Learning as Worship

Learning within Judaism is more than simply the acquisition of information … it is a form of worship. We have nearly 3,000 years’ worth of texts, layers of conversations, all grappling with our most sacred Scripture. For us as Jews, learning is an essential part of our devotional lives. In addition to prayer, and righteous living, Judaism teaches a concept of תורה לשמה Torah Lishmah – the study of Torah for its own sake.

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Dr. Carl Kinbar, explains the important difference between study and learning from a Messianic Jewish perspective:

“Let me distinguish between learning and study. Study involves the acquisition and mastery of facts and their interconnections. Because followers of Yeshua are directed to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, our learning involves more than acquisition and mastery. It involves all four faculties—heart, mind, soul, and strength—and becomes for us a consuming act of love and worship. Learning is an embodied spiritual practice that enables us to cleave to God and one another.

Learning is worship. While this is no truer for Messianic Jews than for others, our years of involvement in Jewish life taught us that this view of learning is particularly Jewish. It has been carried forward by Jews for about two thousand years now. Sadly, it is not yet embedded in Messianic Jewish life, where learning is more like study, an acquiring of information (even revelation) that is necessary to walk closely with God—but not worship. The new Messianic Jewish learning insists that these writings of our people—the Tanakh, the Brit Hadashah (New Testament), midrash, Talmud, and more—are not valuable only for what they contain and describe but because they enable us to worship God specifically as Jews.”

About Rabbi Joshua

I'm a Rabbi, writer, thinker, mountain biker, father and husband ... not necessarily in that order. According to my wife, however, I'm just a big nerd. I have degrees in dead languages and ancient stuff. I have studied in various Jewish institutions, including an Orthodox yeshiva in Europe. I get in trouble for making friends with perfect strangers, and for standing on chairs to sing during Shabbos dinner. In addition to being the Senior Rabbi of Simchat Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in West Haven, CT, I write regularly for several publications and speak widely in congregations and conferences. My wife is a Southern-fried Jewish Beltway bandit and a smokin' hot human rights attorney... and please don’t take offense if I dump Tabasco sauce on your cooking.
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1 Response to Learning as Worship

  1. James says:

    Learning within Judaism is more than studying … it is a form of worship.That's what I keep telling folks. While this is an exclusively Jewish viewpoint, I don't see why other religious traditions, such as Christianity, couldn't choose to make a paradigm shift and see learning in the same light. However, as your blog post states, it is more than just the acquisition of information, but a "quest" to draw closer to God.

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