By M. Alexander
The Torah has always interested me, both as a piece of literature and as a historic document; as a point of contention, rather than as a means of connection. I studied it in college and criticized it with my friends. I rejected it, seeing it as a document to control the masses.
It wasn’t until I came to Beit T’Shuvah that I began to see the Torah as a path, as a way, as instruction, as teaching, and as law. Beit T’Shuvah’s brand of Torah is one of personal redemption and of recovery. Each story in the Torah can teach a lesson to the drug addict, the depressed, the gambler, and the person who wants a better life. I had been looking at The Torah through the eyes of a cynical rejectionist contrarian; once my mind was opened, even by one grain of sand, the messages were able to flood in.
I had always learned that the first sin was eating from The Tree of Knowledge. Beit T’Shuvah teaches that the true sin in the Garden Story is hiding. When Adam and Eve realize what they have done, they hide, attempting to avoid God’s wrath. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. I have committed many errors (heit, missing the mark) in my life. I must stop hiding when I miss the mark and show through my actions that I can change.
While wandering in the desert, after leaving my master, Pharaoh Heroin, I search for other comforts. These are my golden calves—the girl across the hall, the new job, the power, and the prestige. The battle for freedom is just beginning. I am free from the grips of The Pharaoh, but false gods are omnipresent. I must not find false gods in sobriety.
During Simchat Torah, the celebration that marks the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis, we wrap the Torah around each of the residents and community members. Everybody is assigned a word from the Torah; mine was B’reishit (the beginning). Just as the Torah is incomplete if one word is missing, the community suffers if one member is missing. Every word matters and every person matters. What a novel, enlightening concept for this cynic!