I knew the first paragraph of bentshing by heart! What’s the big deal, you wonder? I didn’t know it was the first paragraph, I thought it ended there. That’s all I knew from attending my Jewish-but-not-observant summer camp.

But I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

Not until I spent a year at a school in Israel for students from English-speaking countries. There were kids of all different backgrounds, from different countries, and different parts of the Jewish spectrum of observance.

School was in English, with other overseas students, but there were also many tours and trips around Israel, and shabbatons. Speakers and rabbis explained things about Judaism I never knew before, for example, that Shabbos lasted longer than Friday night. And that bentshing was longer than the first paragraph I’d memorized from summer camp.

Eventually I learned a bit more and got inspired about mitzvos. I realized that Yiddishkeit was a lot bigger than I knew. This was Judaism, and this was mine?

Now I knew there was much I didn’t know. So, slowly, I learned many things, and I began to try. I started to take small, invisible steps, like davening a little, and not writing in my journal or listening to music on Shabbos. I learned about checking for a kosher sign on food packages.

Did you ever take music or art lessons, but not tell anyone for a while? Did you ever start taking guitar lessons but realize how hard it is to play? You don’t want someone to say, “Oh, you play guitar? Play me a song!” when you can barely strum a chord. So maybe you take lessons for a few months, and practice in private at home, until you master a chord or two. After some practice, you feel more comfortable showing people what you can do.

Well, I guess my mitzvos were sort of like that, in the beginning. Especially bentshing. (Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 662)