By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
With the opening of our new space at 8847 Venice Blvd., I have been thinking about how I got to where I am in life from where I was some 26+ years ago. I was locked up for the 2nd time and all I had was a Prayer Book and a Chumash, a book with the entire Torah in it. I chose to sit each day and pray and study. In doing so, I realized that the prayers were not going to God, they were penetrating me. I found myself hungry for a window into my own soul and the Truth of my own story. I started to read the Bible in this manner. With the help of Rabbi Mel Silverman, I was able to see myself in the stories of the Bible. I don’t involve myself in whether the incidents happened; rather I immerse myself in the teachings. After all, Torah means teaching.
I began by seeing myself in Adam and Eve. I understood their curiosity and their need to disobey. I lived this most of my life. I have always been curious and loved the attention and the rush of disobeying. I also had lived my life by blaming others and circumstances. It was the way I defined myself. I was never wrong, it was never my fault, there were always extenuating circumstances, etc. I just had never had the courage to say I was hiding when God called Ayecha, where are you.
When I read the Jacob story, I really got it. I saw the part of Jacob that was a liar, a cheat, a thief, and LOVED him. I could relate to him. Up until then, I had always thought of the people in the Bible as perfect. Good guys and Bad guys were always different, good and bad couldn’t co-exist in one person. What we call the either/or mentality. Through the story of Jacob and his wrestling with the Angel, I found out that good and bad existed in all of us. I learned that I had to see myself in every character and in each situation in the Torah, otherwise I was hiding from me and therefore from everyone else. As a person who led multiple lives and hid from everyone, including myself, this was a frightening experience.
I have continued to look into my soul to see the good and the not good in me. I have continued to wrestle with God, self and others in a life/death struggle to fail forward. This is the essential struggle for all of us. Each day, each year we have to see ourselves in prayer and Torah—see our "one grain of sand" march forward towards healing the essential pain of our separation from God.
Rabbi Heschel said, "When our life is an answer, death is a homecoming." We have received a gift, the gift of response—the gift to be able to say Hineni, here I am, to God, to ourselves and to others. What is stopping you from your march forward? What is stopping you from responding? Let's join the march of our ancestors, Jew and non-Jew alike, towards a world of joy, justice, love, responsibility, Truth, transparency, authenticity and T’Shuvah.