Learning Through the Plague

This post was written both as a Dvar Torah, and to promote the new virtual learning schedule at Torah.org. 

We are now in the middle of the time between Passover and Shavuos, the days of Sefiras HaOmer, the “Counting of the Omer.” Rather than have a precise day on the calendar, Shavuos is set to always come 50 days after the first night of Passover. [Due to the establishment of a permanent calendar by Hillel II in the 4th Century CE, today Shavuos falls on the 6th of Sivan. But when the New Moon was determined by testimony before the Sanhedrin, Shavuos could possibly fall on the 5th or 7th as well.] The Counting of the Omer begins on the day the Omer offering (a sheaf of barley) was brought in the Holy Temple, on the second day of Passover, continuing for 49 days until Shavuos on the 50th.

It is also a time of mourning — because in the time of Rebbe Akiva, a great plague swept through his students. 12,000 pairs of students, 24,000 in all, passed away during this time period. Our Sages say that this was because they did not treat each other with proper respect — this is alluded to by the fact that the Talmud identifies them as pairs, rather than individuals. They did not connect as they should!

Today we face a very different sort of plague, but one which has, like that in Rebbe Akiva’s day, greatly reduced the amount of Torah learning around the globe, as many students sit at home and learn less than they would in a school or Bais Medrash [house of study]. But we, in our day, can use this opportunity to deepen our connection to learning, as well.

Across the country and around the world, there are teachers who devote hours each day to providing adult learning opportunities. Because their classes have now been pushed online, into Zoom classrooms, Facebook Live and other venues, it is now possible for each of us, anywhere in the world, to join a class that meets our availability and interest — even if offered thousands of miles away. And when we offered rabbis to share their classes with you, many immediately jumped at the chance. They will be delighted to have you!

We have composed a weekly calendar of online classes — just click on one you would like to join, at the correct time, for links to join. The calendar is still being populated (and polished), but we want you to be able to join classes right away. So please excuse any rough edges, and check back often as we continue to fill in schedules! This is an opportunity for all of us to take our virtual learning to the next level, and I hope that you will join us.

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