Growing up, my thinking went like this: The Bible was the best-selling book of all time. But I didn’t know one person who ever bought it, much less read it. So, it must be that the Bible is written for non-Jews. I wasn’t sure what kind of non-Jews, but I assumed the non-Jews I’d seen on television on Sunday mornings. Scary, preachy non-Jews who needed to be turned off immediately to avoid falling into their clutches. Especially because they were everywhere–even in hotel rooms, where scary, preachy “Gideon” and his “Bible” were waiting to convert me every time I opened the nightstand drawer.
The problem with this ingrained perception of “the Bible” was that it impeded my learning of our Bible, the Torah. Just saying, “chapter and verse” sounded too much like Sunday morning TV talk. I had a problem though, once I had enough evidence to believe G-d spoke to the Jewish nation when He gave us the Torah. I was 31 and clueless how to translate His words into daily life. Could I close the drawer on “the Bible” so I could open myself to the Torah?
My mantra for the effort became: It doesn’t matter where you are, it only matters which way you’re going. Once I understood that nobody ever stands still, I was free to move. l started learning the basics, like the laws of cooking on Shabbos and how to clean for Pesach. No matter how much this information complicated my life, I had bought G-d’s whole kit and caboodle: attention to detail was the way to keep Him in front of me always. Learning Chassidus made the work worthwhile. All I needed was a brain and a heart and I could glimpse into my soul, the cosmos, and what to do about them both.
I was committed, but I was also committed to taking shortcuts whenever possible. This was especially true when our children were young and Shabbos morning was the only time to learn just the name of the previous week’s Torah portion. I don’t know if it was a carry over from my “Bible” days, but my eyes glazed over much of the actual text I read. I knew I had to learn though, so I was diligent about studying the Rebbe’s practical and deeper lessons. So what if I occasionally confused Yitzchak and Yaakov? I was still moving, and had already come a long way.
Last month, a tragedy eliminated my excuse for not learning the actual Torah. When Rabbi Josh Gordon passed away, I decided to start watching his classes on the daily Torah portion on Chabad.org. Jews everywhere were praising Rabbi Gordon’s ability to make Torah accessible; it was time for me to tune in, too. One click on Chabad.org’s homepage and I could be right there learning G-d’s universal message for every Jew, every day. Does my mind wander during Rabbi Gordon’s classes? Sometimes. Are his jokes and stories more memorable than the text? Often. But I’m still learning more Torah than I did before, and that’s all that matters.
I hope my new regimen will help me to love what G-d wants me to love and hate what He wants me to hate. It’s one more spiritual weapon against the world’s cadre of terrorists, the deranged people who live and die for a very un-G-dly cause.
Today is Purim, a day for us to recognize that G-d is our true and eternal salvation, more powerful than any person, deranged or otherwise.