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Not A Commercial… But Sort Of

By Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro, October 2015

This is not a commercial for Torah Study, although you may be inclined to experiment with learning on a future Saturday morning after you read what happened last week.

A young woman came to see me. She was someone I knew from a previous Temple. She had gone through Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation with me. Years passed. She found herself immersed in alcohol and drugs and was now involved with Alcoholics Anonymous.

She wanted to talk because part of the AA Twelve Step was feeling too “Christian” for her. She was having trouble finding a way to pray and repent before what AA calls a greater power.

Could I help her resolve the problem? Could I help her find a prayer?

Not such an easy request! I certainly knew instantly that I wouldn’t find a classic prayer in the siddur for her, but I also knew that our tradition has wonderful resources. There had to be a prayer for someone trying to reconcile himself or herself with God and the world.

So I thought, and then I remembered what I had taught at Torah Study precisely five days earlier. In a conversation about the meaning of forgiveness and purity, I had brought Psalm 51 to our Torah Study group.

To be honest, it’s a psalm I probably hadn’t read in a decade, but I came across it in preparing Torah Study. We read it together and fortunately the words stayed in my head.

I say “fortunately” because Psalm 51 is all about feelings of failure and a grand desire on the part of the author to be cleansed and renewed.

It turns out that Psalm 51 could almost have been written for a recovering substance abuser and I was able to share it with the woman visiting me because I had learned it in Torah Study!

It was a beautiful moment. Full of satisfaction for her and for me.

You never know what you (or I) might learn at Torah Study! Sometimes the right text can make your day.

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