Tonight was the second of three of my bike repair classes. Donning blue bike repair gloves, I felt so official – I was really doing this. We learned how to clean, replace and repair our chains and chain cartridges. When our teacher showed us the tool for chain repair and suggested we get one for our travel pouches on our bikes, I was perplexed. Why would we need to carry one of those around with us? (I am a terrible “shlep-aholic,” always carrying too much stuff, but I’ve learned to ride 50 miles with very little gear.) Well, he told us, when your chain breaks when you are 30 miles away from home, what are you going to do? I had my answer ready: I’d call my husband, of course, to come and rescue me. He laughed and wondered what I would do if my husband couldn’t make it. “Come on, learn how to fix it yourself.”

So I did, and it wasn’t very difficult. I started to feel like I could do it. How fun (at least in the safety of the shop and not being 30 miles away from home!) But as we practiced making adjustments on the chain and learning about cables, I looked at my greasy black hands and was suddenly overcome with an insecure feeling. In my self-perception, I am not good at doing things that require tools and grease and mechanical parts. I can bake a mean carrot cake and teach Torah confidently. But as a bike mechanic – this just couldn’t stick. I felt like an imposter.

Fortunately, we got a bike repair book as part of our class supplies. I am embarrassed to admit that it is my second one – I just couldn’t figure out how to use the one I bought last year. But my friend Ellen reminded me that the benefit of taking the class together is that we can help each other. Even still, I am a long way from feeling confident that I’ll be able to do this when I really need it.

I was thinking about this as I drove home. I realized that my insecurity renewed my insight into the feelings of my adult students who are not grounded in Jewish study. They often reflect that very same insecurity. Some friends were joking recently that with all of the Jewish resources on the internet, people won’t need rabbis anymore. But in fact, the reality is quite different – even when basic questions could be answered with an internet search that I can do in a minute, it is not so for those who don’t know the terrain. It makes all the difference in the world being in a community of learners, guided by a knowledgeable teacher. As each learner gains knowledge, skill and confidence, they are able to approach each new question with a stronger foundation and empowerment.

I am privileged to be able serve as a guide to all who are seeking to embrace any part of Jewish learning. And I am fortunate to have had the humbling experience of learning to take my bike apart and put it back together. Most of my students won’t become Torah scholars, but I hope they can learn to access tools to expand their learning. I don’t expect to become a mechanic, but it would be nice if I can rely less on being rescued when my bike fails. Imposter? No, empowered, yes. Glad for opportunity.

Post note: Thanks to Marty’s Reliable Cycle for making this possible!

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