Looking back at my previous offerings for this week's Torah portion -- Shemot, the first parsha in the book of Shemot, which is known in English as Exodus -- I rediscovered a Torah poem I'd forgotten I'd written: Labor. I wrote it and shared it here during January of 2010, a scant handful of weeks after our son was born. (No wonder I don't remember writing it! Those first couple of months are a blur to me now.) Rereading it now transports me back to the birthing room. I suspect that my sense of Shifrah and Puah, the two midwives listed in this week's portion, has been permanently changed by the experience of giving birth.
This is one of the things I love about reading Torah year after year. The text is unchanging: the same handwritten words on the same aging vellum. (Or typeset and printed on paper, or blazing forth from a computer or ipad screen.) But we bring ourselves to bear on the text: our experiences, our dreams, our hopes, our fears. Being a parent changes the way I read Torah. I empathize with the parents in our holy text; I empathize with God as the cosmic Parent (Who is, I would argue, learning to parent creation as S/he goes along, just as any human parent learns how to rear a child by diving in and doing it.)
And someday, I imagine, becoming a grandparent will change the way I read Torah. I can't imagine, now, what will resonate for me in this text when I enter my sage-ing years. But I know that I'll still be searching for meaning in this text then. That's another one of the things I love about reading Torah year after year. We've made a commitment to each other, Torah and I. Torah promises to be here always, to be rife with possibilities, to spark my imagination and my spirit; I promise to keep reading, to keep turning and turning to see what I find in her this time around.
Hold the parsha up to the light and see what shines forth for you this year.
(As always, you can find my previous divrei Torah and Torah poems at the Velveteen Rabbi's Torah Commentary index page, listed by parsha and by year. The 2013 d'var Torah for this week's parsha will go live on Sunday, once we've moved into the new week -- I'll be sharing it at my shul on Shabbat morning, so if you're burning to find out what I have to say about Shemot this year, come daven with us at CBI!)