Friday, March 27, 2009
There is this stupid thing, the Hungarian National Guard (or something like that) which is already considered illegal because of its racist and anti-Semite views but they still keep inaugurating officials and "soldiers". For some reason they think they are going to turn the world upside down just because they shave their heads, chant hatred-filled slogans (that BTW do not make any sense to anyone having an IQ score above 75) and attempt to provoke upheaval -- well, fortunately with less success than they expect. But still.
I mean, come on, people, how could anyone (who is sane or close enough to be so) honestly believe that the Jewish, the Gay, the Gypsy or whatever group of people is solely responsible for a worldwide crisis. This just does not make any sense. And still, a lot of people believe it. Sometimes I feel like I am too naive when I think that people are not considered animals because they can think. Apparently and unfortunately not all members of the human race share the blessing of the ability to think and to make sense of complex ideas. They are the ones who chose hatred and violence. I don't like to think about that but when I do it makes me really sad and I feel disappointed.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The most interesting thing that caught my attention is the public confession on Yom Kippur. I think it is such a neat thing. I mean, it gives the confession some weight. It is so much harder to confess something in public and therefore it seems to be more powerful than to just confess for ourselves or to another person. It is powerful in many senses; most importantly, on the one hand it confirms the sense of belonging to the community, and, on the other hand it may be more effective in preventing one from the repetition of the same mistakes.
I have read that the Kol Nidre is such a powerful prayer that it even turned Jews back toward their tradition, despite of their previous desire to look elsewhere for spirituality. Now I understand everything because I have listened to the prayer and even though I don't exactly know what it speaks about, it speaks in a beautiful tone.
The idea of "twice-a-year Jew" is not completely foreign for me. I have heard about the "Chreasters" in Christianity from my friends. I guess it is the same idea, Chreatrers go to church only at Easter and Christmas (the two biggest Christian holidays), while twice-a-year Jews go to the synagogue at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the two major Jewish holidays). The difference, though, between these two is, I think, that while Chreasters go to church on these days due to some kind of external pressure (family, peers, etc) Jews go (even if only 2 times a year) because they feel they belong to the community, they share the tradition. I am not saying there is no external pressure in case of Jews or that it is exclusively the external pressure in case of Christians -- but mostly it is.
It is also very nice to know that I was born in the month of Tishrei, which is the month of Yom Kippur.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I have completed my readings, though, and I have learned a lot more about this Holy Day. It doesn't stop to amaze me how the Jewish history and tradition had a substantial impact on humanity as a whole. For instance there is the seven-day-week. I always took it for granted and did not really know the origin of it. Haven't even thought of its possible origin because it is just so obvious that a week is composed of 7 days. But it got me thinking now in general: how we have the tendency to take stuff for granted, without even thinking about them.
For instance, I think most of us take our family for granted. They are there, whatever we do, they love us and -- well, normally -- stand beside us. BUT! It does not means we don't have to appreciate them and express this appreciation in ways we can. For me this is the essential meaning of Shabbat. I know it is the most important Jewish Holy Day because of its biblical relevance but I also think it has its human aspect added to it and for me it is the explicit appreciation of people we care about: family and friends. According to my readings it is part of the celebration to bless children, husband and wife, make "Shabbat Shalom" phone calls, and just basically spend the day of rest with our loved ones at home and in the synagogue.
I also think making Shabbat -- as expressing appreciation -- is not, by any means, easy. I mean, it is really not so trivial to just cut off work related things and focus on family. We are tempted to check our emails, and once we do, there could be something to fix, someone to help, something to be taken care of. Today work is not something you leave on your office desk. It requires effort to do so. Just as it requires effort to express appreciation. But I am convinced that it is well worth it and therefore we should take on the effort and just do it. This is why I love Shabbat. Because, in a way, it "pushes" me to focus on my loved ones and this is a good push. To take my time and reflect on what and who is really important.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Last week I have completed my first “official” volunteer task as a member of the congregation. We – because G was involved as much as I was – shopped for some groceries, made dinner for an elderly couple and delivered it the next day to their home. It was such a great experience, I don’t think I’d ever forget it. The smile of joy on their faces, the appreciation was priceless. Also, my appreciation toward the Jewish community increases more and more as I get more and more involved.
We spent the weekend in Texas, it was a business/vacation trip. We were wondering around in a gift store on Padre Island trying to find the most necessary thing we have to get every trip in every city/town/country we go: a magnet for the fridge :-)(the second most important is the snow globe but in some cases I can manage my urge to get one :-)). So, at the counter while checking out with the 2 magnets (one for my Mom) the storekeeper asks me: “Are you Jewish?” Now, I don’t know if it was because of the shock this question caused me or the result of some kind of a subconscious process but I immediately replied with a definite YES. He told me he asked because he saw the Chai on my necklace. As this symbol is not as obvious as the star of David and not many people recognize it, I asked back, how he knew. He said “well, I am from Israel” – and revealed a huge star of David pendant from under his shirt. He said he was wearing it so that if he dies people would know how to bury him. It was a little strange considering he was about my age and people usually don’t think that much about dying unless they have a good reason to do so. Anyway, he got so excited that he showed us out and pointed at a building across the street: there is the synagogue.
It was a neat experience in many respects but most of all it was my first incident when I said I was a Jew, not becoming one. And I was extremely proud, too.
Today was the day of the room in the inn at Temple and I went to help out as I promised to B last week at the knitting club. Another great experience I would cherish my whole life. There was this woman, again, about my age. She was clean and neat, wore eyeglasses with red frame. She told me about a website where I could learn more Hebrew (because that’s where she learned what she knew) and she was eager to know more about Judaism. She wanted to see the chapel and the sanctuary so B and me went with her and showed her around. B let me explain the tapestry on the wall of the sanctuary – which I just learned a week ago when Rabbi S took a tour with me – and I was really proud I knew it.
This woman taught me something even though she probably does not know it: how to remain positive even when life throws a curve ball at me. I mean, she does not have a place to live, to call it home, and she is still optimistic, hopeful, eager to learn and go ahead with her life. If I think about how miserable I felt after each and every unsuccessful IVF and how I wanted to die for a few days (figure of speech, of course) while I had everything in my life -- except for one. And she has nothing. It’s ridiculous but I don’t even know her name. I hope I’ll see her again next week or later.
All in all, so far I can summarize my experiences with Judaism in only positive terms: hope and faith in humanity, integrity, happiness, good people, perspective and unconditional acceptance. I think I found my way not to somewhere but back to somewhere. I am happy and feeling complete now. This is what I’ve been missing for many years.
Monday, March 2, 2009
I also loved his way of speaking, it was impossible not to listen to what he had to say. He is funny, smart and knows how to attract undivided attention :-) He spoke about the commandment of "love thy neighbor". He said what I always thought about it: it is impossible to command someone to feel a certain way. Emotions can not be controlled in ways behavior can. BUT: he emphasized the sentence that precedes the one in question, which says: hear, O, Israel ... hear, as -- according to Rabbi Shapiro -- in listen. Because, and I fully agree on this, too, there is indeed a difference between hearing and listening. The latter involves a whole lot more. If we really listen to someone we care about we will understand not only the words they say but also the complexity of their thoughts and feelings encoded in the words we hear. In a way, we hear words but listen to thoughts and feelings. Therefore listening means caring, and once we are able to listen, we are able to love. Even our neighbor :-)
(This weekend we watched Bill Maher's Religulous. I loved the movie, which is a kind of comedy-documentary. It is focusing on the idea of not using our ability of doubt and critical thinking and on the potential consequences of such behavior. Maher showed it through pointing out obvious contradictions in -- well, mostly in the New Testament -- religious scriptures and asked people about them. He got some interesting answers :-) I am convinced that everyone should see this film.)