Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Lulei Toratecha- Torah-learning as a type of prayer
לוּלֵי תוֹרָתְךָ שַׁעֲשֻׁעָי אָז אָבַדְתִּי בְעָנְיִי
Were it not for Your Torah my delight, I would be lost in my pain.
(Loose translation of Tehillim 119:92)
I’m struggling with tefillah and not for the first time. The words seem stale and I mostly mumble them thoughtlessly. I wonder about the efficacy of my prayers, and about their purpose. At the same time, I’m probably more engaged in my Torah-learning than I’ve ever been. It has not only given me a creative outlet and a connection to God at a challenging time in my life. In some ways, it has become a form of prayer.
This past Shabbos, my friend Rabbi Neil Fleischmann shared an understanding of the above-mentioned pasuk from Tehillim. He pointed out that Torah does not always offer comfort at times of difficulty. It only does so when it is “my delight”. This idea really resonated with me. Not all Torah-learning is the same. As with tefillah, there are times when it can feel uninspiring. If I am engaging in Torah to a greater degree than in the past, it is because I have found areas that interest me, showing the wisdom of the chachamim who said that one only truly learns that which they are interested in learning. As I struggle to find the meaning of a midrash, or make sense of a challenging concept, I am where I want to be, and I think that shows in the Torah that I am sharing.
There’s a second step however and here’s where my Torah-learning feels like a type of prayer. The Psalmist refers to it as “Your Torah”, seemingly emphasizing the point that the joy and comfort that can be found in Torah is discovered when the Torah is seen as God’s Torah. As I learn God’s Torah, and attempt to make it mine, I feel as if I transform what I am learning through my understanding, and return it to God as a prayer. It is at that moment when I feel as if I am most directly connecting with my Creator and expressing my trust and belief in Him.