Being textual

Tomorrow a group of 8 and 9 year old girls will host a siyum on a passage of Jewish learning, through a program that they attend prior to school at 7.30 AM three days a week.

Last week, as they do each week, a group of teenage boys attended a cheder class where they are reading Gemara with meforshim using their own well developed learning skills.

Where is this happening?  Right here in Perth.  Even though most Jews in Perth do not see that this is happening, and more to the point, don’t realise the significance of what is happening, we have in out midst a revolution of Jewish learning.

The truth of the matter is that our older generation (including myself in this category) are illiterate when it comes to learning Jewish tradition from our source texts.  We rely on translations, interpretations, and shiurim to acquire our knowledge.  However we cannot access it directly from Rabbinic writings in Aramaic and Hebrew.  A great quality is lost, as each word and letter in Hebrew has a meaning within its own right, and great concepts that sit behind the text itself cannot be understood without a functional and working knowledge of Hebrew.  The depth of the language, its construct, numerical and linguistic power knows no bounds.

It is very frustrating when people stand up in communal forums, academic events, and other settings and speak a Jewish concept with no background appreciation of what sits behind it.  It is even more frustrating when people draw conclusions about Jewish religion, its meaning and intent, from a position of great ignorance.  It happens far too often, and far too few are prepared to put themselves in an informed position by sourcing an issue from Rabbinic interpretative sources. 

It is a credit to those who teach and those who work to resource our children so that they are not denied this opportunity.  We are most fortunate that the Jewish children of Perth are extended this priviledge.  Kal Vchomer that these children from Perth can enter Yeshivot in Israel and hold their own against children from far bigger and more vibrant Jewish centres. 

Credit where it is due.  We have a lot to be proud of. 

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