The Self Taught And Undertrained

I had the pleasure of speaking at a Jews for Judaism Canada event in Toronto this year on the eve of the Christian holiday of Christmas.

While we at Jews for Judaism focus on educating, enlightening and empowering Jews, there are times where we need point out the great distinction that exists between Judaism and Christianity.

One such opportunity arose as I read a new book on the plane heading to Toronto. I had just received a copy of “Torah, Chazal, and Science,” by Rabbi Meiselman just days before my flight. In the first pages of the preface he shared what I thought elucidated this distinction with elegance.

“The proper explication of Torah is not a child’s game. It is a very serious endeavor. Mistakes in interpretation are always serious, but Chazal tell us that with respect to cosmology – Maaseh Bereishis – the consequences are especially grave. No one would entrust his physical health to the self taught or undertrained. Every rational individual insists that his attending physician be an expert in his field. If this is our attitude with respect to our physical well being, surely we should be not less demanding with respect to our spiritual well being.”

Now, that is a MOUTHFUL! Yet, most Christians, many who call themselves Messianic Jews or Hebrew Roots adherents do just what Rabbi Meiselman counsels against. They attach themselves to teachers who are self taught and undertrained. One would never trust their tailor to stitch up a bad cut, nor would they go to their butcher to perform surgery. However, most Christians, and mainly so called Messianic’s and Hebrew Roots adherents do just that, when they entrust their spiritual health to the self taught and undertrained.

We as Jews should be looking to our Sages and the Rabbi’s of Judaism who have preserved, and passed down the wealth of Torah knowledge that we possess. Following the self taught or undertrained, as R’Meiselman points out, comes with “especially grave consequences.”

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