Friday, February 09, 2007

Yisro by Ivaylo

This week's Torah portion touches a live nerve deep within my own soul. Much akin to Moses' father-in-law, my personal path to spirituality has been anything but straight and narrow. Born, raised, and indoctrinated behind the Iron Curtain, the chances of discovering a faith, any faith, were somewhere between slim and none. Yet, I am here to tell You - if I could do it, against all odds, so can You.
At the age of thirteen or so, I was awoken in the middle of the night by an unusual dream - an image of a word had been emblazoned deep in my mind's eye. The word, which at that age I did not know the definition of, was "EMANATION." That is how my search for truth commenced. Looking back, sometimes I wish that there was some sort of explanation attached to it, something to push me towards Judaism even then. But it was not meant to be, I had to pass through years of trials, tribulations, twists, turns and a myriad of dead ends, to finally make it where I stand today.
The sages teach us that when we are introduced to a spiritual concept that is true, it resonates within our soul, and we know it is absolutely true, even if we are unable to prove it in any tangible fashion. That is how I feel about Judaism. The sources tell of an angel who teaches the entire Torah to every child in the womb, and when the child is born the angel causes the child to forget it by gifting it with speech. On a personal note, Torah learning for me feels like remembering, rather than learning anew. It is said that the souls of the generations of Israel, as well as the souls of all future converts were present at Mt. Sinal. Again I feel, I know, that I was there, and the experience at Mt. Sinai is inside my own heart.
Where Yitro and I differ, however is at the historical backdrop in which we join the Jewish people. A spiritual giant of a man, Yitro heard what G-d had done for the Jewish people and hurried over to embrace their faith. Things could not be better for the Jews, and becoming one carried certain intrinsic benefits. As for myself, you don't need many examples from our day and age to prove you that as Jews, we are fighting an uphill battle. So why make life harder than it already is?
My father, may G-d have mercy on his soul, did not relate to my understanding of spirituality. An atheist to the bone, he viewed my journey as a waste of time and energy. My mother, a nominal Christian, supports my actions, as she feels in her heart that this is not a choice I have made - this is who I am.
What about you? Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are doing here?
The answers to all these questions, and more are to be found in Torah. Study, learn, help others learn, do the mitzvahs that's what I feel defines our existence. Moreover, if you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, if you are fulfilling your mission, your soul reverberates with joy, and you are truly happy to serve Hashem.

Ivaylo V. Stanev

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