Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have You Met the Torah Today With Fresh, Child-Like Wonder

After I recently posted a blog, a reader felt inclined to promptly inform me that I knew nothing about Torah. I'm as vulnerable as the next person, and can get defensive when criticized. This time though, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, "He's right."

In reality, what I know about the Torah doesn't even begin to scratch the surface. The Torah is like the universe; infinite. My knowledge of the Torah is like one grain of sand in the universe. But that grain of sand, that I hold so dear, has changed my world. Or as Blake so aptly penned, "To see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour."

In the big scheme of things, I really hardly know anything about the Torah. But here is what I do know: The Torah is the blueprint for everything. The DNA of the universe. The revealed knowledge of Ein Sof. A glimpse into the mind and heart of Hashem. Instructions on how to make tikkun. Instructions on how to bring Heaven on earth. The Yud that connects the material to the spiritual. An endless resource. A map guiding us back to our true self. A gift.

The Torah, to say the least, has changed my life. And the real kicker is, I'm not Jewish. It remains a wonder to me that Hashem allowed my path to intersect with the truth of the Torah and in the midst of the Bible-Belt, no less. And as if becoming conscious of the wonders of the Torah wasn't enough, Hashem has put teachers in my life, who live and breathe the Torah and make it palpable to a soul like mine. I often think, "If Hashem drew me to Torah, imagine what can happen to a Jewish soul who needs to return to Torah."

As mentioned above, I live in the Bible-Belt. The town I live in has a very small Jewish population, very few with whom I am acquainted. I had the privilege, though, of meeting a Jewish lady from New York, who headed a charitable Jewish fund, who was visiting my town. I am not a talker. And I am peevishly annoyed by people who talk too much. That's why much too my surprise, when I met her, I couldn't stop talking. I jumped at the chance of having a conversation with a Jew. So I started talking Torah and couldn't stop. I found myself talking about learning to have the will to receive in order to bring Hashem pleasure and to benefit others. "Isn't it odd," I commented, "that we think, 'Of course I have the will to receive. I'm completely open to all that Hashem has for me and for all the right reasons,' but in reality we often close ourselves to what He wants to give us . . . " My voice faded as I saw the look on her face. She didn't say anything as she started shaking her head. Great! I had become the-person-who-doesn't-know-when-to-stop-talking and she couldn't hide her exasperation.

She surprised me, though and said, "My husband needs to meet someone like you. He's an orthodox Jewish non-believer." I gave her a strange look and laughed, and she said, "Exactly. How can such a thing exist? He grew up learning Judaism, but now it doesn't mean much to him. He needs to see someone like you who . . . " She couldn't find the word for it, so I finished her sentence with, "Someone who it is all new to and who can't get enough?"

Do you know why I can't get enough of Torah? Because Hashem brought teachers into my life that keep the Torah in a way that is pleasing unto Him, i.e., they keep it with their whole heart, mind, and soul. They convey that the Torah is a living entity that is relevant to every facet of our lives today. How I pray that Jews who aren't passionately in love with and committed to the Torah will find teachers like I've had and latch on to all the beautiful truths they have to offer.

You've heard of Torah Tots. Non-Jews like me are quick to realize we are like children when it comes to learning Torah. But if Jews, who perhaps study Torah out of obligation or rote, or who don't study it at all, could learn anything from "tots" like me, I hope it would be to come anew to the Torah with a child-like wonder.

For those of you who are parents and own a car, do you remember the first time you turned your child's rear-facing car seat towards the front? I have two children. And both times when I turned their car seats around, they had the same reaction when I started driving. Their mouths opened as wide as their eyes did and they said, "Ooohhhh!" as they looked at everything around them from a fresh vantage point.

I am still very much a child in a car seat when it comes to spiritual learning. I thought I knew something about G-d. Then I discovered the Torah. The Torah has been the vehicle of learning and the wise teachers Hashem placed in my life turned my car seat around and said, "Here. It's time to go forward and see G-d from a much better vantage point."

If you need a fresh vantage point or need a spark helping you return to Torah, I highly encourage you to listen to the teachings of the Universal Torah Network at Your heart will say, "Ooohhhh!" as you see the wonders of the Torah from Rabbi Richman, Rebbetzin Richman, Shmuel "Sam" Peak, and Rabbi Sutton.

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