I told my chavrusa (study partner) that learning Gemora is the “ultimate humbling experience.”
Well, for me anyway!
You think you have it all figured out, and then the Gemora tells you: start all over again!
Hopefully, Torah remakes us, takes golus out of us and re-molds us as loyal followers of the Master of the Universe!
And so, we come to Mount Sinai. We had to unlearn a lot before we got here. It all started in the Garden of Eden, where our first parents thought they were just “a little” smarter than Hashem. That’s where the trouble began, and it only piled up more and more until our Father Abraham arrived and started the process of unlearning, peeling away the layers covering our collective neshoma (soul) until the pure, shining creation of Hashem could be revealed.
“Neshama shenasata bi tahora hi … the soul You placed within me is pure!” (Morning prayers)
All that we have gone through, the Himalayan-scale mountains of suffering, the oceans of tears, it seems they were necessary in order to allow us to bathe once again in the light of Torah.
“You reduce man to pulp and You say, ‘Repent, oh sons of man!” (Psalm 90)
And, a few lines later, “Gladden us according to the days You afflicted us!”
Several years ago, I had serious surgery. I suffered much pain in the aftermath. And then, during the recovery, I had a dream: I was inside the Bais Hamikdosh (the Holy Temple). The air was pure, filled with the aroma of ketores (incense). I felt as if I were inside the Gemora.
How did I get into the Bais Hamikdosh? When I awoke, I realized that, in order to get there, I needed to go through all that suffering. Something had to be fixed in me … more than physical.
Everything is calculated by Hashem. If we want to return to Him – and we all really do want to return to Him! – then we need to follow Him wherever the path may lead us, even through “the valley overshadowed by death.” (Psalm 23)
Hashem said to Moshe, “Behold, I come to you in the thickness of the cloud!” (Exodus19:9)
A few days ago we celebrated T’U b’Shevat (the Fifteenth Day of the Month of Shevat, the Rosh Hashana of trees). On that day, sap starts to flow inside trees which have slumbered during the long, cold winter. On that day, life starts to awaken. Microscopic beginnings of flowers and fruits appear.
May we all soon gather around the Bais Hamikdosh and say, with all our hearts, “na’ase v’nishma … I will do and I will hear!” (Exodus 24:7)
“When Hashem will return the captivity of Tzion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouth will be filled with laughter and our tongue with glad song!” (Psalm 126) Though our path may lead through darkness, that is where it is heading, and may we all see it soon in our days!