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    A great deal of
    intelligence can be
    invested in ignorance.
    — Saul Bellow
    Light travels faster
    than sound. That’s
    why most people seem
    bright until you hear them speak. —
    Author Unknown
    Only two things are infinite, the universe
    and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about
    the former.” – Albert Einstein.
    “Inquire He Inquired”
    An interesting comment is inserted into the
    printed editions of the Chumash in this
    week’s parsha (Shmini). In between the
    words “inquire he inquired” (“darosh” and
    “derash” in the original Hebrew) it is written:
    “Half of the words of the Torah.”
    What this means is that these words—
    “inquire he inquired”—mark the halfway
    point of a word count of the Torah. The first
    “inquire” completes the first half of the
    Chamisha Chumshei Torah; the second
    “inquire” begins the second half of the Torah.
    What is the symbolism behind this? Why do
    these words mark the halfway point of
    Torah? One beautiful explanation is that
    the Torah is attempting to teach us that the
    entire Torah—both halves of it—
    revolve around inquiry, the quest and search
    (darosh darash) to learn, understand and
    internalize the truths and perspectives of the
    Torah. To be Jewish is to forever remain a
    student of Torah wisdom. So the end of the
    first half and the beginning of the second half
    of Torah — and the mid-center of it — are all
    about the quest for truth and wisdom.
    “Inquire did he [Moshe] inquire”—this is
    the center point of the entire Torah, because
    Moshe himself, the greatest scholar and
    prophet, never ceased to inquire and search.
    Moshe knew that the most essential
    component necessary to absorb Torah is our
    never-ending yearning and readiness to
    continuously explore and seek truth. Moshe
    realized that after all of his discoveries, he
    had only reached the middle of the Torah, and
    there was much more ahead that he had not
    yet learned.
    What is more, the written text of the Torah
    was given together with the oral tradition of
    the Torah transmitted and expounded by the
    Chachamim in a continuous process of
    inquiry and study; together they constitute
    two halves of one whole. The Torah thus
    intimates that the written Torah itself without
    the expositions (“darosh darash”) of the
    Chachamim in the oral tradition is only one
    half of Torah tradition. In its absence, you are
    missing its full resonance and meaning; you
    are missing the second half of the picture.
    Ignorant Spokesmen?
    The message is vital for Jews today.
    Some time ago I was invited to attend a
    symposium sponsored by the UJA Federation
    about Jewish continuity. One of the presenters

    suggested that we introduce a reformation in
    Jewish observance in order to make the
    religion more appealing to the youth.
    When it came to my turn to address the
    audience, I begged to differ from the above
    presenter. His argument, I suggested, was
    refuted by the undisputed fact that the only
    ones who managed to maintain their Jewish
    numbers and even increase them dramatically
    were those who opposed reformation in
    Jewish observance. Perhaps our youth is
    searching not for reformation but for the
    Judaism taught and practiced by Rabbi
    Akiva, Rashi, Rambam, and the Baal Shem
    Tov? Perhaps what was necessary was not a
    diluted form of Judaism, but rather a more
    intense presentation of a Judaism saturated
    with spiritual passion, authentic idealism,
    profound scholarship, personal relevance,
    and emotional connection?
    Later, in private conversation, I asked the
    presenter if he could name the 54 parshiyos
    of the Chamisha Chumshei Torah and the
    titles of the 63 Masechtos of the Mishna, the
    most basic body of Jewish law and literature.
    From memory, he could only name 10 of the
    parshiyos and not one of the masechtos.
    “Imagine,” I said to him, “we would be
    attending a symposium on Shakespeare, and
    one of the lectures on how Shakespeare ought
    to be taught to youths today would be
    presented by an individual ignorant of the
    titles of Shakespeare’s 38 plays? Or imagine
    a symposium on the future of philosophy,
    where one of the speakers was not well
    versed in The Republic, the Critique of Pure
    Reason or Beyond Good and Evil? Wouldn’t
    that be embarrassing to the subject they are
    He said to me that in his opinion one did not
    need to be well versed in Torah in order to
    present an argument on the future of Judaism.
    Why is Judaism seen as such an inferior
    discipline, that it does not demand rigorous
    mastery? Why is it that in the fields of
    biology, science, art, or history nobody would
    dare present strong opinions about their
    futures without intensely studying these
    subjects for years? Why do so many Jews
    think that Judaism—a tradition taught and
    developed over three millennia, consisting of
    tens of thousands of volumes, many of them
    written by some of the greatest human
    minds—is a set of archaic laws and cute
    Perhaps the saddest commentary about
    Jewish life in America is that so many leaders
    of mainstream Jewish organizations and
    institutions did not send their own children to
    Jewish schools, depriving them of serious
    Jewish education. They see themselves as
    Jewish leaders and activists; yet they don’t
    even entertain the thought that Jewish
    tradition has anything truly valuable to teach
    them and their children about life, death, and
    everything in between. The greatest obstacle
    to discovery, a wise man once said, is not
    ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.

    The Torah, the most profound blueprint for
    life ever articulated in the history of humanity,
    belongs to every single Jew. It is about time,
    that every member of our people gives
    himself or herself the gift of discovering its
    beauty and wisdom.
    This is the reason we created TheYeshiva.
    net, where various ongoing courses on Torah
    study are offered for free, both for advanced
    students as well as beginners. I hope you will
    seize the opportunity to challenge your mind
    and broaden your horizons. We stop living
    when we stop inquiring.
    The late Rabbi Jonothan Sacks put it
    Imagine the following scene. The Lord
    Chief Justice, together with his senior judges,
    decide that law is a wonderful thing. They
    resolve to set aside a day each year to
    celebrate it. They write poems and compose
    songs in its honor. When the day comes, they
    each take a weighty tome — Halsbury’s
    Statutes would do nicely — and dance
    around the House of Lords, singing the songs
    and reciting the poems.
    Whacky? Undoubtedly. Impossible?
    Probably. Yet this, more or less, is what Jews
    do on the Yom Tov called Simchat Torah,
    literally “rejoicing in the law.” We take the
    scrolls of the Torah (the Law) from the Aron
    Hakodesh and dance around the shul, singing
    love songs to G-d for His gift, His holy
    words. If you want to see the majesty and
    dignity of the law, go to an English court. But
    if you want to see the joy and exuberance of
    the law, go to a shul on Simchat Torah.
    A Torah scroll is the nearest thing Judaism
    has to a holy object. Still written today as it
    was thousands of years ago — on parchment,
    using a quill, by a master-scribe — it is our
    most cherished possession. We stand in its
    presence as if it were a king. We dance with it
    as if it were a bride. We kiss it as if it were a
    friend. If G-d forbid, one is damaged beyond
    repair, we mourn it as if it were a member of
    the family.
    The Koran calls Jews a “people of the
    book”, but this is an understatement. We are a
    people only because of the book. It is our
    constitution as a holy nation under the
    sovereignty of G-d. It is G-d’s love letter to
    Bnei Yisrael. We study it incessantly. We read
    it in the shul each week, completing it in a
    year. During the long centuries of Jewish
    exile, it was our ancestors’ memory of the
    past and hope for the future. It was, said the
    German poet Heinrich Heine, the “portable
    homeland” of the Jew.
    “Let my people know,” this was the motto
    of the late Rabbi Adin Even Yisroel
    (Steinsaltz), the first translator of the Mishna
    into Hebrew and other languages, and author
    of 60 books on Judaism. He once
    lamented that many Jews manage to study
    science, physics, business, medicine, math,
    or philosophy on a post-graduate level, yet
    their Jewish knowledge often remains on a
    second-grade level. So many of our people

    are unaware of the endless intellectual and
    spiritual richness of their heritage and the
    profound emotional healing it can bring.
    Reb Chaim
    Sunday, 17 Adar II, 5782, March 20, 2022,
    close to one million Jews attended the funeral
    of Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky (1928-2022),
    who passed away at the age of 94, in the city
    of Bnei Brak, Israel. This was the largest
    funeral in the history of Israel and it reflected
    the unique Jewish approach to learning. For
    Reb Chaim sat for 85 years and studied Torah
    some 18 hours a day, becoming one of the
    greatest Torah scholars of the generation.
    Rain or shine, on Shabbos or on holidays,
    during good or challenging times, he did not
    cease his studies, in a tiny, humble abode on
    23 Rashbam Street in Bnei Brak. Here was a
    man whose love of learning the Torah was
    boundless. Each year he would complete all
    the major works of Judaism: The Tanach, the
    Mishnah, Tosefta, the Jerusalem and
    Babylonian Talmuds, Rambam, Codes of
    Jewish law, the Midrashim, and the
    Zohar. Rabbi Israel Meir Lau called him “a
    walking Torah scroll” since, in his 94 years,
    he reached rare levels of Torah mastery and
    At the funeral, his son, Rabbi Shlomo
    Kanievsky touched the crowd with stories of
    childhood games played with his father, the
    mastermind, and shared a little bit about the
    relationship with his deceased wife, Batsheva.
    For years, the two of them would get up
    much before sunrise and recite the morning
    blessings that open the day together. He
    would say one blessing after the next and she
    would answer amen to each. And then she
    would recite the blessings and, after each
    one, he would answer amen.
    His son also related how when his father
    came home in the afternoon, he would never
    eat lunch without his wife by his side. If she
    was not home and sitting at the table, he
    would never begin eating. And if she was
    delayed, even by a few minutes, he would of
    course open a book and learn until she
    arrived. They never vacationed in a guest
    house and never went to a coffee shop, but
    this was their special quality time together.
    Close to one million Jews showed up to bid
    farewell to a man who had no official
    position, no title, no political power, and no
    material affluence; but embodied with every
    fiber of his being the infinite passion of a
    people to study, internalize and live daily the
    truths and wisdom of Torah, G-d’s blueprint
    for humanity.