It was bound to happen sooner or later. In this case, it happened sooner. Ilana – our youngest child – caught the bug. The Harry Potter bug. She is tirelessly and determinedly making her way through the seven-book series. She has just started the fifth installment.
At first, Jodi and I were reading to her. When we were not available, she got one of her siblings to read to her. But, now, she doesn’t even ask. She’s plowing through on her own.
As a result of her enthusiasm for all things Harry Potter (especially Hermione!), I found myself re-reading the books and I just completed the series myself (again!). After all, dads have to be ready to discuss dementors, Dobby and disapparition at a moment’s notice.
Shortly, Ilana will finish the series herself and then the books will truly be hers. I imagine that – like her sisters before her – she will return the books over and over again. They will become a part of her and she will absorb many of the lessons that JK Rowling has taught us through her magnificent, magical world.
As wonderful as the Harry Potter books are, I hope that this enthusiastic and repetitive reading by my kids is just a prelude to enthusiastic and repetitive reading of other texts. In this week’s Torah portion, we read that when a king arose over the Israelites, he was obligated to “have a copy of this Teaching (Torah) written for him on a scroll by the Levitical Priests. Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching (Torah) as well as these laws (Deut. 17:18-19).”
Eventually, the rabbis extended this principle to all of us. We should always have our fingers in the foundational text of our people. We publicly read Torah every Monday and Thursday plus twice on Shabbat. We have special readings for New Moons, fast days and festivals. We are supposed to turn back to these five books again and again. We are challenged to internalize the eternal lessons taught through ancient stories in ancient tongue.
But, if we accept the challenge, then eventually the five books of the Torah truly become a part of us. The Torah truly becomes ours. It starts with catching the bug.