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A unique phenomenon

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Rabbi Norman Lamm, former president of Yeshiva University, passed away last night at the age of 92, one month after his wife died from the coronavirus. Here is a passage from one of his books:

"There is a unique cultural phenomenon in world history, one which developed amongst Jews and penetrated their thought, and which has no real parallel amongst other peoples, ancient or contemporary. The 'study of Torah' as a religious value and as a historical fact has become a distinguishing feature of Judaism and the Jewish experience.

"Judaism is a culture in which learning and teaching, cognition and reflection, intellectual effort and theoretical pursuit, are esteemed and elevated to the highest ranks of its precepts. In Scripture itself, in a passage which observant Jews recite at least twice a day, we read, 'you shall teach the words of the Torah diligently to your children, and talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deut 6:7).' And Joshua was commanded, 'This book shall not depart from your lips; study it by day and by night (Josh. 1:8).' The Psalms speak of the study of Torah as a spiritual delight and a source of profound consolation. Yet Torah study was not restricted to a professional elite or jealous priesthood or any other exclusive coterie but was given to all the people – 'a heritage of the community of Jacob' (Deut. 33:4)."

These words were written in an introduction to "Torah Lishma," his book about Rabbi Chaim from Volozhin. Yet these words are also pertinent to the life of Rabbi Lamm himself, who continued to study and to teach Torah into the 21st century, not in Volozhin but in the middle of Manhattan.

May his memory be a blessing.



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