Through my own process and journey of writing [Torah Journeys], my enthusiasm has been kindled into a fire that warms and illuminates so much more than the Torah.
One afternoon my friend Miryam was visiting and I was passionately explaining to her what it was I was writing. I wanted her to understand the method I was using in my approach to text. “It’s a rigorous practice,” I said. “You can’t sit back and criticize or blame what you don’t like in the Torah. Instead you must search for those same difficulties in yourself and then engage in a process of healing and purification. Instead of blaming, you have to take responsibility.”
Just then as I sat with my friend in the afternoon light ardently expounding my approach to sacred text… I heard a voice speaking ever so gently yet firmly in my right ear.
“And you could live your whole life that way.”
The tone of this voice was so matter-of-fact, so patient, so loving. I continued my conversation with Miryam, but at some deep place I had been awakened to a challenge.
What would it mean “to live my whole life that way?”
What would happen if I stopped blaming, and instead channeled the energy of blame into self-examination and wise response? What would it mean to look for the blessing in each moment? What would it mean to consciously receive the spiritual challenge of each moment, each interaction, every feeling, each relationship, each paradox… and accept that challenge wholeheartedly? What would it mean to look for and commit to a practice that would help me to rise to that challenge and receive the blessing of each moment?
I thought I was writing a book about accessing the treasures of Torah. I wanted to share this amazing journey. Now I wonder if the purpose of Torah Journeys isn’t really to learn this method of encountering the text so that we can apply the very same method to our encounter with the texts of our lives – the day to day struggles and surprises that Life sends us.
Sitting in the Dallas airport, I learn that my connecting flight home to New Mexico has been cancelled, the next flight is overbooked, and I’ll be stuck here with hundreds of frustrated travelers for who knows how long. Can I stop and look for the blessing of this moment? (time to read, opportunity to serve others with a friendly countenance…) Can I rise to the spiritual challenge? (what a good test of my patience, an opportunity to practice surrender…) Can I find the practice that will help me? (Keeping my heart open through it all, self-awareness, conscious breath, walking meditation…)
I read a newspaper and am filled with rage against the injustice perpetrated by the people who are in power in the world. Can I transform that rage into wise and righteous response (taking action that will be both effective and appropriate)? Can I admit to the places of apathy, despair, numbness or fearful divisiveness inside my own heart? Can I accept responsibility for my complicity in this unjust system? Or will my anger become self-righteousness, rigidifying into an “us vs. them” perspective that will leave me powerless and ineffective?
The practice of receiving Torah — all of it — and using the whole text as a mirror of the inner landscape, prepares me to know my whole world in the same way. Each of us is a microcosm of Reality. To know the vast realms of Self is to know the Universe… And when I glimpse the Great Mystery of All, I am sent within to know that wholeness from the inside.
It is a rigorous practice. You can’t sit back and criticize or blame what you don’t like in the World. Instead you must search for those same difficulties in yourself and then engage in a process of healing and purification. Instead of blaming, you have to take responsibility.
To take responsibility means to fully live the life you are given and take your place in the cosmic dance… to intimately engage with the Reality before you “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It means to finally grow up into your full stature as Lover — accepting the lavish blessing and daunting challenge of this world while resting fully in God’s supporting embrace.
To spend our whole lives gladly “growing up” — becoming a vehicle for blessing, rising to the challenge of our humanity, committing ourselves to practices of compassion and justice…
This is the most wondrous, exciting, adventure-filled journey there is!
Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.