I was a 15-year-old girl when I first encountered the books of Nechama Leibowitz – and my world changed. Suddenly I discovered that Judaism was intellectual and thought-provoking. Nechama, the great Bible teacher, passed this week, 23 years ago. Here are just two stories about her that I’ve heard over the years:
- An older lecturer once spoke about the time he was invited to give a class on shmittah in a religious moshav. He had prepared material that was profoundly complex. Nechama was in the audience, approached him at the end of the class, and said, “I wonder how much the farmers in the audience understood…”
The lecturer said he understand her message to him – that in her classes the objective was not to demonstrate how much she knew (and she knew a lot), but to teach the public.
- A student of hers related that every time students in her class asked questions, Nechama asked them questions in return. She did not want to just teach material; she wanted to make the students ponder, investigate, and discover on their own.
She once wrote: “Everyone needs to read the Torah in their own way, unique in this world, that never was before and never would be again.” She strived to make each of us search for our own unique reading of the Torah – a way it was never read before and would never be read again.
May her memory be a blessing.