This series has come to an end. I did not exactly plan that there would be twenty-six shiurim, but that is, at least for the foreseeable future, the end of the series. Naturally, the topic has not been exhausted. There are many more topics, as well as an unlimited potential to go back over the topics we covered and expand, clarify, and dig deeper. In fact, there is no reason why we should not do so, and I hope that you will continue on exactly that path, continuing to deepen, as 100 generations of Jews have done, our understanding of our lives, the Torah, the connection between the two, and the challenges that the Torah presents before us. In other words, "Understanding the Meaning and Practice of Halakha" is but a preface to the "real thing," the study of Torah.
This course, as well as the VBM in general, is a study vehicle, appealing to one's intellect, challenging (I hope) each of us to UNDERSTAND. The topic of the course, though, was PRACTICE, doing, the world of halakha. The relationship between the two is called by the Sages "lomed al menat la-asot" - study in order to fulfill. The Sages believed that the very nature of understanding and study is different when it is bound within a world of practice and, most importantly, commitment. I have tried to emphasize the obverse of that equation in these shiurim, concentrating on the meaning of mitzvot AS PRACTICED; in other words, on the nature of the halakhically-lived life. I have tried not to treat halakha as a verbal code containing meaning, but as a life, a way of practice, whose meaning is in ourselves and our interaction with it. The meaning is not in the words of halakha, but in the deeds themselves, in the experience. So, while reading computer printouts is not the experience - at least not the experience I had in mind - the shiurim have been, in one sense or another, based on the experience.
I would like to hope that they have therefore also had, and will have, an effect on the experience of each of you. For those who have grown up with the experiences themselves, there is nonetheless a need to prevent them from becoming externalized to the point of the trivial. Precisely because these experiences were first met as children, their meaning can sometimes remain on the experiential level of children. While I have continually stressed the unconscious effect of "rote," of daily routine and repetition, as central to halakha, the flip side of that is, of course, a danger of empty routine, of habit and stagnation. For those of you who are exploring their connection to these practices and meanings, I hope that the explicit explication of the inner meaning, especially the experiential effect and significance, will aid in a further interaction with precisely this side - the meaning in one's life of HALAKHIC PRACTICE, of commitment, law and obligation. This brings us back to the theme of the opening introductory shiur - halakha not as pleasant experiences, but as a system of law.
Although the series itself is finished, I of course will be most happy to discuss any aspect of the course or individual lectures with anyone who takes the time to write. I hope this summer to review all the shiurim and revise them - or at least put them into the correct order. If any of you are doing the same, I am sure we both will be able to re-examine and understand anew - and better - the concepts involved, and perhaps close some lacunae that were left open.
In the meantime, I wish you all a pleasant summer, both in the VBM summer session and the "real" part of your lives, and hope to "see" you again in the fall.
b'virkat ha-Torah mi-Tzion,