For many years, my husband has studied with B’nai Mitzvah families to guide students in the preparation of their D’vrei Torah. This year I’ve joined him in this endeavor. Each time we meet with a family, I’m reminded of Aaron Dundy. Mr. Dundy was my grandmother’s second husband, a quiet, gentle man whom I thought of as being very, very old. As a young adult, I would frequently climb the three flights to their apartment, which like Sarah’s tent, was always warm, welcoming, and filled with the aromas of Shabbat. My grandmother would be busy chopping and stirring in her tiny kitchen or cleaning and polishing the already spotless rooms. Mr. Dundy would be sitting at the cloth covered dining room table poring over, as Grandma called them, “The Books.” I would make polite small talk with him and although he was unfailingly gracious, I always sensed that I was distracting him from the dense Hebrew texts covering the thin pages of the worn volumes spread out before him – volumes which I now know were Torah and various commentaries. Although I had attended Hebrew School and religious school through Confirmation (there being no Bat Mitzvah ceremony at that Classical Reform synagogue), I had never gotten beyond decoding a few Blessings, hearing some random “Bible Stories,” and learning a bit about the Holidays. I had no recollection of Torah readings, or the term “Torah Portion,” much less Parashat HaShavuah.
Over the years, I’ve often thought of Aaron Dundy and his “Books.” I was middle aged and Mr. Dundy had long before entered into the Olam Haba, by the time I began to understand and engage in Torah Study. I still can’t claim even a fraction of his knowledge of sacred texts. But, I now realize, with regret, the questions I might have asked him, the discussions I might have been privileged to share with him, and the life-changing insights I might have gained.
This past Shabbat, in his D’var Torah, our Rabbi spoke of Moses and the Burning Bush.” The Rabbi asked, “How many before Moses, had passed by the Burning Bush without observing or appreciating the significance of this amazing phenomenon?” It takes courage, our Rabbi pointed out, to see, to acknowledge, and to pursue an opportunity to connect with the Divine. Moses had the courage, and the wisdom to be open to experiencing God, as did Aaron Dundy. In my case, however, Mr. Dundy and his Books were a “Burning Bush” which I was too timid, unprepared, and uninformed to recognize at the time.
Now, many years into my journey of life long Jewish learning , in partnership with my husband, I strive to use the wealth of excellent resources available today to acquaint B’nai Mitzvah families with “The Books” in the hope that they, like Moses and Mr. Dundy, will develop the knowledge, understanding, and desire to bravely see and engage with each “Burning Bush” which they encounter as they grow Judaicly.
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