Part One: The Dream

I was so excited. Today it would happen. Today it would all come together. I was amazed no one had thought of it before.

I was waiting in my rabbi's office, poring over my notes. Together, me and him, we would solve all the problems of the world. Together, with me writing, and him speaking, we would correct all the incorrect thinking. We would break through people's perceptions and destroy the stereotypes about Judaism.

I had asked my friends from back home to submit any questions they had about Judaism to me. My rabbi would give me the answers, and I would present them to my friends. Everyone would see G‑d's true beauty.

It made so much sense at the time. Every time I sat for a class at yeshiva, it made more sense to me. All we had to do was bring them a taste of yeshiva, and they would understand that this was real.

I couldn't wait.

In he walked, projecting the usual gravitas that I've come to expect from my rabbis. Yes, this would work. Sure, he was late. And we only had half an hour. But I was confident. We would definitely accomplish something.

And then he started asking me about my idea. As he posed questions to me about how I would style my article, I started to feel as if I was the one being interviewed by him instead of the other way around. Maybe I hadn't thought this through completely. Maybe I was slightly too excited.

Part Two: The Compromise

Finally, he asked to see my questions. I gave him the list. Two pages long. Everything from, "How do I know the Torah is from G‑d and that it's true?" to "Why did G‑d create scorpions and mosquitoes?"

He looked down at the paper. Up at me. Back down at the paper. Back at me. The paper. And then back at me.

As if I was completely insane.

There was no way we could answer questions like these, especially the big ones, quickly and succinctly, the rabbi explained: "It's not a one minute answer." My insanity pressed forward. I still believed we could figure this out. It could be done.

So we made an agreement. Of the more than twenty questions I posed to him, he would answer one. Just one. Sounded reasonable.

The question: How do we know the Torah is real? Not just the written part, but the oral part as well.

And so it began.

Clearly aware of our time constraints, he immediately launched into The Ultimate Proof of Torah. Imagine going to a surgeon who studied surgery for 8 years, and saying, "Tell me in three minutes how to do heart surgery." He began by explaining how we know the Torah is real, "because the revelation at Sinai was witnessed by 3 million people." How basically every other religion, relies on a single person's or small group of people's word to believe in their faith. In Judaism it was different, we had millions of witnesses. As he said, "How could you possibly convince millions of people that millions of people heard G‑d speak?"

It made sense to me. But I felt as if that was part of the problem. It made sense to me because I already believed it. Would my friends back home see the reality behind this statement? Would my friends who had a distrust for organized religion buy this argument? Somehow, I just wasn't sure. It wasn't enough.

We continued. After proving we were given the Torah at Sinai, he continued to prove that the Oral Torah was a part of this revelation. He explained, "The Five Books of Moses are written in an elusive and unclear way." The argument for the Oral Torah is its very necessity. It is part and parcel of the whole Torah experience. It is the Torah.

All these answers satisfied me. But again, I already knew them and some of the depth behind them. I had sat down and studied Oral Torah. I had read a Parshah of the week and realized that I could not make heads or tails of it without my good friend Rashi. And the Rebbe. And all the rest of those commentaries.

But my friends. Most of them hadn't experienced this. Who could honestly, reasonably, expect them to believe us just on word alone? So I kept trying to prod the rabbi. He needed to do better! He needed to help me if we were going to fix all the misconceptions out there. Didn't he realize what was going on?! With each prod came increasingly complicated responses. Less of the answers I wanted and more of the answers that I knew would never work on my friends. What was going on?

Part Three: The Dream Is Shattered

As if sympathizing with my apparent delirium, he finally stopped and took a deep breath. I could see he had had enough.

He gave an analogy: "These type of questions, you know what it's like? Imagine going to a surgeon who studied surgery for 8 years, and saying, 'Tell me in three minutes how to do heart surgery.'

"You know what he would tell you? The question itself is unfair. Because there are things that are not simplistic. Simplistic answers are inherently not true."

My dreams and hopes were exploded in a big fiery mess by this mere analogy. All the Jews. Not experiencing our spiritual heights. He was telling me in no uncertain terms that, "you can't have the answers in five minutes. There are things that take a long time to answer."

I wanted to cry.

But suddenly, a thought struck me. I wasn't always like this. I wasn't always Mr. Observant Guy. In fact, I had spent 22 of my 23 years here on Earth denying that there was even a shred of truth in this whacked out and (apparently) super-complicated religion.

How was it possible for my experience, the experience of everyone at this yeshiva, the experience of any Jew, how could any of this happen? It made no sense, if this stuff was so complicated. If it was so inaccessible from the outside, what possibly could have drawn us to the truth in Judaism in the first place?

Part Four: Wake Up Time

For possibly the first time during the interview, the rabbi looked at me as if I made sense.

Finally no longer rushing, he explained how people come to trust in Judaism despite its complexity. He explained that the Rebbe of Chabad had changed the face of Judaism by reaching beyond Judaism's depth to touch the heart of Judaism.

"Imagine you have an orphan. He grew up in an orphanage," he said, "and all of a sudden a man walks in and he says, 'I'm your father.' There's two things this orphan could do. He could have a DNA test. Or he could run up to his father and hug him. The Rebbe opted for the second way."

A man suddenly walks up to an orphan, and tells him, "I'm your father." This orphan could have a DNA test. Or he could run up to his father and hug him.

I don't think I ever truly appreciated the Rebbe until that moment. But suddenly, with a simple analogy, I remembered what it meant to leave the orphanage. .

When I first walked into a Chabad house, I surrounded myself with walls. I distrusted everyone. I looked at this friendly rabbi as if he had some bag of tricks he was going to pull out at any moment.

Back then, at the beginning of my whole adventure, everything was just like this very moment. I demanded answers, forced explanations, and insisted on truth throughout the night. Nothing worked. Nothing shook me.

Until the farbrengen. Until we sat down, and slowly began talking about the beauty of the world, the amazing way the universe functions. It wasn't until all the pretense of rational explanation was torn apart that we truly reached out to the hand of our Father. We stayed awake until the sun came up. It was beautiful.

And here I was, sitting in the office of another incredible rabbi, almost exactly a year later, learning the exact same lesson but in a different way and from a different position.

"I'll show you the beauty of the mitzvah, the beauty of Judaism. That's what the Rebbe said, 'Right away, hug your Father.'"

Sometimes a yeshiva student needs to remember to wake up from all the details and taste the beauty. Sometimes he needs to look back and remember the first time he put on tefillin or danced on a table in joy to truly appreciate the road he has come down.

Every great rabbi in my life, from Rabbi Shmuel Braun to Rabbi Shmuel at ASU, despite their vast knowledge of Judaism, has reminded me to appreciate the road. To reach out and hug G‑d. To embrace the irrationality of it all.

It was only when I have embraced this part of myself, fully and totally, that I have ever been able to move forward in finding the answers I was looking for. The answers are there. We can access them. But first we need to open ourselves. First, we hug our Father. Then we let him tell us His life story.

This is the power of every Jew. To reach from the deepest depths of rationality and bring out its beauty. This is why none of us are every actually "lost." This is why Judaism will live on forever. Our Father is reaching out to us.

All we have to do is open our arms.

Note: If you are interested in finding out in depth answers to some of the issues discussed above, feel free to check out these articles:

What if I only believe in the written text of the Torah?

Is It Really the Torah, Or Is It Just the Rabbis?