Rabbeinu Bachya on this week’s Torah Portion, when he gets to verse 19, explains all about why G-d decided to let Avraham know that Sodom would be destroyed because, as the verse says, “l’ma’an asher yetzeva es banav – for he will command his children…” Rabbeinu Bachya quotes Rabbeinu Chananel as explaining that the beauty of Jews is the oral transmission, “the words of the fathers were accepted without the writing of the Torah.” And he concludes that this oral transmission is exactly matched in importance and obligation as the written law – “they all are equal”.
What is amazing about this verse in the Torah is that it doesn’t say that G-d valued Avraham because he will “teach” his son, but rather that he will “command” his son. Our rabbis told us “ayn hamikrah ha’eekar, elah ha’ma’aseh – the learning is not the main point, the execution of it is.” Learning, in and of itself, is valuable, necessary, but not the focal point of Judaism. Actions, going ahead and doing, is what matters.
That might be the beauty of what the Jews said when they were offered the Torah. They said, “Na’aseh v’Nishmah- we will do and we will listen.” Their commitment to action came first, then a nod to learning.
My father drilled into us again and again, Judaism is not a religion, it is a way of life. It tells you how to wake in the morning, how to dress, how to eat, how to walk and talk. It is not just knowledge. It is action.
A commitment to learning is not enough to make a committed Jew. Learning is just another one of the Mitzvos. A commitment to keep the commandments of G-d and “command our children” to do the same, that is what makes for a committed Jew.