For both children and adults we might ask the question: What is the goal of Jewish education? What is the goal of learning Torah? The Torah tells us this week: “Hear, O Israel the commandments…that you may learn them, and observe and do them.”
We learn Torah in order to cultivate healthy and appropriate patterns of behavior. As we get older, we learn to appreciate the commandments and the meaning they have for our lives. No, Judaism has no tendency to withdraw into inactive meditation. To the contrary, we learn in one of our sacred books: “He whose learning exceeds his deeds is like a tree with many branches but few roots.”
We all know that a mere knowledge of facts is not wisdom. Rather, it is the application of human knowledge to the human condition that is essential to our understanding of Judaism. We live in a world of unprecedented scientific knowledge and technological achievement, yet the world is ravaged by more barbarity and cruelty than ever before, or so it seems.
May we teach and learn the commandment of Torah so that we might intelligently and sensitively observe and apply them to our lives. May our learning lead to deeds of kindness and acts of compassion as we pursue a more just and peaceful world for all people. Such has always been the ultimate purpose of Torah and Judaism.