Drisha is a lovely makom Torah, a place of Torah. I sit in classroom 5 doing my writing, and I can hear all sorts of learning going on - snippets of Talmud and halakha and general Torah come floating in from the corridors.

Rabbinic tradition takes the verses of the Torah and submits them to layers and layers of interpretation, adding here people's cultures and narratives, there logic and exegesis, a mightily ornate chain of tradition at the end of which is contemporary Judaism.

Scribal tradition, on the other hand, takes the verses of the Torah and reproduces them exactly. There is no interpretation, no narrative, no process. You start with a verse, and end with a verse; this is the Written Torah, plain and simple.

Drisha students immerse themselves in learning the rabbinic tradition, and at present Devorah's class are learning Talmud dealing with civil damages - what happens if you inadvertently injure someone, that sort of thing. It's based on verses in Exodus 21. As it happens, today I was writing Exodus 21, and Devorah brought her class in to see.

Her class are the latest link in the rabbinic chain. I'm the latest link in the scribal chain. By the time you get to the present day, the two chains of tradition don't seem to be connected at all, but today we connected. I saw them come full circle and link their studying, their focus on the chain of the Oral Torah, to my writing, the chain of the Written Torah - at one and the same time an anchor thousands of years old, but written by a living person that very morning.

If I am the bass, they are the melody, the harmony and the descant. If I, sitting in my classroom scribing, am the quiet heart beating the age-old beat of the Written Torah, they are the moving, breathing, complex, beautiful Judaism which we live for and by and in. They connected with me, and their Torah goes in me and through me and onto the page, into the writing, round again, and round and round, Written and Oral, Ancient and Living, then and now and evermore.


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February 2017

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