that way.

Tell me, do you know why it had to be in prison?

Also, thanks for hookin me up with audio classes. (pun so intended)

the sabra said...


You can read into it what you'd like but this blog is not for putting down other Jews. It is about learning what you can from the world around. Now what can you possibly learn from this mashal? Um exactly what I wrote 'neath it. Don't ever view Torah-the piece of paper with good news-as something that is not relevant to you. Something that you are only passing along. Reading aloud. No, Torah is YOURS. It should affect you. Affect your emotions, affect your thoughts, affect your movements, affect your decisions. It's not someone else's paper. It's YOURS.