top of page

D'var Torah By Rabbi Marcia Tilchin
Walking the Way of Torah Throughout the Year

 In summer 2001 I began teaching an 18-week Introduction to Judaism class through the 92nd Street YMHA in Manhattan.  The program was called “Derekh Torah” (The Way of Torah) and it was very exciting to have my own group of 12 adults eager to learn about Judaism. We met in each other’s apartments on a rotating basis, and it was a fabulous experience overall.

The very first class was on the Jewish calendar. Nothing ritually exciting happens in the summer so I was not sure where to start.  Pesah?  Rosh Hashanah?  I asked my supervisor for advice. He suggested I begin right where we were – in the three weeks leading up to Tisha v’Av.  Just like the study of Torah, no one must begin their learning with B’reishit.  Whatever the parashah of week happens to be when we begin our learning is the perfect place to enter the conversation.


     As I was preparing for this first class, my excitement grew.  I was able to draw a throughline between the 17th of Tammuz and Simhat Torah that I had never noticed before. My overarching theme was that every step in sacred cycle is never meant to exist in a vacuum. Each of our holy days is important unto itself, but it is also meant to prepare us for the next step in our journey toward a deeper awareness of and connection with God.

     After I offered a basic introduction to the Jewish months of the year, I explained about the minor fast days.  Everyone had a Jewish calendar in hand, and we started with the 17th of Tammuz. I explained why we needed three weeks to prepare mentally and emotionally for Tisha b’Av.  I presented the 7 weeks of consolation between Tisha v’Av and Rosh Hashanah as a different kind of “shiva” to recover slowly from our state of mourning to a state of beginning anew, including rituals throughout Elul that help us prepare for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

     I presented two primary windows of time that frame the Jewish ritual year:

  • From the 17th of Tammuz through Simhat Torah, we evolve from a people dependent on a bricks and mortar Temple to a nation that erects beautiful and eternal Sukkot that can never be demolished by a foreign power precisely because the strength of the sukkah is spiritual and comes from the devotion to and love of God within.

  • From T”u b’Shevat through Shavuot (the 6th of Sivan), there is a creatively cohesive narrative that connects three full moon holidays on the 15th of Shevat, the 15th of Adar (Purim), the 15th of Nisan (Hag HaMatzot) and     7 weeks of the omer to Shavuot that includes special liturgical additions in worship, planting, cleaning, fasting, frivolity, changing our diets, counting and intense learning. For someone who lives by the Jewish calendar, preparation for Shavuot -the celebration of receiving Torah which is known as Eitz Hayyim – the TREE OF LIFE, begins 4 months earlier with the ancient time marker that measures the age of all fruit-bearing TREES for tithing purposes. Trees are so important in Judaism!  They are essential as sources for nourishment and as purification agents against environmental toxicity.  Likewise, Torah nourishes our souls and teaches us how to make the world holier place despite societal ills.

Scott joins me in wishing our TBE family a relaxing and healthy summer and we look forward to walking the Derekh Torah together in 5784.

Rabbi Marcia Tilchin
bottom of page