By Jaron Zanerhaft
For most of my life, I have not been the son of a Rabbi. My father, a practicing attorney since the early 80’s, received rabbinic ordination from a Beit Din around the same time I left home for college. As a student, my father transferred to a secular school one year before obtaining his rabbinic degree, but his Jewish education had irrevocably shaped his soul. From this, I benefited immensely. When I was a child, my father would tell me stories most Friday nights after we lit Shabbat candles, filling my young mind with Midrash and Talmud. Every week, we would go over the Torah portion together, accessing every character and plot line. Torah became a part of me, a part that I denied in my days leading up to Beit T’Shuvah, a part that daily morning study here would soon revive.
I had started to grow accustomed to Beit T’Shuvah’s 7:00 a.m. Torah Study when one Wednesday, a couple of months after I arrived at Beit T’Shuvah, the person slotted to lead Torah Study didn’t show up. When it became apparent no one was coming, my friend Martin jokingly suggested that I give it a try. Of course, I didn’t realize he was joking and took his challenge seriously. “I can do this,” I thought to myself as I quickly scanned the text. The wisdom was right there in the words. All I had to do was be a conduit. I approached the podium and, with a straight face, began to speak. We covered the laws in Deuteronomy about finding lost property, and by the end of the hour, we had come up with an inventory of what people currently had missing in the house. While speaking, I felt alert and lucid, yet strangely calm. For a moment, my anxiety disorder subsided completely. I was in what we refer to here as “the flow state.” Not too long after, I worked up the courage to ask Rabbi Mark about a regular spot on the Torah Study rotation. He gave it to me!
I get a lot out of leading Torah Study. In front of the Beit T’Shuvah morning crowd, I am in my element. In high school, I participated in competitive public speaking, and I’ve been given the chance to recover that passion. I love analyzing texts, drawing meaning from literature to help me find a better way to live. I love teaching; I never learn as much as when I give my knowledge away. With the insight of the unique perspectives here, I even help my father write his sermons. Most importantly, however, the child inside me enchanted by Torah is finally being nurtured. Who knows? Maybe someday, that child will grow up to be a Rabbi, too.