The other day I was going through some old files on my computer and discovered a folder called "writing"--a bunch of stuff from the days when I was afraid to commit very much to words, but screwed up the courage occasionally as long as I didn't have to show anyone. I found these paragraphs from May, 2001, written right after Shavuot and half a year before C. convinced me to learn to chant Torah:
"The experience I had [three years ago, when I first joined my synagogue] felt like I had fallen in love. But I would never actually use this metaphor out loud; it sounds crazy.
But at the Tikkun Leil Shavuot tonight, I realized I was not crazy. The more I learn, the more I see that I knew so much of this already. I've just not had the words to express it. It seems so right, so complete, and that's what I felt at that moment three years ago. An awareness of reality. 'Truth' doesn't describe it. Rather, it was simply the way things are, which until that moment had been obscured.
...After the Tikkun, everyone started singing a niggun and clapping. This, of course, is [how things are done at my synagogue], but it seemed very profound to me at that moment... A happiness like Simhat Torah, but measured, because there is so much promise yet to fulfill.
...[The rabbi] ended his talk by saying that learning is always unfinished, and that in itself is the privilege of Torah. Neverending. I've been looking for so many explanations over these past three years. It's kind of exhilarating to realize I will never find them, but will always be assembling the pieces.
I was less excited than usual about going to this Tikkun. Lately, I've started to feel my enthusiasm wane. Things become rote. The enthusiasm is far from disappearing, I should add, but perhaps routine has clouded my excitement. But tonight brought back that feeling when I least expected it. I was also reminded that this community, in many ways, knows me more honestly than anyone else. Who I am with them is who I am, right now, to my core. With work, with [singing in my secular choir] there's always an element of artifice, which of course is what life is about. But here I can be sad, or happy, clap or sing, be interested in arcane matters, and I am not judged. I am accepted and celebrated, along with everyone else. How rare to have this privilege."
I don't remember writing this, but do recall the shock of discovering that authentic part of myself. If I had said no to C.--if I had never learned to chant Torah--would I have stayed to around to find more answers? Or would I have fallen into the trap of routine, unable to recapture the excitement of those first moments? Who would I be today, and how would I talk to God, if I hadn't discovered the voice with which to ask these questions?