This term I began studying Biblical Hebrew. Languages do not come easily to me. I devised a plan to motivate my study- rekindle my love of Judaism. I have been amazed by how much my heart sang within the richness of Jewish thought and the scriptural and life lessons that have filled my reading. The books have transformed and renewed not only my desire to study Hebrew but my personal understanding of God and faith.
Carol Ochs in her book Our Lives as Torah presented a beautiful idea that we find God not only in the scriptures but also in our own lives. She argues that we find God is in our own stories, making our lives holy and sacred. The Torah is a record of imperfect people trying to understand God. They messed up often, committed atrocities, , struggled to transcend their own humaneness, and labored to find the divine Because the Torah like our lives is complicated and messy, we can find meaning in the texts for our own journey. Ochs offered this quote about how our lives are inter connected to God and to the scriptures.
The Torah stories didn’t all happen once, a long, long time ago: they continue to happen, so now it is our turn to respond to the great challenges they offer. We, like the characters that populate Genesis, must learn how to reconcile with our siblings, venture forth to unknown places, find God’s presence in and through our wanderings, and try to live a life of faithfulness worthy of the dignity we gained by being created in the image of God.
Personally this connection with God and the ancient texts renewed a focus in my life. And while I love the scriptures and study them have struggled in recent years to find personal spiritual nourishment from my traditional methods. Ochs’ thesis that we can find ourselves in the stories of the scriptures and that we can find God in our lives lead nicely into her proposal that we need to develop what she called a personal theology. I felt that I needed to develop a personal theology, a relationship with God, one that brought my own life and the scriptures into greater focus. Mormonism with the theology of continuing revelation, agency, and an open cannon clarified what the spirit was telling me, that I needed to find God in my own story.
There is a human need to connect us to others across time, to find something that endures. The scriptures for me are part of that connection. The ancient texts are a conglomeration of individuals, families, and civilizations. I had previously seen God in certain aspects of my life story, but I had never attempted to find God in the whole overarching narrative. For a very long time I was angry with God for how my life had turned out. I felt stuck in one story line that I knew was damaging, but I felt as thought my trajectory had been decided and could not change. Laura Weakley in her book What the Torah Teaches Us About Life, shares the following quote:
Every person also has a spark of God within. We can choose to ignore this, or to embrace this. We have the power of choice. With this great power, comes great responsibility. You see, not only were we given the ability to reason, but also, we have the ability to create a new and different future, because we have the ability to change, both ourselves, and the world.
I have begun to find God in my own journey, but I am still co-writing my story with God. My love is not complete yet. My faith continues to grow. I wrestle with my weakness and explore my doubts. Learning Hebrew does not feel so daunting. My God lives. My life is Torah.