Throughout my childhood, the Torah was considered a sacred object, one that was covered in velvet and locked away in an ominous closet each week. This heavy scroll was associated with thoughts of horror and shame when dropped on the floor; it was revered and acclaimed after surviving another entire year without blemishes or god forbid: smudges. The Torah and all of its values were not to be touched without rubber gloves or a yad, or else an angry Hebrew school teacher would magically appear from a hidden corner. Even worse, my relationship with this oversized text reminded me that the contents of this literature were merely history—never to be repeated.
For faithful people, both Jews and non-Jewish thinkers alike, the Torah is viewed as the polar opposite. They can take this heavy text, rip it apart from its bedazzled exterior, and focus on the core. Not once do they consider this sacred literature to be intimidating, but rather relevant as they apply its eternal messages to their daily lives. It’s not that these people consider the Torah to be any less divine; they just strive to create this “everyday holiness” that is more travel friendly. They can take the jaded parchment and fit it all into their palms of their hands, prepared to take it with them wherever they go.
Luckily, publishing companies eventually strengthened this concept of everyday holiness. At any Barnes & Noble across the globe, one can find JPS pocket sized Bibles and Etz Chayim chumashim on the Judaic shelves—soft covered books that hold the same sacred texts of our faith. What truly holds us all back from not only purchasing one of these pocket sized Bibles, but also making holiness more personal?
Nothing whatsoever held me back.
Today, I have my own purple JPS Tanakh, worn and faded from its constant traveling. The pages are filled with endless notes, highlighted verses, and most importantly, questions. With the ability to make my own initial smudges, I discovered and strengthened a personal connection to the texts ad traditions of my faith. Guided by the questions in my own book, I let myself seek the best answers—answers that carve and mold my own Jewish path.
While I have since gained a deeper understanding and respect for the traditional Torah that is read in synagogues, I value my personal text, filled with pencil marks and creases. I encourage you, regardless of your age, gender, or religion, to create the smudges that will draw you closer to your beliefs. I consider my small purple Tanakh as form of everyday holiness in my life; I know that if my Bible is falling apart, it shows that my life is not.
Perhaps the Torah, the essence of Jewish Scripture, is much more simple and contemporary as we all think: take your faith beyond its biblical origins and create everyday holiness.