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On the last day of January, I will be zochah to finish Nach Yomi for the second time using the Torat Imecha platform offered by the OU women’s initiative. Until the very end of this cycle, I wasn’t planning to write an article about my experience because, in all honesty, this second time around was not as inspiring as the first, and this was not a sentiment worthy of sharing.

When I first started learning Nach Yomi four years ago, my daughter had just gotten married and I was embarking on a new life chapter as a young empty nester who had all sorts of plans – learning, exercising and eating healthier, all of the things that fall to the wayside when kids are your primary focus. Six weeks later, Covid erased all of my grand intentions except for the desire to keep up my Torah learning. At the end of the first two years, I wrote a heartfelt article about my journey; I was charged, invigorated, and very ready to tackle the new cycle.


I’m not exactly sure how far in I was before I realized that my mind was wandering on a daily basis, but it seemed to align with the news that I was going to become a first-time grandmother. I was thrilled, but also very nervous; all of those weird and wild and seemingly impossible things that my bubby used to worry about suddenly all seemed very possible. But aside from the fact that it’s hard to concentrate while you’re busy transforming into your grandmother, I just wasn’t connecting to the material in the way that I wanted to. There had been instances during the first cycle where a topic or speaker had resonated in a way that related specifically to something that was going on in my life; I was getting G-dly shots of dopamine on a regular basis. For a very brief, very hot second, I thought I would stop and learn something else, but I couldn’t give up my Nach Yomi, the thought of it was actually painful. I couldn’t imagine starting my morning any other way; kitchen, coffee and computer, clicking on the Google shortcut icon to get to the OU website, scrolling through to find the day’s perek. It was inconceivable that this would not be part of my day.

My ennui worsened after October 7. At the time we were learning Koheles, and all I could think about over and over and over again was that indeed everything was futile, everything was hevel, everything was nothing. This of course resonated deeply, and I deeply wished that it hadn’t. A hundred-and-something days passed, and we were nearing the end. Many people find Divrei HaYamim to be a little dry, but I found it oddly comforting to be able to see our historical big picture over the course of two months. A week before we were scheduled to finish, I received an email from The Jewish Press with my “Word Prompt” assignment for the next month. While I was googling and free-associating to find a clever and succinct way to describe my word, I experienced this tiny little epiphany that linked my word prompt with the chapter I had learned that morning, but also with some other things I had been thinking about regarding this year’s Hebrew leap year, the ramifications of two Adars, and the situation in Israel. It was a nice feeling, warm and serendipitous, a feeling that lingered long enough for me to get some of my mojo back.

I wasn’t going to write this article because what lesson would anyone derive from the uninspired? After my little epiphany though, I realized that my self-analysis was a little harsh and not quite on point. The truth is, life is not always ultra-inspiring. We want it to be, it certainly can be, but it isn’t always. Life is about showing up and doing the things that you’re supposed to be doing, whether it feels meaningful or not. I find that the phrase kovaya itim, establishing a time, made so much sense to me over the last two years. Maybe I wasn’t as inspired or as excited for this last cycle, and maybe I didn’t get as much out of it as I could have or should have, but (and I say this factually, not boastfully) I showed up, faithfully, every single day, carving out a space to nurture my relationship with Hashem.

After I finished writing most of this article I struggled with the concluding paragraphs. The deep irony of this did not elude me, that in a flash of inspiration I wrote seamlessly, effortlessly, for hours but once my initial burst of rocket fuel was extinguished, my words disappeared into a fog of nothingness. Thankfully, it was erev Shabbos and I was finally able to escape the taunting, blinking cursor that sat insolently where my paragraph ought to be.

Five minutes after candle-lighting, while I was going through my favorite seforim looking for ideas, I was gifted with the wisdom of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In an essay aptly titled “Inspiration and Perspiration,” Rabbi Sacks leads off with the quote, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration. He then gives examples of famous innovators who led highly regimented and ritualistic lives and did not create masterpieces by having millions of brilliant ideas come to them fully formed, but by taking the tiny seeds of ideas and spending days and months and years working hard to bring their research or art to fruition. The same concept holds true in the spiritual world, any kind of spiritual growth requires hard work; it is no coincidence that the word we use for serving Hashem is called avodah. Overwhelming spiritual experiences are awe-inspiring; they can lead to lofty intentions and the desire for change and growth. But over time, memory of the experience fades, inspiration falters, and growth stagnates. Inspiration is the ignition, but rituals, repetition and routine keep the flames alive.

What is inspiration? In this context it is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. A second, more literal definition of inspiration is “to breathe in,” an involuntary function without which life ceases. All new beginnings are exciting, which by default makes them inspiring. I have no doubt that when I stumble down to the kitchen on the first morning of the new Nach Yomi cycle to learn Yehoshua Aleph, I will be totally engaged. I also have no doubt that at some points I will not sustain this level of mental connection. But inspiration manifests itself in multiple forms, so when starry-eyed wonderment flickers and fades, and the vicissitudes of life hover in the wings, I will find comfort and meaning in ritual and routine. I will make a cup of coffee and open my computer, letting the words of Torah wash over me like gentle rain, and when all else fails, it will simply be enough to breathe.

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Dr. Chani Miller is an optometrist and writer who lives in Highland Park, N.J., with her family. She is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.