Sunday, July 26, 2009

Studyiing the Prophets on Line With Berel Wein

To me, there are certain essentials in life. The love of family means the world to me. A job is critical, not only as a means of sustenance but as a conduit for contributing to society. The third relationship besides that with my family and community is with the written word.

For the past few months, I have been reading the books of the prophets with the Meam Loez rabbinic commentary It is rendered from the original Judaeo Spanish into a flowing and readable English. It is enjoyable enough that I am not restless to return to my secular reading. The books of the Jewish biblical canon were chosen because under divine inspiration, they spoke to the generation they came from to all the generations after. Meam Loez is very helpful in bringing out both aspects of the books of the prophets. In the vast area of Torah studies, I feel most connected to the study of the Prophets. It is a project that will keep me busy for a long time.

My biggest weakness in any studies is that I am very forgetful. It is very discouraging to finish reading a book and realise how much I have forgotten. As I have been working my way through the prophets, I realise that review is essential. When I was little, I would read up on a subject by going to the library and looking it up in a dozen different encyclopedias and books. The repetition with different focuses was useful in painlessly absorbing facts in areas ranging from philately to the Cuban revolution, from frogs frogs and gerbils to endangered languages.

This past experience has been helpful in taking up the study of the Prophets. After improvising my review with different materials around my personal library, I turned to the internet and found the web site of Rabbi Berel Wein, who is trained as both a lawyer and a Rabbi.

I am a person who loves history. I am old enough to see the current events of my youth turn into the history studied by my children. My parents were as aware of this transition as I am and made the events within their lifetimes and that of their parents. I in turn have passed on what I have observed and lived through to my children.

Rabbi Wein has the gift of imparting a vividness and clarity to any chapter of Jewish history he teaches. Faced with the danger of forgetting a lot of my studies, I wanted Rabbi Wein to be one of my teachers who would help bring permanence to my studies. His web site has sets of CDs and MP3's Some are moderately priced, some are sets of 30 lectures that can be expensive as a set.

I went to his site and signed up for newsletters and updated before shopping. I was looking for a lecture on the Book of Joshua . I found the lecture I wanted in a set of 9 CDs that went for around $58.00. There was an option to buy each lecture individually as a CD for $10.80 or an MP3 for $4.50. I went through the on line checkout and within less than five minutes had downloaded the MP3.

Rabbi Wein has an engaging style of digressing into current events that shed light on the subject of his lecture and the moral lessons of what he is discussing. There is no disconnect between past and present, or between the actions of an individual and the actions of famous leaders. When you are under Rabbi Wein's spell, the events of thousands of years ago are as vivid as anything on Drudge Report. One of my children who was in the room with me when I was listening to Rabbi Wein also found his style engaging. Instead of sadly struggling to recall fading details of my studies, I was able to have the chronologically distant past transported to the present day in my living room for the price of a round trip subway fare.

I am very pleased that Rabbi Wein has used the flexibility of internet technology to make his life's work available to those of modest means. I admired his site not only for the quality of his life's work that is made available on it but the manner in which it makes merchandise available to the public in a way that passes savings to the consumer and protects intellectual property. Berel Wein and Meam Loez will be keeping me busy for a good while. I am also interested in Rabbi Wein's lecture on Austria's Emperor Franz Josef II, which is a part of his series "Great Non Jews In Jewish History" Sometimes, as a mental exercise, I try to listen to a lecture about a subject in which I have no interest. This is often a way of opening new horizons. I look forward to trying this with some of Rabbi Wein's lectures.

It is a source of serene pleasure to know where to go for answers to academic and personal questions. My personal weakness, which offsets my thirst for knowledge is my forgetfulness. Learning the same thing a dozen different ways is how I cope with this. I thank Rabbi Wein and those who manage his web site for assisting me in working with my intellectual limitations and overcoming them. I hope my readers will visit his site and see what I am talking about.

This article is an unpaid and unsolicited expression of my personal opinion.

No comments: