Israeli Values Religious Voices

Letter 14 - Rabbi Elkanah Sherlo

To the State of Israel and all its inhabitants,

One of the most unique ceremonial moments in the “Tanach” (Hebrew Bible) is the ceremony of reading the Torah on a public street by Ezra the scribe, a few decades after  the “return to Zion” period, during the second temple time: “All the people came together as one in the square…they told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses… he read it aloud from daybreak till noon…and all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” (Nechemia 8, 1-3)

I am very impressed by this ceremony, which places the Torah at the center of the Israeli street. Feeling inspired by it, I seek to strengthen our identity as “The People of the Book”, as the opening paragraph of Israel’s declaration of Independence: “The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books”.

It is common to think that the term “People of the book” is taken from the holy Koran, in which Jews are being referred to as such (in contrast to pagans), however, it seems that it spread out much further, as can be seen in the writings of Gershom Sholem: “The Jewish People appeared in history together with their book. The people and the book were intertwined in Jewish self-recognition and in world recognition.”

Rabbi Itzhak Hacohen Kook said: “The book and all its parts – are revelations of the heart, which heart? The heart of the nation, the heart of its soul, the heart of all its being, of its full life. It is the heart that is laid out in the book precisely, and each inch of it reveals the treasures of many hearts and many lives”.

The book is primarily the Tanach, joined by the books of all generations, the writers and the poets, the interpreters and the thinkers, the storytellers and the philosophers.

The book is in the center, surrounded by the entire learning and discussing society, conversing and thinking, explaining and growing from the garden beds of the wisdom of scripture.

A society that places the book in its heart, together with education, culture, tradition, thinking, conversation and discussion - guarantees itself the possibility to be a just, friendly, profound, connected, and connecting, society.


Rabbi Elkanah Sherlo

Rabbi Elkanah Sherlo, 44, married to Maya, father of 8, has lived in Yerucham for almost 30 years. Graduated from the local “Hesder” Yeshiva and Herzog College. One of the Rabbis at Tzohar and Beit Hillel organizations. Graduate of the Beit Midrash for Israeli Rabbis and a co-leader of its current cohort. Co-founder of the Negev inter-faith initiative. Teaches in many various institutions in the Negev Desert.

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