Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Hundred and First Time

Parshat Mishpatim
22 Shvat, 5771
January 27th, 2011

My first Shabbat in college, I, a very Jewishly engaged teenager, proudly walked into Hillel expecting to find my place immediately. This expectation was not to be born out.
Everything seemed wrong: they prayed wrong, services felt wrong, people acted wrong. No one was friendly. Nothing was right. I was then asked to make Kiddush, which, to my mortification, I proceeded to butcher in front of 200 people. I stepped out of that building and didn’t return for two years.
 The irony, of course, is that I’ve found my home in Torah and Judaism, made a grateful life out of its practice. Those people who weren’t friendly (who were actually just giving me space) are good friends.
There is a beautiful teaching that helps me to understand my experience. “There is no comparison,” teaches the Midrash, “between one who has studied a chapter a hundred times and between one who has studied it a hundred and one times.”Ö
            I cannot deny the power of the newness of things and the attraction of love at first sight. However, it seems to me that first sight is also where we’re the most blind.
            Torah is almost ridiculously in favor of second sight: not of reading, but re-reading; not of experiencing, but rather re-experiencing. Its wisdom is that our lives regularly turn out in ways that we could not have dreamed of previously, and that we often make treasures out of what we initially reject: even ma’asu habonim haitah l’rosh pinah – the stone that the builders rejected has become the foundation. Psalm 118
May the wisdom of understanding through repetition become part of your spiritual practice.

Shalom u’Verakhah
Peace and Blessing,
Rabbi Scott Perlo
Ö Midrash Zuta, Kohelet 9

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