What makes a person's life meaningful? Is it the acquisition of objects? Or is a meaningful life found in things like getting married, having children, getting a good job and buying a house? The answer is yes, but only if one criterion is met in achieving these things. I propose that this criterion is found in looking forward in time and answering a simple question: Did I take advantage of these moments to understand and experience them as sacred opportunities when they were presented to me?
With Biennial 2017 a recent memory and Biennial 2019 two years away (December 11-15, 2019 to be exact). I thought it appropriate to share some of the great quotes from this past year's Biennial experience that our delegation walked away with...
Recently I received a survey from a Jewish organization. One of the questions asked, "What are you most worried about for the future of the Jewish people?" My response was nothing. I wrote that rather than being nervous about the Jewish future I was excited by it. I am excited to see how we as a people will evolve. I am excited to see how we face the challenges both seen and unseen ahead. I am excited to see how the story of the Jewish people unfolds.
This week I was fortunate to attend a lecture at Yale on Grace and Gratitude. The lecture was held at Yale divinity and was incredibly informative and interesting. However, it was also very theologically Christian. I left thinking of the word grace in Hebrew, Chen, and what grace means from a Jewish perspective. I found the following article online to be very helpful: http://ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/058.html#biblicalword.
John Wooden, the basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins in the 60's, used to say that he never tried to rile his players up before a game. He always wanted them to be even keel. He believed that if you were riled up that eventually you would have an equal and opposite crash. For every high emotionally there is an equal and opposite low emotional reaction. Therefore he taught his players to aspire to have an even head emotionally.
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They [the Men of the Great Assembly] would always say these three things: Be cautious in judgement. Establish many pupils. And make a safety fence around the Torah.
The shofar is a fascinating ritual object. It is a throwback to a different time. A time when rams horns were used for communication. Some blows from the rams horn would signify the start of something, other blast would signal warning of some impending danger. However, today that sound serves a very different purpose. Today the sound of the shofar serves as a way to bridge the gap between us and "the other".
The fact that we celebrate holydays by the Hebrew calendar is an interesting phenomena. By connecting ourselves to two different methods of keeping time, it makes our relationship with time very unique. Our two different timetables send a message that our bodies operate on the American/Gregorian calendar, however, our souls operate in a different sphere of time. A sphere of time that is captured through our connection to a calendar that is not our daily one.
We all remember the saying when we were little that sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me. I would like to offer an amendment to that phrase. I offer that we should change the but to an and.
As many of our younger congregant's head back to school I am reminded of a favorite teaching of mine about the different types of learners. This teaching comes from Pirkei Avot a collection of Jewish wisdom compiled by the first Rabbis between the first century BCE and 200 CE: