Some people look at Judaism as a marathon. If you finish, you’re Orthodox.
However, God seems to have a rather interesting and multi-layered way of judging us. And we’re not privy to much of it. In any event, all Jews of all stripes ought to be asking themselves some tough questions each day. Like, who am I? Where am I going in this life? Why? Whom have I chose to surround myself with in this journey? What am I doing Jewishly? Why?
As an observant Jew, I’m hardly exempt from these questions. Which
some find unfathomable. I feel it’s just the opposite: if I’ve been
gifted with passionate Judaism, oughtn’t I constantly check in and see
what my relationship to that entity looks like??
A dear reader Facebook-messaged me the following:
So, I would be looking for suggestions on how to keep that fire for Judaism going. I find that I get it for a while and then I get busy
with all the day to day stuff of work, preparing for Shabbat, childcare, etc.
and then one day I realize I’m totally stagnating Jewishly. So then I
try to get fired up again. I would find helpful 1) tips for getting
fired up and 2) tips for staying fired up amidst the day-to-day grind.
Feel free to hit the delete button.
So it ebbs and flows, like any relationship. This process is described in many Torah sources. For the Kabbalistic, mystical-minded among you, one way of describing it is “days of love and days of hate.” And the real question then becomes: what to do about it??
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Whoa – did you read that right?? Yup. I find that when I’m on my game, I’m on my game across the board. I’m getting enough sleep, eating well, working out, and paying attention to my soul. Success breeds success. Put a different way, when you take care of yourself, you want to take even better care of yourself.
2. Check in with another.
So here’s a newsflash: as smart, savvy, psychologically-aware, and emotionally astute as you may be, you are incapable of being objective about your own stuff. That’s not an insult, it’s a statement of fact on the human condition, so you’re in good company. Whoever thinks they can be is in further delusion than simple subjectivity. So take a deep breath, grit your teeth and ask a wise person who loves you where you can reign it in. Are you being lazy? Envious? Materialistic? Be willing to hear the answers. Make sure they know you want the (loving version of the) truth. And don’t respond for 60 seconds.
3. Listen to a lecture.
There are so many ways to hear a good, juicy, deep, thought-provoking class that will re-inspire you to want to be the best version of yourself. There are Jewish sites that offer material on virtually any topic under the sun. Some of my personal favorites are aish.com, simpletoremember.com, torah.org, chabad.org. You can read it, download it onto your ipod (or have your kid do it), play it off your laptop, burn it onto a CD, digitally embed it into your cassette player (kidding). You can have a Torah thought texted to you, telephone-conferenced with you, Facebooked to you, tweeted at you, or beamed at you daily from above (again, kidding). It’s a brave new world.
And shockingly, you can learn something live too. Check out the resources in your area. Just make sure it’s commensurate with your skill, style and interest level.
4. Do an act of kindness.
Nothing makes you feel like a better person than, well, acting like a better person. The ancient practice of “mussar” – character development with spirituality – teaches that growth can occur from the outside in. In other words, behave as though you are spiritual and you will become more spiritual. On a very practical level, you feel great when you give, and success breeds success (see #1).
5. Switch it up.
Stagnating in prayer? Make a change in what, where, when you pray. Add something new to your routine, or say less to focus better. Shabbat: start inviting guests. Or stop inviting guests. Change around your menu. Light candles in a new place in your home. Holidays – try a new service, introduce a new family ritual, poll your friends for ideas. Kosher: scout out some new foods that you’ve never tried before. Do a food swap with other kosher friends for dinner. Eliminate your go-to food for a week to appreciate it more. Don’t let stagnation build.
6. Ask for help.
So this may be new for you, but I find prayer really works. Ask for help from Above in whatever language feels right for you.
Here’s one for beginners:
“Um, hi. I don’t know who You are and I don’t know what to call you, and actually I feel very strange talking to You because I feel like I’m talking to myself. Oh… you probably already know that… OK, I’ll get to the point. So I’m feeling disconnected… unmoored… uninspired… so maybe you can help me. I don’t know how You can help me, but probably You know how. Help me to become more integrated in myself, to be the person I know I can be, to be in touch with my spiritual side, and to feel good at the end of the day. Help me make a difference in this world, be a good example, and do good deeds with all the amazing gifts and resources You’ve given me. Kay. That’s about it. So… thanks. Um, have a good day… and let’s chat again tomorrow.”
Jewish tradition teaches that God will never say no to a prayer like that, because while not everything we pray for is in our best interests, becoming a more spiritual human being is always in our best interests.
So I turn to you now. Have you experienced the dark days? What ideas have worked for you?