I did something today that I’ve been dreading for many years. I started to clean up my room. But not my current adult/wife/mommy room (which could actually use a cleaning now that we’re on the subject), but rather my childhood/teenage room that’s been frozen in time, circa 1998, at my parents’ house. They’re moving, or at least they might be, so I was given my packing orders (literally) – and a deadline.
Now I’m not one for too much sentimentality. (If you look at my wedding album, the one doing the crying is my dear, sweet husband). However, there is something about revisiting your childhood that is filled with enough memories to get even someone like me to do a little bit of feeling and quite a bit of thinking.
And so I got to thinking about how the stuff that made it into my “save box” – the objects that had survived the doomed toss to the “no pile” – would be exactly what I’d want to take with me if my house was ever burning down. (Always good to have stuff like that consolidated into one convenient location should conflagration strike, no?)
The first thing you grab in a fire is your pictures, but I realized that what also was ending up in my “save box” was different things that I had made over the years. Not made in the art project-sense, but more like ideas that I had come up with and jotted down, notes from people who explained how I had positively impacted their lives, and various stories and papers that I had written and was proud of.
But there was something else that I felt the need to include in my special box – the Torah that I have learned. According to Jewish law, in order to show respect, we’re not allowed to just throw out words of Torah. So anything with Torah verses or God’s name on it has to be put in a place called “sheimos” and subsequently buried.
My hesitation to throw out the notebooks and photocopied pages of Torah from my year of learning in Israel had nothing to do with me being too lazy to schlep them over to a shul (where sheimos is usually collected). What I realized instead is that I wanted to save that Torah for the same exact reason that I wanted to save all the other stuff in the box. I made it. Now just so there’s no confusion, I didn’t write the Torah, nor am I a famous commentator to the Torah. But there’s an idea that when we learn Torah and truly acquire it, it becomes our own. We internalize it, make it a part of ourselves, apply to our lives, and personalize it. And although I regrettably don’t remember every word of every class from that year, the overall effect that learning had on me was profound.
I had heard this idea of acquiring Torah many times before, but it was only when I realized that I wasn’t able to part with those old notebooks and packets, that I truly understood what it meant. May we all merit to not only learn beautiful words of Torah but also to be given the ability to make them our own.