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ב"ה

Learning to Learn

Friday, 5 November, 2021 - 8:08 am

The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Throughout the years living in the wonderful outdoors of Idaho, I have come to enjoy the art of fishing. I have also come to realize that it’s a much more complex sport than meets the eye.

Fortunately, I’ve had some good teachers – including my own children.

Unfortunately, I’m a better teacher of Torah than I am a student of fishing.

I have learned the basics. I can fend for myself and perhaps help an out-of-town novice.

But, the knack to know which waters are best, when the fish are biting and – most of all – the ability to apply the lessons learned to new situations, are still beyond me. I have learned to fish. But, I cannot say that I have learned how to learn to fish.

In the skill of learning, we digest information. If you have a good teacher, you digest a lot of information.

If you have a better teacher, you digest the skillset of learning on your own.

In fact, most of my years in yeshiva were not spent studying in a classroom. Rather, I spent hours every day poring over ancient and modern texts – mostly with a chavrusa.

I was not only learning the wisdom of the Torah. I was learning the art of learning. Armed with that ability, the sky is the limit.

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In this week’s parsha, Yitzchak blesses his son Yaakov. The opening words of his blessing are, “And may the L-rd give you.”

The opening word of “And” is a strange way to begin a sentence. The text begins as if it were mid-sentence, according to the Midrash,  because the blessing is that G-d will give and continue to give again and again. Yitzchak is endowing Yaakov with continuous blessings.

There is a deeper meaning, however, of this repeating of blessings.  It isn’t just that G-d will continue to give you the same blessing, again and again.

Rather, the inner intent is that you should be able to receive the blessing and then be so utterly imbued with this blessing that you can transmit it to others. In other words, it’s not (only) that G-d is giving the gift again and again. Rather, the truest gift that G-d gives us is the ability to internalize that gift and then transmit it to others. To create an endless pattern of giving.

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We have been blessed with the art of giving. Armed with this gift, the sky is the limit.

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