from Proverbs Eight
"Doth not wisdom call, and understanding put forth her voice? In the top of the high places by the way, where the paths meet, she standeth; beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors, she crieth aloud."
Sure beats having your ship dashed against the rocks, don't it, hey? (Sconnie Vocce)
When one's learning is dissonant, conflicted even, it can be seen as standing where the paths meet. This is the way I've always understood that great American turn-of-phrase by Robert Frost about 'the road not taken.' Our best learning, our deepest insights, often come from the choices we make to leave the path we think we're on because a voice calls us down another road. Less the element of play and more the necessity of risk in the name of growth, evolution, advancement, even (though adding a new dimension) depth.
Kids in our schools are so deeply engaged with their secular work--it's a challenge to convince them at times of the necessity for understanding the deep rivers of Jewish civilization. That just as profound as the exploration of ideas can be in the best schools of New York City, so must the exploration of ideas be for the synagogue as well. Otherwise, we're just jolly life-cycle factories--a good economic model, I suppose. But not really advancing the ball for the Jewish people.
I was studying with a student on Monday afternoon. Smart kid. We had examined the various circumstances surrounding God's call to Abraham and after 20 minutes or so he looked up from his book and said, "Rabbi, we haven't even finished the first verse." His eyes lit up when I showed him the page of a medieval commentary with many voices on the page, spanning centuries of inquiry into one word--one word but many paths. Each gate the Gate of Inquiry. He smiled at the prospect of passing through one, then another, and still another.
Suddenly the door to my study shook. Someone outside had bumped into it, perhaps? Or rogue stroller? Or in another part of this old building, one door closed while the latch to my study door engaged. As did another young mind, connected to Torah.
"She crieth aloud."