ED: The following is a excerpt from the story, “Rabbis Share Sneak Previews of Holy Days Messages” which ran in our Rosh Hashanah Sept. 7 issue.
Rabbi Zach Shapiro
Temple Akiba of Culver City
Our Talmud shares a famous midrash (Shabbat 31a) about an individual who wants to convert to Judaism so long as he can learn the entire Torah while standing on one foot. After consulting Rabbi Shamai, who impatiently showed him the door, he went to Rabbi Hillel, who met the challenge and taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. All the rest is commentary. Now go and learn.”
I am using this midrash as a springboard for our High Holy Days this season to explore two main themes. First, what are the life lessons we gain when we are broken (on one foot?). What guidance does Torah offer to those with spiritual, emotional or physical injuries? What revelations about ourselves unfold when we are forced to experience the world from a wheelchair, or with medications, or alone for the first time? Second, we will explore what it means to be a neighbor, be it with the neighbor on our street, or something on a grander scale (Democrat-Republican, Israeli-Palestinian, U.S.-Mexico). In the process, we will explore that the word “Ivri/Hebrew” means “one who crosses that boundary.”