I knew as I embarked on the 14th Cycle of the Daf Yomi that there would be things that well… troubled me. I knew there would be things that I did not understand, that I might not agree with, and that would challenge me. I knew it would be tough.
The important thing for me is that I have the knowledge. I need to know what’s what and to know things as fully as possible. I know I won’t get close to 613, but the more I know the better I can become. And knowing what to do and what should be done is half the battle.It’s amazing to think that so many people are studying the same, single page every single day and will be for the next 7 1/2 years. So I am always reminded that I am not, and am never in this alone…
So far the knowledge and insight I have been given is priceless. I feel so much more connected to Judaism and Hashem, and I am excited to continue on the journey. But some of what is taught in the Talmud is dense and in depth and quite honestly way over my head. I know there have been some lessons I probably tried to get through more quickly.
And then there are those lessons that really confound me. The main one at the moment is how I am not supposed to listen to a woman sing. While I now understand this on a level I never did before, I still question it. I do get it, truly, and know that I should be following the laws to the “t,” but I also know that at the moment, there are also areas in my life that are meaningful and important, and music is one of them. I am torn and confused and trying hard to make sense of so many things.And like I said, I know there are things I can do at the moment, and am trying to focus on those mitzvahs, and trying to be the best version of myself I can be. And Torah and Talmud is showing me the way. I am also becoming more okay with not knowing and not fully understanding. That is a scary place for me. But my faith in Hashem is connecting me to the known and the unknown.
At the same time I am in the midst of all of this, studying Daf Yomi and Tanya, I am trying to deal with other things in my life. It can be daunting and overwhelming. But the Torah is a blue print, a guide for living, and so are Jewish books like the Tanya. They offer practical understanding and ways to be better and live a more fulfilled life.One of my favorite “interpreters” of the Tanya is Rabbi Tzvi Freeman. He is able to take so many texts like the Tanya and make them “modern” and “user friendly.” Not that the Tanya isn’t already user friendly, but he has this way of making it even more personal. An episode of his podcast called “10 Hacks For Mental Control That Every Human Being Should Know” is astoundingly brilliant and is the perfect marriage of Judaism, Jewish teachings and psychology.
The most relevant and powerful for me is this one, #2: You can’t choose how you feel, but you can choose what you think, and what you think has the power to control and change what you feel.
He also reminds us that #3: “Your Thoughts Never Stop,” and #4: “Your Thoughts Are Not You And You Are Not Your Thoughts.” And #5 as the antidote: “Always Keep A Set Of Healthy Thoughts In Your Pocket.”He tells us to never be afraid to plead with Hashem when things get really rough and to always ponder life and the miracles in front of us:
“Fix your mind on the vastness of creation. Think of the core of this consciousness.
Envision this great consciousness reaching out to you with unbounded love, asking you to join in a private relationship with Him.
As you bring that consciousness, that core of consciousness, bring Him into your life by pondering His wisdom and the beauty of His works, by sharing with Him the innermost concerns of your heart.
By reaching back to him in love and awe, your spirit bonds with His as you utter the words of His wisdom that flow to us through his Torah and its Sages, your lips join with his in every word.
As you fill the world with that infinite light by fulfilling your particular mission in this world, doing the mitzvahs He has entrusted into your hands, you embrace Him, and you are embraced by Him, from head to toe.
Hold on to this thought for long enough, says the Tanya, and the human heart can’t help but mirror that boundless love.”