Sometimes, especially in the middle of thousands (thousands!) of years of history, students feel discouraged. There’s so much to take in, so many names, so many places, so much. A very conscientious student might wonder, “Can I learn it all?”
One response to that question is in the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot: 2:20:
It is not incumbent on you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.
No Jew, no matter how learned, knows it all. Even scholars who spend their entire lives studying Torah always find more to learn. The same is true of all Jewish studies: there is a vast sea of material for learning.
The point of a class like this is not to teach you “everything.” This is a survey, intended to give you a taste of many subjects. Some of you may find that history excites you, that understanding the past of our people is something that gives you great satisfaction. Others may find that text study is something they enjoy. Someone else may find that living the cycle of the holidays has great meaning for them, or that turning the words of Torah into action, into social action, is very fulfilling. This class is just a beginning.
So if any of you are feeling discouraged about now, or feeling that we aren’t going deeply enough into a subject, don’t worry! No one expects you to master all of Jewish Studies from one survey class. At the same time, I hope that you will find things that intrigue you, things you want to study more deeply, or practices that you want to incorporate into your daily life. If this class enriches your Jewish experience, then it will have been successful.
— Rabbi Adar