The Torah Challenge challenges you to read the entire Torah ( 5 Books of Moses) cover to cover! In our case, this group of “graduates” decided on a 2‐year plan. The group met monthly with Chana, reading two Torah portions at home and discussing themes, characters and lessons in the group. Reading the entire Torah can seem like a daunting task but with a supportive group and a teacher who can give context and commentary it becomes quite doable. When asked the question: “Is it one of your life goals to have read through the entire Torah?” the following women said “yes”! We congratulate these amazing women on this tremendous accomplishment and applaud their commitment and consistency.
What inspired you to take on a two‐year challenge to go through the entire Torah?
Mara: I did not grow up in a religious household, but have given my boys a Jewish education. Over the years, I’ve thought about giving myself a Jewish education as well. So when it was time for our growth group to transition to the Torah Challenge, it was never a question whether I would continue.
June: When Chana first presented it in our Growth Group, I was intrigued. I was attracted to this because I have never read the entire Torah, and I welcomed the task as a way of broadening my mind and Jewish learning. Also, since I’d enjoyed learning with Chana, I welcomed the opportunity to continue learning with her.
Andrea: To read the Torah in its entirety was always a goal of mine. When the opportunity presented itself I had to take it and I am so glad I did!
Sherry: Growth Group was coming to an end and I wanted to continue growing, so I signed on for Torah Study.
Veronica: I got involved with JWI about five years ago. After spending two years in Growth Group, my thirst to continue learning and growing deepened and studying Torah was a natural next step in my Journey to live the most meaningful and purposeful life possible. I was driven by a desire to gain a better understanding of the Torah teachings and go beyond what I have been practicing in my home thus far.
Marla: I was really enjoying Growth Group and wanted to continue with our monthly meetings. When Chana mentioned Torah, I felt this was something very interesting to explore and was excited to continue with Chana.
How did you stay committed over such a long period of time?
Mara: The amazing diverse group of women who chose to do the challenge all inspired me.
June: The fact that there was structure to it helped me stick to it. Also, Chana provided great communication and instructions and any questions that I had when reading the Torah were often clarified during our lesson. I liked the handouts and her commentary very much.
Andrea: Most importantly I made the commitment to myself. Also, I always want to lead by example for my two daughters; it’s important for me to show them to finish what you start and to never give up.
Sherry: First, once a month is not a big deal, and when major conflicts came up I just had to skip. But every session was a bit of revelation, and I didn’t want to miss out. Also, I had a goal of being able to talk about the weekly portion at Shabbat dinner with my family.
Veronica: I have learned that in Judaism, when an opportunity comes your way, you should grab it because it may not present itself again. It was challenging at times but my perseverance and desire to accomplish my goal prevailed
Marla: I found it really interesting and looked forward to the monthly get‐togethers. My life is extremely busy and much of the time I wasn’t able to prepare but always got a lot out the lecture and discussion.
What did you enjoy most about the Torah Challenge?
June: I enjoyed the separate stories Chana provided and also learning about the different interpretations of the Torah. Also the relevant articles Chana gave out were really interesting.
Andrea: What I enjoyed most about studying Torah is learning the stories, the mitzvahs, the people, and all the life lessons. The questions that I’m dealing with or struggling with my life today, I see that they are the same questions from thousands of years ago.
It’s real life: what’s my responsibility for my community, how to care for my family, how to be in a loving relationship, how to be a great leader, and of course how to be a good person. Always trying to put into practice what I learned and most of all studying with amazing women each month.
Sherry: Learning where the mitzvot actually come from. Learning our history and why our people developed into a nation the way we did.
Veronica: Listening, questioning, discussing and sharing our thoughts with one another without judgment was enlightening and healing. The intimacy and sisterhood that was created through our monthly sessions was profound. I felt safe in being vulnerable and exposing a window into my soul.
What was most surprising or inspiring for you about the Torah challenge?
Mara: What is most surprising is that I believe I would do it again ‐ version 2.0. There is just so much to learn, you can’t possibly do so in one go around.
June: Since I am a practicing attorney, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the Torah actually forms the foundation for many of the laws we follow. There are many connections between our present legal system that clearly came directly from the Torah. Example: the word “damages” is used in the Torah and was adopted in our legal system to mean the same thing….what someone is owed if they are wronged. Even though this Torah class consisted of a broad overview of two Torah portions each month, I have learned so much more about the characters who form the basis of the Torah and our Jewish history, so I understand more about why its stories are so important to Jewish life. I have so much respect for it and understand why this important document has withstood the test of time. It is, essentially, brilliant.
Andrea: I really didn’t know much about the Torah except the few basic stories I learned in Hebrew school. I thought it was our history book, but there’s so much more. God gave us the Torah and it’s our book of law, our book of instructions and our guidebook for living. Learning Torah is the heart, soul and lifeblood of the Jewish people. It is the secret of our survival. The mitzvah of learning Torah is the intention of putting it into practice. By learning Torah it will give you a great joy of understanding life in order to have your best life. The story of the Jewish people is the story of our relationship with the Almighty.
Sherry: The most surprising thing was learning about the true greatness of our patriarchs and matriarchs, learning why G‐d chose them. The most inspiring thing was repeatedly returning to the understanding the singular concept of a G‐d who loves us, who gave us the Torah to guide us.
Veronica: Especially inspiring was the strong and powerful role that the matriarchs played in our heritage. Their impact on mankind, even behind the scenes, changed our course of history then and today. There is sƟll so much to learn as I continue to reach my greatest possible potential as a Jewish woman.
Marla: I was surprised to find out I knew I bit more than I thought I would and how much I enjoyed learning.
What would you say to other women who are considering taking on the challenge?
Mara: If it interests you at all, go for it! You will only gain a deeper understanding and expand your knowledge of the Torah and our beautiful, complicated, deep‐seated religion.
June: Try to complete all the reading before the class. And have an open mind.
Andrea: The class is a must! Take the class and challenge yourself!
Sherry: You will be surprised how much you don’t know. The approach to learning about each portion starts with the basics, but then goes deeper in a way that is quite meaningful.
Veronica: This special journey is a gift for anyone who chooses it. The joy you will have living a Jewish life will be greatly enhanced. Throughout the process I felt myself growing closer to Hashem and acquiring a deep trust in him. This is an opportunity not to be missed!