Bran spends his evening writing and rewriting his dvar torah. It has to be good. Everyone remembers Robb’s and Jon’s, and Sansa’s made people cry, and Arya’s came out of left field and people said that it could have been written by a forty-year-old with a PhD and maybe a law degree as well. That’s a lot to live up to. And Bran doesn’t want to let anyone down.
He has nervous dreams about it sometimes. About giving his dvar. He’s always standing in his dreams, leaning over the bimah and looking out at the crowd–his parents, his siblings, his friends, and then he can’t feel his legs anymore and his chair isn’t there and he’s falling again–falling always falling.
He can’t get etz chayim out of his head. Not the happy, clappy one they sing in Hebrew School (“It is the tree of life to those who hold fast to it and all of its supporters are clap clap clap happy”)—the doleful one that they sing in shul every Saturday morning, which his father always sings even though his father doesn’t much like singing in shul because Cantor Reed’s voice is a very high tenor and father’s voice is too low for most of the keys he chooses, except etz chayim.
Rabbi Rivers finds the metaphor beautiful—that the word of god is a tree of life. For no one notices a tree, he says when he and Bran meet once a week to chant through his torah portion again and to discuss its content. No one notices a tree, for trees are everywhere, but without the trees we cannot live. So too can we not live without god’s teachings, god’s laws, god’s divine love. It’s there, underlying everything, if you remember to look, remember to breathe the oxygen and remember where that oxygen comes from.
Bran likes that—likes that it’s there, even when you aren’t thinking about it. He likes that the holy and the divine are a part of the world. Holiness and spirit can only exist in this world, and it is the world which makes them exist. Or something like that. Rabbi Rivers said it better. But Bran likes it.
The problem arises that he doesn’t know how to capture that feeling of divinity in words. He’s tried a few times, but he feels like the words, when he puts them on paper, lose their luster. Sansa has a way with words, constantly writing everything that comes into her head down into her diary, many-paged English essays appearing on her computer in less than an hour, hundreds of thousands of words of fanfiction written on her phone on their way to school. Sansa’s words sparkle when she writes, but Bran’s always seem dull in comparison. Sansa says it’s because he’s young and he just needs to keep writing and if he does he’ll get better—that no one is perfect at writing when they’re twelve. But that’s not heartening. If anything, that makes it worse—why does he have to write his dvar torah when he’s twelve and not when he’s Sansa’s age, or older, when maybe the words will all make sense and he’ll be able to capture the soaring feeling he gets when he’s reading over the words that have existed for thousands of years and which will exist for thousands more? The feeling of being both a cog in a machine but also so unbelievably important for he’s not just a child, he’s carrying a tradition on his shoulders as he sings?
It’s not fair.
It’s not fair, but nothing for Bran has ever been fair—not since he fell. He’s not going to be a quarterback on the football team the way that Robb was, and he’s not going to ever be able to climb Mount Everest the way he’d dreamed of doing ever since he first learned that the mountain existed. He’s stuck in his chair and he can’t even write the words on a page that make him remember what it is to fly.