Boxing With Torah pt. 2

ImageThe ego is a funny thing. Ego told me I had to do something brilliant, and ego got in the way of the learning process.  I nearly didn’t go to the hebrew d’var Torah/ etymology class today, because I hadn’t done the work. I didn’t want to even deal with it; didn’t want to be imperfect.

I decided this was a good thing I could learn by going to class: I don’t have to be perfect. I can own up and say I didn’t do it, and that’s ok.

So, I went. I’m glad I did. It’s simple, really – I was making the work far more complicated than it needed to be. It’s quite simple, and it’s going to grow more organically, less in the forced, belabored way I had been approaching it.

Within a word are worlds of meaning…my fellow students drew totally different connections than I would have, which tells me something really lovely : we think we are reading the words, but really the words are reading US.

What we draw out of a particular root or related words in a root is going to eventually be pretty personal. Studying with so many different kinds of people can be challenging to my patience at times, but it brings with it great growth. It’s not always comfortable to be stretched… but the expansive place with greater perspective, achieved by taking in others’ perspectives, is a beautiful place to be.

There was someone there today who is oil to my water – I react adversely to the tone I see as superior, the “I’m a rabbinical student” setting-above, all of this stuff goes against many of my absolute core values.  And yet, having her there was a challenge I want to learn to see as a good lesson.

I am learning this now in my counseling work:  the ego is what is fighting that battle, or seeing that person as snobbish or inappropriate, rude or condescending.  that’s all my own stuff: ego.  Name-dropping a famous friend in response, or bringing my credentials into the conversation, is my old crap – it’s an old story I truly don’t need any more.  I don’t need to fight against her thing she needs to do – that is her stuff; for some reason she needs to be “an authority.” Okay, so I happen to not respect her way of walking in the world…I’m projecting.  When I see her behaving with disrespect, what is really happening is that I do not respect her. I don’t want to give her the power to instruct me, when I see the lessons she needs to learn. There’s a lesson for me right there….I am being so similar to her when she gets under my skin.

Going into reaction mode is a signal. I can distance and laugh at myself in those moments. If I find I REALLY can’t, when she speaks I will mentally go skiing. Unclench the jaw.  Put down the boxing gloves. Breathe.  This is not about you, self-you silly, lovely self.  It’s not important. She cannot make you less.

The boxing I want to do is with Torah…but I’m starting to think that torah is also within other people-we encounter it daily. So I can be learning a lot about myself by dealing with people with Torah between us in this interesting container…and maybe that’s what being a Maggid is all about.

What do I need to prove? Rashi was a floor-sweeper, whose seemingly simple words made complex things clear; they are studied with immense respect now.

Torah … sigh.  I’m going to say something risky here. There are so so so many things in Torah that I loathe.  I dread some of the stories. I don’t want to read them – I don’t want to put the ugly and toxic images in my brain…but there are lessons in those particular stories.  The stories that are hardest for me to read probably hold the deepest lessons.  So breathe. Let Go.  Let go some more.

I asked my rabbi: “If I mentally flip off Torah, does that make me a bad Jew?”
“Yes,” he said, “but being a bad Jew makes you a good Jew. You’re supposed to wrestle with Torah.”

The paradox : when I put on my boxing gloves, I am filled with the joy of battle. When I engage with the boxing bag, I am honoring a very instinctual part of myself that is built into my blood, that is in my ancestry.  I move into pure instinct, and yet my mind is at its most clear and laser-focused.

I am laced into a pair of unwieldy gloves, and yet I am set free.

I sit there with Torah in front of me, in a feeling of expansion after the opening chants, and yet my lessons come when my spirit battles the human beings in front of me.  torah through humans …torah through our flaws.

I won’t ever be perfect.  I will embarrass myself by name-dropping, when I feel put down. I probably will still do it, even though I hate it. I don’t know, maybe that will change with more counseling work on self-esteem. But I am not perfect. I am a work in progress. I am torah – torah is me – and sometimes I can’t bear to read the pages…but I will get my gloves on and battle with them, and I will grow. that is all anyone can ask – Let us grow, in the time we have here in this place.

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