Over a thousand years ago the great Jewish scholar and thinker Saadia Gaon famously said that “The Jewish people are a nation only by virtue of its Torah.” That morning I had a chance to see just how correct Saadia Gaon was. As I shook the hands of those smiling Spanish-speaking Jewish-Panamanian teenage boys, I thought about what it was that we had in common.
After all, we did not speak the same language, many of our customs differed, and our familial histories could not have been more different. Nonetheless, upon walking through the doors of our Ashkenazic shul those wonderful Jewish boys felt right at home. What was our common denominator? I believe it was exactly what Saadia Gaon expressed: our Torah. Our shared Torah unites us far more than all the details that might seem to set us apart.
Historically, one of the first sayings Jewish children are taught is “Torah tziva lanu Moshe morasha kehillas Yaacov” – “Moses taught us the Torah which is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.” Our Torah has the ability to enhance the life of every single Jew and bring us all together as one family. It was so nice seeing this happen at our Harrisburg shul.
Rabbi Akiva Males