There have been frightening moments in my life when the ground beneath me disappeared and I faced the void all alone. When I was six-years-old, hanging upside down from a bar on a playground, I suddenly realized that the bar was too high for me and I couldn’t get back up. Who would catch me when I fell?
There was a moment during a terrifying car accident when I saw the other car swerving into the windshield, and I saw my life for what it was – exquisitely, undeniably vulnerable. What would protect me when I was in danger?
There was a moment in the middle of the night in an empty football field when I looked up at the pulsing stars and at the way the light seemed so far away and so tiny compared to the darkness around it. How would I create meaning out of nothingness? How would I bring the light closer? How would I make it through the chaos and the struggle? Who would catch me when I fell?
But I have seen that You have held me in the depths of the ocean when all I could hear was the roar of the water. You have cradled me on mountaintops that I never thought I could reach and encompassed me with sunsets so beautiful they left infinite sparks in their wake. You carried me through childhood and taught me how to take lonely struggles and turn them into beloved triumphs. You forgave my doubts. You stayed with me through wrong turns and furious impasses. You brought me to my wedding canopy. You blessed me with children. But You never stopped expecting me to grow. You sent me wake up calls when I couldn’t see where I was going. You sent me messengers when I needed friends I thought I already had. You sent me warmth when I thought the cold would overcome me.
You caught me when I fell. You protected me when I was in danger. You showed me how to create meaning out of emptiness. You showed me that the light was not so far away. And You gave me all this through Your wondrous Torah. Here are four ways that Your precious Torah transforms my life.
1. Torah teaches me how to pray. How to wake up in the morning and say thank You before I do anything else. How to carve out sacred time in my day to allow my life to stay still for a moment so that I can remember who I am and what I am trying to achieve. How to cry out when I need help. How to change negative thoughts into positive ones. How to be silent for just a few moments during a noisy day. How to remember that I am never alone.
2. Torah gives me authentic wisdom. It gives me knowledge of my ancestors. It teaches me where I come from and gives me character traits to reach for. It tells me stories of the past that are still alive today, showing me how to use their arcs and their lessons. It gives me wisdom that deepens and lengthens each day, knowledge that makes way for more knowledge, ideas that morph and grow and change who I thought I could be.
3. Torah connects me to the Jewish Nation. It stretches across cultures and countries and languages. It reaches across generations. It connects me to my great- great- great grandmother and to my children’s children’s children. It binds me to the Jew I pass on the streets of Manhattan who doesn't know English but is looking for a synagogue. It connects me to the woman in the dentist’s waiting room who just buried her father in Israel, but did not even realize that she herself was Jewish. It unites us. It holds us together. It is the deepest and most authentic connection that we have with each other.
4. Torah teaches me hope. It shows me what it means to hold onto something we love through thousands of years of struggle and persecution. It teaches me that darkness isn’t as strong as it appears. That faith can open doors we couldn’t see before. That hope can heal unfathomable brokenness. That stubborn resolve can stand us back on our feet and push us to accomplish extraordinary feats.
Every day the Almighty gives each of us a gift. A gift that is already deeply embedded within us. A gift that we will recognize when we receive it. A gift that we accepted long ago before we even knew what it was. A gift that came before Creation and continues to renew itself each day. A gift that holds up the world and leaves infinite sparks in the wake of its every word.
Thank You for Your Torah. For catching me when I fall, for protecting me from danger, for showing me how to create meaning in a space where nothingness was before. And thank You, for this holiday of Shavuot, when You give us this gift all over again.
For there is a moment in the middle of the night, when everything is silent and just Your words are before me, that I can touch and see and hear eternal answers echoing and weaving their way around me. Like letters of life that have traveled across immense islands of time, to give us back our stories and to help us write new ones tomorrow.