A few Sundays ago at the Jewish Museum of Maryland on Lloyd Street as I wandered among the many ancient and holy artifacts of the Iraqi Jewish community that once was the center of Jewish learning hundreds of years ago, my eyes fell on a Lucite case that looked to me to house pages from an ancient Torah scroll.
Something about that display, even from 30 feet away, made my heart beat faster. Could it have been the blackened areas on the pages or maybe my instinctual recognition that what I was about to see was going to mean something very special for me, something that could change my life? I was trembling.
As I approached the case, tears began to well up in my eyes as I recognized that there were indeed parchments inside from an ancient Torah scroll. I glanced down to the right-hand side of the parchment (we Jews read Hebrew from right to left), and the first words I saw were from that week’s Torah portion, the parshah of Lech Lecha that always had great meaning for me, and not only because it was my bar mitzvah parshah. I read the first few sentences as perfectly preserved in that Lucite case as our modern Torah scrolls preserve those sacred words and as they have been preserved in every Torah scroll since the dawn of our great history of connection to the Divine.
The words were: “And God said to Avram, go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” And at that point I almost burst into tears. My name is Avraham, my portion is Lech Lecha, I have loved Israel ever since I became observant some 35 years ago, loving Israel so much that I built a home in Israel for the purpose of retirement (though that seems not yet to be) and to realize the dream that I had in the very beginning of my Jewish spiritual journey that I was, in fact, Avraham and with a gnarled stick would lead my family to the promised land. And I said to myself, barely able to hold back the great cries that were welling up within me, “How many hints do I need? How many hints do I need?”
Some things in life are unexplainable “coincidences” in the normal everyday tumult of daily life. I believe we all have had these serendipitous moments, where something or some force reaches out to us from another place, giving us messages that could change our lives, if only we acted upon them. Story to be continued.
Art Miller is a Baltimore resident.