Hannah Kaplun, Ridgewood, New Jersey
I’m going to start off with a story. There was once a girl who really didn’t know a lot about Judaism. She obviously celebrated Chanukah because, well, that’s what Jews do around Christmas. She proudly twisted her electric menorah to add one more day. Shavuot? What’s that? And Purim, she thought, was that holiday with the cookies. She couldn’t read Hebrew, let alone tell you what any of the letters were called. She didn’t know who the avot or imahot were and certainly not about their children. On Saturdays, she’d do the normal weekend things: go to the movies, hang out with friends, and, if she was lucky, go into the city. Oh, and Rosh Hashanah was that one day you get off of school, right? But most importantly, she didn’t know what it meant to be Jewish.
By the way, that girl is me. You’re probably thinking, “But Hannah, you’re in seminary—that doesn’t make any sense. How did you get to where you are?”
Simple—know an Aleph, teach an Aleph. No, that’s not the name of a kiruv organization, but a teaching from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At its core, “know an Aleph, teach an Aleph” means that you don’t have to be a scholar or have an in-depth knowledge of Judaism to teach someone else. If you know one thing, that’s enough to teach someone, who will, in turn, learn and teach someone else. If all you know is Aleph, you can teach someone else Aleph, and that person will go on to learn Bet, and teach Bet.
One aspect of this idea can be literally just teaching someone the Aleph Bet, but it can also mean sharing a new perspective with someone. It can mean sharing your inspiration with those around you. It also means opening up yourself up to new ideas and approaches.
For me, I learned the mechanics of Judaism, meaning, the halachot of Shabbat, Kashrut, Tzniut, etc… but I also became inspired through other people who were inspired. I have friends who are also the only religious people in their family. From them, I learned that if I want something badly enough, being the “odd man out” doesn’t matter.
I’ve also had the privilege of being on the other side of things by helping people form their Jewish identity and pride and beginning a dialogue.
So, I challenge you to teach an Aleph. Share what makes you and keeps you inspired. Help those who are struggling. Know an Aleph, teach an Aleph.