By Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Rabbi Kaplan is one of the JLIC educators at UCLA.
This past Monday and Tuesday, many congregations throughout the United States and around world finished the annual cycle of reading the Torah in its entirety. The celebration took place with great fanfare and energy, reflecting the immense efforts and dedication of the many cantors that flawlessly chanted the entire Torah on a weekly basis. Shockingly, we celebrate the tremendous accomplishment by immediately beginning the cycle again with no rest or delay. Moments after reading the last section of the Torah, the scroll is opened to the beginning and the next cycle of reading commences.
In a sense, the practice of immediately restarting may seem anticlimactic after a dramatic completion. One might expect that we would move on to another book, perhaps attempting to read the entire Hagiographa or the books of the Prophets. Yet, the Talmud in Tractate Brachos records the repetitive practice and takes it to the next level. It suggests that not only should congregations re-start the Torah cycle but that each individual should read the weekly portion twice before going to synagogue on Saturday. The Talmud even goes as far as to recommend that individuals read it a third time along with a commentary, which would result in each individual hearing the weekly portion in synagogue (on Mondays and Thursdays) and studying it three times in advance of the weekly public reading on Shabbat.
I would like to suggest that this intentional repetition is trying to teach us two lessons:
1) No matter how familiar we are with the various stories, lessons, and laws in the Torah, the ability to understand it in a deeper way always exists. In different stages of our lives – and even on different days – the ability of verses to impact us differently will always exist.
2) Success in intellectual and spiritual pursuits is not easily attained; rather, it is the byproduct of consistent efforts and ongoing commitment.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a happy rereading of the Torah!