(To the tune of "My Favorite Things")

Torah and Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya
Mishnah and Rambam, the Zohar's Kabbalah
The Five Books of Moses, Deuteronomy, too
How do I understand what I never knew?

So, I'm trying.

My friend Lily suggested a little spiritual guidanceIt started when my friend Lily took me to a rabbi's lecture a number of years ago. I was very impressed with the elegance of his wording, his manner of addressing people in the room, and moreover, the substance of his discussion. Not that I remember what he spoke about, but I do remember him answering an emotionally charged and difficult question posed by a woman in the audience. His response was calm, logical, compassionate and thought-provoking.

You would think I would return the following week or the next month for another lecture, but I didn't. About a year later, I had some personal issues and when I had exhausted all avenues of help, my friend Lily suggested a little spiritual guidance. I called the rabbi. We made an appointment, I went, we spoke, and I felt better. The end. Not quite. So then I asked, "So what should I do now?" His reply: "Come to my Torah class. Once a week." That's it? That's it.

And so it began.

Brachot and Shabbat, Mitzvot and Kosher
Levels of meaning bring us closer and closer
The Oral [Torah], the Written [Torah] and what's in between
Rabbi, I ask you, what does this all mean?

I loved the classes. I loved the learning. Some of my friends thought I was becoming "religious." That was a good one, considering I always thought an observant Jew was someone who noticed that the carpet needed a cleaning. But one thing was certain. Wednesday night was my night. My class. My continuing adult education became the single most interesting and enjoyable hour of the week. I didn't care what it all meant, what other people thought about it or where it would lead me. I was concerned that perhaps I had started this studying a little late in life, in my forties, and I thought it would be a good idea if they had "Torah for Dummies." It could help get me up to speed, so to speak. I mean, there were ten-year-old children who knew more than me. But the truth is: How many specific facts can one remember? It's difficult to say.

But the beauty of learning, much like the joy of living, is that it is a gracious and gradual process with no beginning and no end. A rabbi's words, a passage from Torah, a morning in synagogue… All these things enrich and propel us towards a more meaningful understanding of who we are. For me, it translates into more joy and pride in being a Jew. I am learning that even if I don't know all the rules and regulations, dates and names of all that has been written, there is more of that from where that came. Our minds and souls are open to growing at an exponential rate.

"When it's Shabbat, I get happy, I know it's time to rest
People may think I know so much more
But I'm just learning the Aleph Beit! "

Learning is a gracious and gradual processMy desire to learn, study and put these ideas into practice came at a time when my physical limitations were getting to be a problem. If you have read some of my other pieces here, you may remember that I was waiting for a double-lung transplant. If you are reading me for the first time, this bit of information has some importance.

There was a time I really moved fast, too fast to sit down for long or to study anything for the time it required. I was always going somewhere, had to do something, call someone. Then my options became extremely limited. Guess what? I read more. I listened more intently. I conserved my energy to absorb and put into practice whatever I could glean from our sacred texts. And I'd try to help my friends and family as they travel on their own paths.

I have learned some things about people that I might not have noticed before, specifically where actions are stronger than words. For example, my Uncle Hershey. He would come visit every weekend. He'd bring some food; we shared some good jokes; he gave my husband advice… Hmm, where have I seen or heard of this before?

Ah, yes. In the Morning Blessing we read: "…hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick… bringing peace between man and his fellow man and between husband and wife…" For a long time, I never thought of my Uncle Hershey as being particularly observant, and yet he totally is. It is in what he does; his neshama, his Jewish soul, leads him in this way. I am not sure he learned this from a book. However, it did take a book, my siddur, my prayerbook, to show me this about him. I appreciate and admire him even more.

The best part of all this is that I find it to be 100% true that Torah is a manual for life. It reveals itself to me, mostly, in the simplest of ways instead of those "eureka" moments. And I do believe it was, and is, life-saving for me.

Maybe I am not such a dummy after allBefore my transplant, when I would wake up in the morning, my first thought and feeling was, literally, "Am I breathing enough?" Then, I'd do what I needed to do. I'd take my inhaler medications. When I was breathing stronger, I'd get up and wash my hands. I'd come back to my room, pick up my siddur and say my morning prayers, thanking G‑d I was alive another day. And I continue to read and remind myself that it is in everyone's best interest to be a good person, and a good Jew.

So maybe I am not such a dummy after all. Really, none of us are. But it sure doesn't hurt to learn a thing or two on a regular basis. It can be a life-saver. Maybe even yours.