Avi Killip is a Wexner Graduate Fellow who has just completed an eighteen-month rabbinic internship at Conservative Synagogue in Atlanta and will begin studying at Hebrew College Rabbinical School in the fall. He can be reached at avikillip@gmail.com.

There is a man at synagogue named Hirsch who occasionally, after practicing his layning, will accidentally put the Torah back upside-down.

Let me start over.

There is a man at synagogue who layns with a beautiful Yiddish accent, and a kavanah more compelling than I have heard in my life. He is a Shoah survivor who never misses minyan and whose presence is a constant reminder of what was lost and also what was miraculously maintained. Hearing Hirsch chant the Al-maleh Rachamim could bring anyone to tears. Hirsch, on occasion, puts the Torah back upside-down.

Hirsch teaches me about Kavod. From him I learn simultaneously that what appears to be sheer disrespect for the Torah may be part of a mitzvah, and that even the most honorable of men will, on occasion, put the Torah back upside-down.

As I reflect about Hirsch, I see new meaning in the charge to “turn it and turn it, for everything is contained within it.”