Bridging Gaps

Picture of Rebbetzin Emma Taylor

Rebbetzin Emma Taylor

Rebbetzen Emma Taylor is the Mechanechet at Ulpanat Orot High School, a Maayan graduate, and Rebbetezen at Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto, Canada.

“Law is not arbitrary. It is rooted in the experience of history. Law is itself a tikkun, a way of putting right what went wrong in the past.”

Torah Trivia

Question: What is the most common weekly reference to the laws of shaatnez (not mixing linen and wool together)?

There are so many nuanced messages in this week’s piece, but one line jumped out at me due to a personal experience I once had with Rabbi Sacks.

My family and I were privileged to know Lord and Lady Sacks from our time serving as the Community Rabbi and Rebbetzin in Western Marble Arch Synagogue and one Shabbat we were on a walk through Regents Park with them, together with Rabbi Lionel and Natalie Rosenfeld. At one point I realized that our eldest son, Yishai, who was 6 at the time, was not walking with us. After the initial panic we noticed that he was in fact walking alongside his ‘friends’, Rabbi Sacks and Rabbi Rosenfeld.

After much laughter at the scene, we asked Yishai what he was doing?! He replied that they had been discussing Prime Ministers, and Rabbi Sacks had asked his opinion about the current political climate. 

Love unites but it also divides. It leaves the less-loved feeling abandoned, neglected, disregarded, “hated.” In contrast, by including others and showing them that they matter, relationships blossom. In that moment in Regents Park, Yishai felt totally loved and appreciated. In a moment where he could have felt like the ‘third wheel’, he was instead made to feel valued.

Rabbi Sacks embodied this message and understood that to connect and pay attention to one, comes at the expense of possibly ostracizing another. Love is needed to bridge gaps within society, yet by giving our love to some it can potentially create deeper divides between others.

Therefore, as Rabbi Sacks articulates, law is necessary to ensure that love is targeted and used appropriately, so that the best of love and law can create a society we can be proud of, in perfect harmony.

Which quote from Rabbi Sacks this week impacts your worldview?

“Law is not arbitrary. It is rooted in the experience of history. Law is itself a tikkun, a way of putting right what went wrong in the past.”

My desire to study History in University came not only from a love of the subject, but from an understanding of the profound impact history can have on the future. This interest was cemented by walking into Aushwitz and seeing a sign on the wall proclaiming ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ History is there as a moral, ethical, and legal guide and if we fail to open our eyes to its lessons, the future is a far bleaker place. Rabbi Sacks’ understanding of this in connection to the parsha is extremely profound in this context.

Which idea in this week’s piece do you think is the most important?

As a mother and educator, loving my children and students comes easily. Yet Rabbi Sacks’ piece this week indicates that love is really not enough. There are times when unconditional love is necessary, yet this must be tempered with an understanding that this is not all society can be founded on. Principles, morals, and law are essential to create a dynamic that is healthy and sustainable. As a child it may be hard to be on the receiving end of this, yet it is important to recognise that this framework is not instead of love but an essential aspect of maintaining a loving family, school community, and society.

A parent who loves a child so much they allow them – while learning to drive – not to stop at a red light, not wanting their precious child to be forced wait, is not showing true love. Boundaries and law are there to protect all of us.

What influence did Rabbi Sacks have on your approach to education?

Rabbi Sacks always valued education as essential to the continuation of Judaism, and gave a sense of pride to those who chose to become educators.

This week Rabbi Sacks emphasises that without education there is no way to pass on our rich Jewish heritage. In a society where the youth are able to explore every subject possible in a deep and intellectual way, it is essential that our Jewish youth are fully aware of what it really means to be a Jew. It is not enough to just watch grandparents and parents perform Jewish rituals, we need to ensure that our Jewish future is secure with young Jews who understand our beautiful, rich heritage and who appreciate how mysterious and profound our legacy is. 

As Rabbi Sacks once said, “To defend a country, you need an army. But to defend an identity, you need a school. Judaism is the religion of the book, not the sword.”

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