Judaism Means Giving, in Prayer and in Life
What is our posture, our attitude, our disposition when we prepare for worship? What are we thinking when we make the commitment to attend Shabbat worship on any given Friday evening or Saturday morning, holy day or festival, Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur – even if what is compelling our attendance is the bar/bat mitzvah invitation stuck to the refrigerator? In other words, what is our state as we engage in the worship experience?
When we come hoping to "get something out of it," the experience usually will be fruitless. We may learn a tidbit of Jewish history or gain an insight into the Torah portion. We may come away with a new prayer melody dancing in our heads. We may leave disappointed in everything, reaffirmed in a preconceived notion that "services just aren’t my thing."
What of the individual who comes to the synagogue on that same morning or evening, with the same religious background and questions, but with a different posture? What of the person who comes asking not "What am I going to get out of this?" but rather, "What can I bring to this experience of prayer?" Is there a way for me to bring the focus of my entire being? Can I offer the fullness of my soul in prayer? Can I place my needs, my desires, my wants, my expectations at the door and come to give my voice in song and praise and thanksgiving for all that is? Can I offer the best of my being to this spiritual challenge that seems so "not me," the task of prayer
I firmly believe that the posture we bring determines the experience we have and, ultimately, the people we become. Jewish religious life offers an alternative to the dominant motif of Western secular culture, and the rules of the game are different. Secular culture centers on the self and its needs and desires. The winner is the one with the most, the latest, the newest. Judaism begins with the understanding that "it’s not about me." Micah (the prophet, not the temple) asks "What does Adonai require of you?" Judaism is about giving, serving and reaching. Judaism is about mitzvot – the obligations we have to God, humanity, the Earth and the Jewish People. "Talmud Torah k’neged kulam..." ("The study of Torah is equal to all else...") because through Torah study we learn what it means to give and how to serve. This is the life of holiness, the call of sacred obligation.
This month we encounter two powerful dates on the Jewish calendar, one very important day for the Micah family and one very special day for the Zemel family. Yom HaShoah is a day of holy memory and honor. Yom HaAtzmaut, a day of unmitigated celebration and joy. I urge you to be with us for both of these occasions. My pleadings could not be stronger. If we as a people do not mourn and remember the tragedy that befell European Jewry, who will? If we as a people do not celebrate the triumph of overcoming 2,000 years of exile and our return home, who will?
We will celebrate Teddy Klaus’ 20 years of dedicated service as our music director during Shabbat services Saturday, May 28. We owe him so much for all that he has given of his heart and soul.
Finally, for our family: It is a thrill for us that Ronit will come to the Torah as a bat mitzvah May 21. We look forward to seeing and celebrating with all of you.