Learning To Practice – By Marc

Well that seems counterintuitive… Shouldn’t we practice to learn?

How often do parents BUG their kids to practice the piano… or to get ready for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah?  I remember when I started to play trumpet as a kid, my parents actually asked me to STOP practicing.  Yeah, it was not pretty.

Switching to clarinet did not help… so here I am a lonely harmonica player. Okay, it’s not actually lonely… you kind of need to play with other people and jam, which is social and fun, so…

On a side note, the draft I had of this post disappeared… So strange, and I’m sure I had some genius that was lost… 😉
And the other day I stepped on my favorite pair of glasses, bending them quite badly. I was able to MOSTLY resurrect them, but at those moments I do still throw my hands up to the heavens and ask Hashem why that was necessary. If I figure it out I’ll let you know. Clearly he has some idea behind it.

So back to practicing… There is the old joke, of course…
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”
“Practice, practice, practice.”

But today’s post is about “practicing” Judaism… practicing mitzvot… not practice in the sense of baseball or band practice.

“We have two lives… the life we learn with and the life we live after that.”
(Bernard Malamud, The Natural)

This post comes out of last week’s 200th Post and like so many ideas, came from a virtual, online, blog discussion Ben and I had. Ben wrote: “There’s a Hebrew phrase Lilmod Ulelamed. Which means to learn for the sake of teaching. It’s one thing to go to a class or read a book to learn an interesting idea. It’s something else entirely to sit in that class and try to master the information for sake of giving it over.”

As with so many things in life, in what only seems like coincidence, last week’s Pirkei Avos class with Howard Witkin directly connected with this idea. In Chapter 4:6 it says: “Rabbi Yishmael his son used to say: He who learns in order to teach will be enabled both to learn and to teach. But he who learns in order to practice will be enabled to learn, to teach, to observe, and to practice.”

So clearly LEARNING IN ORDER TO PRACTICE is the most powerful thing, as it opens up so many more levels, so much more depth and understanding… and perhaps most importantly, practicality… the ability to teach what we practice and practice what we teach.

One who learns to teach gets to learn and teach… but one who learns to practice, gets to learn and teach, and observe, and practice. It is that much more fulfilling and satisfying.

For if you are practicing Judaism it means you are actively involved, you are actually doing things, and this, of course, will make you a better teacher. You are teaching from a place of reality and action, on the ground and in the thick of it.

What I love about learning, especially Judaism, is that great debate… the back and forth that happens between Rabbi/Teacher/Mentor and student… And any good teacher will tell you that they always LEARN from their students. There is always a new angle or perspective to come at things, and if you are open and willing to listen you may hear some truly amazing things.

And for a student, to learn from a teacher who is actually doing the things they speak of and teach about, provides a lot more credibility and excitement.

Learning is great. It is vital and important for all of us to learn, be informed, stay hungry for knowledge and pursue education… always. Learning should be a life-long endeavor. But let us make that learning richer, give it more value and purpose…

Let us learn to practice… to do… to live the life we lead and to live the life we learn.





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