As the school year came to an end, our Pre-K classes finished a year of “Torah with Laura.” Especially as we get to the end of the Torah stories, I ask, “What do we do when we finish reading the Torah?” And the children know the answer, “We begin again!” Jews have been reading and struggling with this book for centuries — is it really possible to find something new in it? The answer is — OF COURSE! Our goal of reading and then rereading and even more deeply reading is to find the messages for how to live our lives. As our daily lives change, we continue to look for different answers. It is amazing that the Torah is filled with different messages every time we read. Jews read with commentary — we look to what our sages (ancient and current) have to tell us, but then we must mesh those ideas with our own. Reading Torah is a creative process and we must make it our own.
Roger von Oech is an author of books on creativity. One of his books is “Expect the Unexpected (or You Won’t Find It).” Today as we worry about the economy and the coronavirus and a million other things, lessons on preparing for the unexpected are essential. He writes, “When we go off the beaten path, we often find something better or more exciting than we were originally looking for.… How can we prepare ourselves for the unexpected? I suggest that we: (1) loosen our preconceptions about what we expect to find in any given situation; (2) pay special attention to the anomalous rather than ignoring it; and (3) use what we discover as stepping stones to something very different.” He could have been writing on how to read Torah. Think about this as you read this week’s parasha and look for the meaning to bring to your life — you will find new ways of looking at everything.
Although I read many commentators as I study Torah, sometimes the most creative approaches come from our Pre-K children — remember: Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone. — Pirke Avot 4:1. Today in our crazy world, we must look for answers from everywhere and the ancient words of the Torah continue to guide us.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.