Rabbis talk (and joke, and grumble, and roll their eyes skyward) about a condition known as “BT OCD”. Baal Teshuva – people who were not born into the Orthodox Jewish tradition but whose journey led them in that direction later in life – can get stuck in a cycle of repeated behaviors.
Performing the ritual hand-washing over and over, because you are certain you missed a spot, or didn’t say the blessing correctly, or didn’t have the proper kavannah (intention).
Saying brachot (blessings) more than once because you are certain you mis-pronounced a word.
Having your tefillin checked – a process that is time-consuming, expensive, and ultimately risky to the tefillin – 3 times in a year.
Yep, I’ve done all of those. And laughed at myself either as or after I did it.
With the exception of tefillin. THAT, I was dead serious about. I really REALLY worried that my tefillin were somehow not kosher.
You have to understand that inside those little boxes are even little-er bits of parchment all rolled and smushed up, squashed down until they fit not only inside the boxes, but into the correct compartment of the boxes. By some accounts, the very act of getting the parchment into the boxes is so violent, it’s a wonder any tefillin are kosher.
And all it took was someone to suggest that something was amiss and the itch of concern took hold.
if they cost less than a certain amount…
if you don’t know the sofer who wrote the tefillin…
if the parchment had fallen out of place in the previous checking…
Each of these compelled me to have them checked.
And of course, it comes down to trust.
Trust that we are “good enough” – of saying the right words, of executing actions properly, of having the right intention. Trust that the objects we use are kosher.
Trust that our learning will continue, we will continue to grow in both our knowledge and in our comfort with what we know.
Trust that our honest desire to do our best will be sufficient excuse IF something we are doing is “wrong” on some level.
But most of all, trust that God will find a way – through trusted sources and not through whispers, rumor, or innuendo – to let us know when something needs to be adjusted.