Wednesday, March 23, 2011

D'Var Torah

This morning, the routine was the same as it usually is.  I woke at 6:50 am, said my morning prayer, got out of bed, and tossed on some clothes in preparation for taking the dog for her morning walk.  As the missus showered, I reminded the big guy to stay motivated and moving so he wouldn't miss the bus.  Same as it ever is.

After he was brushed and dressed and ready, he and I and the pup left the house and walked towards his bus stop together.   This is typically the time of day when we talk about a project that is due at school.  Or that he regales me with some profoundly complex bit of Yu Gi Oh arcana, to which I'll listen and nod sagely while realizing just how clueless I am about the kids these days. 

Or we'll walk in silence, and the dog will snuff inquisitively at the wet earth, and I'll marvel at this broad-shouldered shaggy haired kid walking next to me, just twelve and nearly my height already.  Is this really the same tiny chattery boy who first walked the same path to the same bus stop six short years ago?  Wasn't it just yesterday that he was small?

Today, though, we talked about the Torah, because this evening, he meets with the Rabbi to talk about his upcoming Bar Mitzvah.  He'll go over his portion, which he's been...well...semi-diligently studying, as he too often relies on the flexibility and sharpness of his lawyerly mind to loaf along, only to suddenly pour data into his cortex and grasp it as only the young and bright can.  He'll chant in the Hebrew that his Presbyterian father really should know better.  For that, a tutor. 

But for the the D'Var Torah, his interpretation of the portion that has been assigned him, well, there Dad can be of assistance.  Yeah, I'm a goy, but I'm an informed goy who interprets Torah for a living.

His passage is a big clumsy one, and theologically problematic.   How can a Jew interpret the passages that give us the word "scapegoat," and do so in a way that recognizes the terrible history of that word for his people, while finding a way to honor the intent of the text? 

As we walked, I nudged him along, gently, Socratically, teasing out the truths that he knows but does not know he knows.

"Think you know what you'll say to the rabbi," I ask, as he and I parted ways.  "Sure, Dad.  I'm good."

He'll be fine.