I am not from the poetry-lovers. I think it’s because I typically don’t get it. And had many, MANY classes where I was made to feel stupid for not getting it.
Sometimes I run across words, usually prose but sometimes poetry, that grab hold me of me. Words that if I didn’t know better I would believe to have written myself because they so accurately verbalize how I feel.
As You taught Torah to those whose names I bear,
teach me Torah, too.
Its mystery beckons, yet I struggle with its truth.
You meant Torah for me: Did You mean the struggle for me, too?
Don’t let me struggle alone;
to be wise, to listen, to know…
Lead me into the mystery.
~Rabbi Richard Levy
The first time I saw these words, I inhaled sharply as they articulated what I’d long felt. The struggle. The tension between what I know, what I do not yet know, what I feel, who I am, who I hope to be, and how I live as a Jew.
But as with much in Jewish ritual life, there is struggle and it is in the struggle that we find meaning. If it was all easy, I suppose, it would be all too easy to take it for granted. To view the behaviours as rote.
Earlier today, one of the rabbis challenged me with “isn’t there meaning in all of the mitzvot?” I found the manner in which the question was phrased to be argumentative and just a little bit insulting. As if I should know that there is meaning in the obligations. Because it was a group setting, and I frankly didn’t feel like engaging in a conversation that would have been exclusionary to the rest of the participants, I did not explain my sense that while each mitzvah has an inherent meaning, I am not convinced that we will come to understand the meaning. Nor should performance of mitzvot be solely determined by whether or not we can discern said meaning. Instead, I just said, “And shatnez? have you found meaning in shatnez?”
And that was the end of that.
I don’t know where this will lead. And that might very well be the most frightening part of the struggle. It isn’t the struggle itself. It is not knowing who or what I’ll be when I come out on the other side. And so I take comfort in the knowledge that You are with me, giving me the space and time needed, but always a Presence.