Teen discovers passion for reading Torah

As the days get colder and the leaves begin to turn colors, it’s that time of year again.

For some, it is the beginning of football season and hoodie weather. However, to the Jewish community, it has a deeper intensity. It’s the holiest time of the year, when the synagogues are packed and the tallits are unfolded. Our rabbis and spiritual leaders are preparing to deliver a significant sanctification. The High Holidays are a time of reflection and forgiveness, when families and communities congregate to celebrate the metaphoric beginning of creation. The synagogue is clean, the pews are filled with congregants, and the vestibules are welcoming. To all it is a period of powerful invocation and prayer. 

To me, Judaism has not just been a religion, but a developing commitment — a commitment to spend some of my time contributing in the community, by helping with community service, aiding at Sunday school, and partaking in High Holiday services. My favorite — and the most meaningful — action for myself is reading Torah. To witness the magnificent scrolls open before me is a moment of true enlightenment. 

At first, I was hesitant. But as the years go by, I have grown in alacrity. To be able to have the courage, skill and opportunity to read can not be taken for granted. To be so adjacent to God is a gift. The High Holiday services are usually longer than most, so when I read, I prefer to read with intention and denotation. First, so I can awaken the usually insipid crowd, but second, to create a holy and consequential connection with my God and redeemer.   

As a gift for my bar mitzvah, I received a handmade yad from Israel. Following my bar mitzvah, I put it away, expecting to never use it again. In previous years, a high school student would often read Torah at my synagogue. Following my bar mitzvah, he ceased to read as he journeyed away from St. Louis to attend college. A sudden calling — not just from my mother, who is a rabbi at Temple Emanuel — impelled me to take over. I found the once discarded yad, and took it out to try what I hope will become my lifelong zeal.

When I leave for college, I am positive that there will be successors to read Torah. A new generation of readers are becoming inspired and are already taking other leadership roles in their community. Nevertheless, I hope that this meaningful tradition will live on for generations. I have faith that I too have encouraged and persuaded young men and women to step forward and grasp the reins of reading Torah. 

For myself, however, I will endeavor to find a synagogue near me, wherever I am, and will pursue what I once took up. Originally, as a requirement, but now as passion.