May 4, 2014

60 Days of Growth – Find Your Judaism (Day 6)

Something that is often lost when people become a part of an organized religion is individuality. While other religions may regard this lost of individuality as a positive, Judaism most certainly does not! Individuality is, in fact, the key to leading a real Jewish life, so much in fact that the Torah tells us straight up (in Shema again), “וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ – You should love God with all your heart and all your soul” We are instructed to love and connect with God with our hears and souls. God does not expect us to change who we are to enter into a relationship with him, what he wants is for us to “come as we are” (if I can quote Nirvana) and be ourselves. With this in mind we can better understand the Torah’s ‘instructions’ or Mitzvot, they are not ‘commandments’ as they are so often translated but rather, ‘instructions’. God isn’t telling what to do, rather he is giving us instructions on how to maximize our relationship to Him, those around us, ourselves and our millennia old Heritage. When you go to Ikea and buy a piece of furniture, you wouldn’t call the booklet that comes with a book of “Ikea Commandments” but rather it is a book of instructions about how to best put together your furniture.

shutterstock_153490109Now, like I said before, Judaism is all about individuality and part of that individuality is getting in touch with yourself and who you really are. Another thing the Torah (Vayikra 18:5) expects of us is “וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת-חֻקֹּתַי וְאֶת-מִשְׁפָּטַי, אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה אֹתָם הָאָדָם וָחַי בָּהֶם – And you should protect all the instructions that you will carry out, and you should live in them” This line is usually interpreted to mean that a person should live by the Torah and not die by it, ie. if a person needs to eat non-kosher to save his life, not only is he allowed to but he is obligated to. But, there is a deeper understanding of this line that I think is applicable to our topic. “You should live in them” meaning, each and every Jew has to figure out who he/she is and what parts of Judaism and the Torah make them feel alive, which parts of Judaism connect with their souls. For some people it is Shabbat, for some it is Torah learning, for others Prayer, and yet for others helping others, each of us has an obligation as a Jew to be ourselves and express ourselves through our Jewish experience.

I challenge you all, today, to find your piece of Judaism that wakes up your soul and makes you alive so you can truly חַי בָּהֶם – live in [Judaism]! Find it and spend time developing it, learning about it and practicing it. Everybody customizes everything these days, customize your Judaism!