Our mission: 1) To deliver intelligent, sincere, and thought provoking Divrei Torah, none of which take longer than three minutes to read. 2) To combat unintelligent, unsophisticated, and unfounded Divrei Torah. You know, the ones you usually hear. Check out The Five Commandments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The FIVE COMMANDMENTS of the Dvar Torah

1. I am your G-d. Do not belittle Me or My Torah with poor Divrei Torah.
The foundation of foundations. We must fight against the prevailing apathetic, uncaring attitude towards the public delivery of G-d's word. We can expect better- and that realization is the most important step.

2. Let there be no G-d besides me. G-d has plenty to say about life- let's hear His views, not yours.
Don't pick a "religious message" that you happen to have been inculcated with and use a Rashi somewhere as a platform for your spouting. If you want to make a value statement, communicate how it appears in the Sea of Torah. Of course, you don't need to "prove" your viewpoint, but you must show that it is a legitimate possibility, not just a common assumption.

This holds true for all Jews. If a popular sefer or famous Acharon breaks this rule, their authority saves not them nor you. Your Rosh Yeshiva isn't a Torah source in and of himself.

3. Do not raise My Name in vain. Blanket statements that invoke the authority of Hashem or "The Way of Torah" are close-minded and usually false.
Axiological statements like "Hashem wants us to" or "Judaism says that" ignore the variant cultures and differences of thought that typify the Jewish religion, both today and over our long, fluctuating history. As much as you should present what you feel as truth, don't mark it with the Absolute Stamp of Klal Yisrael, Yiddishkeit, God, and Torah. What if you're wrong?

A great way to thwart this problem is to use phrases like "I think that," "the text is telling us, " “from this angle it is clear” or any other phrase that doesn't include Presumptuous Words.

4. Remember your sources. Two halakhot: name your mekorot and make sure to differentiate between the various layers within them.
Where is that pasuk? In which masekhta does the gemara appear? For extra points, where can I find that midrash? Please: never ever quote a gadol story and preface it with "I don't remember exactly who it was, some huge gadol." Never ever state that "its written that . . ." or "we all know that. . . " and NEVER EVER EVER: make a mish-mash jumble of varying sources- humash, mforshim, midrashim, gemorot, hassidut- without clearly identifying the various levels of interpretation that you are referencing. Tanach and, say, Ramban represent two very distinct works written at two very distinct times. Regardless of the deep respect we grant his interpretation, it shall forever remain an interpretation, never to be confused with Tanach itself.

5. Honor your parents. Say it in less than three minutes or don't say it at all. If you've prepared something longer, and you sincerely feel it's worthwhile in content and acceptable in context, Kol HaKavod!, but practice it in your head a few times, or even better, with a friend.

A Bissul Torah Shouldn't be Bittul Torah.


Noah said...

This is great!

Ori said...

I agree with "noah." I'm excited to see the fruit of your efforts. (I hope you remember who I am).