Sinai Scholars Society Launched at Chabad at UCF

Posted Wednesday, Jan 28th, 2009
Jewish Knight Report

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Law; the rest is the explanation; go and learn" Before my experience with Sinai Scholars, I had an entirely different perspective on Jewish study, and the Chabad movement in general. Ten short weeks ago I would have told you that walking around Orlando dressed like an 18th Century Polish nobleman was just an archaic relic of times long past. Today however, I have come to appreciate that Judaism and its teachings are totally relevant and applicable to modern life. Whether it be personal relationships or medical ethics, Sinai Scholars has something exciting and relevant to say.

Through this course I was exposed to the core of Judaism; the Ten Commandments. Rather then a simple set of rules or fixed dogmas, the Ten Commandments represent the backbone of Judaism, the standard of conduct and values that permeates all of Jewish life. What made this experience so vibrant was the diverse and brilliant group of students I studied with. Sharing ideas and learning with Jewish leaders representative of a broad swatch of campus organizations enriched the experience beyond measure.

A few classes in particular stuck out as particularly relevant in my mind. The second class covering a scientific approach to the proving of G-d was excellent. I consider myself to be a ‘man of science’, and so it was extremely meritorious for a class on religion to take this perspective. Grounded in reason and logic, Rabbi clearly went through the various foundations for such an argument. This class showed me that Judaism, rather then shunning modern science, embraced it wholeheartedly. The two are inextricably linked, with each helping us gain a better understanding of the other.

The class on the commandment ‘do not murder’ was also incredibly powerful and insightful. Focusing more on the value of life than death, it highlighted one of the most fundamental beliefs in Judaism; that of the supreme value of life, no matter its condition. We are all created ‘B’teselem Elohim’, in G-d’s image, and should hence be treated as such. Even persons with overwhelming challenges and disabilities can still lead a meaningful and productive life well within the confines of Judaism. And even more than this, they can have a powerful effect on those around them, helping to bring out the G-dly image in each of us.

More then the value gained from any one lesson, is the transformative process in engaging oneself in Jewish study for two hours a week. Each lesson carried with it a sort of afterglow, sticking with me in my thoughts and actions for days after each session. When you are consistently immersed in Jewish learning, it begins to permeate your thoughts, and everyday patterns of behavior. A blessing here, a prayer there…..and pretty soon it being to add up. I noticed that in everyday situations I found myself asking ‘what would Jewish ethics have to say about this.’ My overall mode of thinking reflected the lessons I was learning in the classroom.

The teaching method was also highly effective. Rather then blatantly stating principles, Rabbi asked all the right questions, leading me to those sort of ‘a ha’ moments, like a light bulb turning on in my brain, and allowing me to discover the answer for myself. This reflects Jewish learning in general; the questioning, the debate, the always questioning, and constant pursuit of meaning. My time spent with Sinai Scholars helped me answer questions that had never even been concretely formulated in my mind, filling a gap I never knew existed.

It feels good to add to my repertoire of Jewish knowledge; one more tool in the belt. When you gain new knowledge and perspectives on Judaism it affects many areas of your life. It makes you feel proud and able to stand tall as a Jew, now that your feet are firmly planted in knowledge and learning. I am now more confident in my discussing Judaism both with other Jews and non-Jews. My own positions and opinions are now more clearly defined.

Sinai Scholars is about far more then a cursory overview of the Ten Commandment. It is a course about what it means to ‘live Jewishly,’ More importantly however is the spark that it ignited in my thirst for Jewish learning. As much as I learned over these past ten weeks, Sinai Scholars has pushed me to want to learn more and integrate Jewish ideas and values into my life in the years to com.

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