Curious but Cautious

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I started doing Torah study in a community group at the synagogue
two years ago. I find it fascinating, even though I don’t know Hebrew.
A lot of the discussion is about the moral and ethical lessons in the
Bible. There are some people in the group (both professors and self-
taught) who clearly know a lot more scholarship than the lay people in
the group. I got an email last week that also went to everyone who’s
been attending the class. It asked which of us wanted to volunteer to
give a dvar (a 10-15 minute Friday night talk) that explains the Torah
portion to be read on Shabbat. I’m not afraid of speaking in public
(thank you Toastmasters) but I’m not sure what I have to say. I’m
also embarrassed that I don’t know Hebrew. Should I accept or not?
Curious but Cautious

Dear Cautious:
You’re already ahead of much of the American public, who’d rather die
than speak in public. While you have the “hard” part down you should
remember to practice the way you would for any other talk, because
you’re likely to be more nervous about this than some casual luncheon
talk topic.

As for content, sign up for a parshah where the most story speaks to
you. You might find one where the moral lesson is something from
your own experience. The good news is that the beginning chapters
are tall on story and drama, while the later ones are more complicated
and full of laws and details. Give yourself enough time to study and
prepare, but I’d counsel Genesis or Exodus to cut your teeth.
Concerning content, take the middle path: a mix of what comes from
your own heart and brain, perhaps inspired by any of the many
teachers you can easily find on the internet. I think you’ll find the
whole process a very great teaching for you, one that opens you and
makes you much more transparent and valued in your community of
prayer. Good luck