Why do so few succeed?
The Paralysis of Too Many Choices
Being in this class with MJTI, a summer intensive in L.A., I am reminded that Jewish learning (the same can be said of Christian learning) is a matter of choosing specific priorities from among an astronomical field of subjects.
Think of the Bible, for starters. It has only a certain number of pages, but the depth and complexity is overwhelming. It is misleading to see the relatively few words of the Bible. Perhaps you could get a better image of the colossal amount of information in the Bible by going to a university library and seeing the shelves of reference and commentary on it.
Why not just start on one end of this massive collection of commentary and read twenty pages a day until you are done? You will finish somewhere in the lifetime of your great grandchildren!
And consider that many of us want to learn not only Bible, but history, theology, ethics, archaeology, and more. Draw from the Christian and Jewish traditions and you get even more: Talmud, midrash, halacha, sages, creeds, councils, church fathers, and on and on.
Just a note worth making: Orthodox Judaism has developed a priority of Talmud study. But it appears that Messianic Judaism, while not neglecting Talmud in the future, may go a different route, emphasizing midrash study. (I’ll blog more about this later).
The point is, with so much to learn, we hardly know where to begin.
The Paralysis of Too Little Time
Granted our lack of time, we wonder if learning is even worthwhile. I am one of the fortunate ones who can devote forty hours a week to study. Many people are fortunate of they can find a quarter hour a day.
When you consider the galaxy of material and your oh-so-slow spacecraft, exploration seems impossible.
The Paralysis of Controversy
As if all this weren’t hard enough, there is galactic warfare going on. If we read a Christian work, does it matter if they are Reformed, Wesleyan, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox? Can that liberal Jewish philosopher be worthwhile or only a medieval commentator?
What is the possibility of getting well-rounded material in the midst of the shooting, dog-fights, and differing battle strategies that surround us?
Pointers Along the Way
–Small revelations are worthwhile, so if you don’t have time to learn it all, just be engaged and you will see the stars from many angles even if you don’t chart the galaxy completely.
–Choose important subjects. For Messianic Jews (and I think Christians would do well here also), my opinion is that the Pentateuch and the four gospels are primary. They are foundational. Judaism has a reading cycle for the Pentateuch. The gospels and Acts can be read (these are five books, just like the Pentateuch) alongside the Torah.
–Don’t be paralyzed. A little work is better than no work.
–Get yourself teachers. Find good referrals for books, instructional materials, and helps. I have made recommendations here in the past under the category of education (you can search by categories on the right side of this blog page).
–Be part of a community that studies. If possible, don’t invest your time too heavily in a community that places no value on it.
–Find yourself partners, people to discuss with, and so on. Don’t overlook your own immediate family members.