10 May 2010

Omer 41: Low to High

Omer Forty One

I had a realization recently while talking to a friend.

When he decided to be a rabbi, he went into a yeshiva in Jerusalem and after earning his rabbinic degree, worked there for more than a decade.  In those seventeen years, he felt he finally had the authority to speak on behalf the Jewish tradition.  And speak with authority he does.  He's a really brilliant teacher.

I was in "yeshiva" for five years and worked full-time during three of those years and have been working ever since.  I spend more time each day for the past twenty years working, not studying, though with a fair degree of consistency, I make time to study each day.  It's a slow, steady drip of water, which, as Rabbi Akiva taught, will eventually penetrate this hard skull of mine.  But with each paragraph of learning, I am acutely aware of how much I don't know.  It is both a humbling and frustrating experience.

Awareness of one's ignorance can be a great motivator for increased learning, as long as one doesn't give up in the face of this humbling reality.  Ironically (or not) with Torah, where the Sages teach one may, during study, experience the Divine Presence, that humbling can be a sacred experience.  And so in lowering ourselves, we have the potential to achieve new heights. 

A fear of heights that starts low.

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