A writing challenge I volunteered for… and it’s going to be challenging!
Every week my synagogue attaches a D’var Torah, which is an interpretation of the week’s Torah portion, to the weekly newsletter. I decided to volunteer to write a D’var Torah on the occasion of our upcoming Auf Ruf. [Auf-ruf is a Yiddish term, taken from German, which means “to be called up.” An Auf Ruf is generally a European custom in which a groom (and bride in egalitarian congregations like ours) is called up to the Torah during a worship service when the Torah scroll is being read as an honor before the wedding. After the Torah reading, a blessing is recited in which members of the congregation ask for blessings for the bride and groom on their forthcoming marriage and life together as husband and wife.]
Right now, I’m in the immersion stage, looking at lots of texts about the parsha, trying to make sense of it all. (In case you’re interested in seeing what I’ve been reading click here, here, here, here, or here.) Tomorrow I’ll begin collecting, in my writer’s notebook (Where else?) ideas I’m starting to have about this Torah Portion. Essentially I need to find a line or two that resonates with me and then make a connection to my life in some way, shape, or form.
One of my rabbis provided me with the following tips for writing a D’var Torah.
The General Tips
1. Read the parsha and make note of what interests you.
2. After finishing the parsha, try to articulate the religious struggle or problem that led you to take note of those verses.
3. See what other commentaries have had to say about your verses, particularly the rabbinic material found in the Talmud and Midrash.
4. Try rephrasing your struggle or problem in a sufficiently abstract manner so other readers/listeners can relate to the struggle and then present how the material helps address or frame the concern.
5. Remember: The Torah contains the answers to questions we have forgotten how to ask. A good darshan (preacher) searches for the questions that speak to the souls of her audience.
As you see, I have my work cut out for me. However, this is a challenge I volunteered for since I think it will help me become a stronger Writing Teacher for I will have to go through the writing process, in the truest sense, just like my students do.