Connectedness is not just about people, it’s also about ideas.
Jewish people have cultivated a mindset in which ideas are interconnected. That’s what midrash, the rabbinic discussion of biblical text, is all about. The Torah narrates an event, or states a law. Hundreds or even thousands of years later, Jews are connecting the text to other ideas. The ideas may come from Judaism. Or from general society. Or from a song on the radio or a movie we just saw.
Much is the education that we receive works against connected thought. We’re taught to think like scientists, exploring problems and experimenting with solutions. Good stuff, but not if you’re looking for creative and connected thinking.
The goal of Jewish education today must be to foster Jewish connectedness as a habit of mind. Connectedness of Jew to Jew and of Jew to Jewish ideas. And also of Jewish ideas to one another (and to related ideas from outside Jewish culture).
One area to develop connectedness of ideas in a Jewish way is through the writing of a d’var Torah. Much like midrash, a d’var Torah is a way of connecting ideas that are not, on the surface, directly related. In a d’var Torah, we show how all wisdom is ultimately connected, and we use that connectedness to build new wisdom.
An example below uses a modified mind map. In a few weeks the Torah portion in which the people of Israel stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai to receive God’s word is read. In the diagram below, I’ve shown a few directions in which our connected thoughts can take us, as we branch out from the core text to create new Jewish wisdom for our lives:
[to view in larger size, go to https://dl-web.dropbox.com/get/Public/Standing%20at%20Sinai%20enlarged.tif?w=7ae7b194 ]