I turned 43 yesterday, which is something I’m very grateful for. My father died when he was 30 and I am painfully aware that each year is a blessing. Each year brings new wisdoms and awareness that I’d never trade for a slightly more youthful self.
There’s a pretty cool thing I did last year, and this year I’d like to offer it to the readers of OOTOB.
There’s a period of time on the Jewish calendar called “sefirat ha-omer.” It’s the counting of the 49 days from Passover (Pesach) till the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. There are 7 major character traits that we are meant to focus on at this time, and each of the seven gets paired with another for each of the 49 days to produce a very fine-tuned trait to focus on.
I used a book by Rabbi Yacov Haber to convey the trait of the day with a particular action point that I sent out on each of the 49 days (usually the night or afternoon before), either via text or email. Last year 75 friends were on the list, and I’d like to offer it to you, my readers. If you wish to receive the message (you can cancel at any time) you may comment below or email me with your preference (text/email) and contact info.
I am at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a wonderful Passover to my Jewish readers!
If you freak out easily, stop reading now.
Every now and then, missionaries come a-knockin’ on my door. And I feel like telling them: Hey. I’m not looking for new relationships. I’m already in a relationship. With God.
It’s a long-term relationship. It started before my conscious memory began, and will continue after I die.
It’s a mutual relationship. I talk to Him (via prayer, both formal and spontaneous) and He talks to me (via Torah study). I make promises to Him, and He makes promises to me. I believe in Him, and He believes in me.
It’s an unconditional relationship: in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer. Even in death we will not part.
Quick, take a sheet of paper. Draw four circles on it – one for Judaism, one for family, one for work, and one for any hobbies that take up time in your life. Draw the biggest circle for the most important relationship in your life, and subsequently smaller circles as the relationships diminish in importance.
My relationship with God is the biggest.
My next circle is my family. My next is JFX, the Jewish Family Experience, and smaller circles include hobbies like music and writing. My long-term relationship with God is the umbrella that shades all of these. It colors how I spend my time, when I get a babysitter, how I express my feelings.
Why am I telling you this? It’s not to be hokey or weird or in-your-face, but rather to explain to you what I think ought to characterize an “Orthodox” or certainly a “religious” Jew. This relationship motivates pretty much everything I do. It’s not only Baptists who have God in their heart and their mind every day. It’s OK for Jews to as well. Yet most do not feel comfortable with being “out” about this relationship. In my opinion, THIS is what it means to be an observant Jew. Observant, not only of the mitzvos/mitzvot/mitzvas, but observant of one’s relationship to God. THIS is what the word “Orthodox” can’t possibly express.
Make the following observation: When you are in a long-term relationship with a human, you can’t just do the right thing. You have to feel the relationship. And if you don’t, you at least have to be working on it. Else it will die. This is the spirit of Judaism. But if you just feel the love, but don’t do the things that must be done in a relationship, you have the spirit only. That’s where the letter of the law is missing. This, too, is an incomplete relationship, and one that is unsustainable. Feelings alone cannot perpetuate a relationship. And a relationship with a Higher Being is no different.
And if you feel freaked out… well, I warned you.
What do you think, fellow Jews? Is it weird to think about these things? Does it feel funny, foreign, uncomfortable? Is it important to be thinking about these things? How many Jews, do you think, are even thinking about the relationship? And if you are in the relationship, are you comfortable with it? Talking about it? How much and to whom?