Harvesting the Torah of Our Age

Thank you for the privilege of addressing this convention. When Rabbi Netter first contacted me and asked me to speak on a Conservative approach to Torah, I was both flattered and delighted. Then I discovered that the parashah for this week is Tazria, which makes it more complex to dope out what his intentions were. Still, Perry, thank you.

This is the time of year in which rabbinical schools complete their admissions process. Over the course of several weeks, bright young candidates for the rabbinate come to the School to demonstrate their fit and their potential. Over the past few years, I have noticed that several of them speak of their desire to serve as dugma’ot, as exemplars of Torah and of our religious traditions. At first, I liked that image, delighted that these talented people were willing to exemplify Judaism in their own lives. But over the past year, I have grown to dislike that aspiration. To be a dugma, a role model, is to worry about impressions, to focus on how others see him or her. To be a dugma is to focus on externals and public relations, as though appearing centered on Torah is the proper measure of rabbinic success and the proper prism for Jewish leadership.

I would like to propose that we stop our ill-conceived focus on being dugma’ot, and propose instead that we attempt to become b’nei/b’not Torah. A bat Torah is less worried about how others view her that she is about how the Torah infuses her thoughts, her deeds, her core. A ben Torah is less concerned with impressions and more concerned