Last Wednesday night I hosted an event at my house for the UJA in which one of the Rabbis from my synagogue spoke about bringing Judaism into your home. This post isn’t about being a super-Jew so just keep on reading.
Going into the evening I wasn’t sure what to expect. My Synagogue is reform and very family/community focused – (nothing like the one I grew up in where you feared the Rabbi or Cantor when they looked in your direction). The Rabbis are down to earth and up on the times. The head Rabbi reads his sermons on the high holidays from his iPad and our services are broadcast live over the internet. They are on FB, they tweet and blog and one, if not both of them will probably read this post.
The evening was truly special, invigorating and further justified (not that I needed it) my love for the community I live in and the people that make it what it is. Rabbi D didn’t come in preaching about saying prayers three times a day or mandating to us that we obey the rituals of Shabbat. What he did talk about were the little things, spiritual things, we can do daily or weekly, traditions we can start establishing now while our children are young and how we can use the basics of Judaism as a foundation for the things that are important to us, not just as Jews but as human beings in general.
My big takeaways were as follows:
Be Grateful: Judaism says we should pray to g-d three times a day. The first prayer should be said the second we open our eyes and we should be thanking g-d for giving us life for another day. How many times do you wake up and say ‘ugh, please give me 10 more minutes’ or ‘kids go back to bed I’m not ready for you to wake me up yet’ or ‘I hate Monday’s’. Whatever it is you are cursing probably sets your mood for the entire day. What if… when you wake up tomorrow, you open your eyes and you say to yourself or out loud, something that you are grateful for and think about how that gratitude is going to carry on throughout your day. Its been proven that people that write Gratitude journals and happier people. With the exception of today, I have done this the past few days and have to admit that my days have been a whole lot better because of it.
Give Back: The prayer that is recited in the middle of the day is the blessing for daily miracles. How often do you see someone struggling with a door and ignore them or pass someone that had just dropped something and you don’t say anything or the person in front of you doesn’t have enough on their metrocard and you give them a dirty look when they have to go back to the machine? Next time, do something out of the norm – buy someone a coffee, help someone in need, say something nice when someone is having a shitty day or swipe your card and give someone a free subway ride. Pay it forward or give back – either way, you’ll feel better about yourself and chances are you will have impacted that persons day and hopefully they will pass it on as well.
Life Lessons: At the end of the day we are supposed to be reflect on our day and ask for peace and that we may wake up the next day after a good rest. Tonight, before you go to sleep, think about what you learned today that you can take with you to bring into tomorrow and what do you want to leave behind. Go to sleep with a clear head.
Weekly Ritual: Weekly we are told that we should stop and take a break. Even g-d took a day to rest. Shabbat is what that day is for. We didn’t focus on the importance of lighting candles, going to temple or having challah bread. Instead talked about taking time to be with our families and people we love and doing something special – make Challah French toast on a Saturday morning, wake up and sing your favorite song with your kids or just do whatever you love that makes the time special between you and your loved ones. Not so hard, right? Put the phone down, stop rushing and take a break and just enjoy each other.
Bless Your Home: I realize this one sounds more religious but the way we discussed it was more about writing a blessing for your home that means something special to you and your family. Some people have a blessing that is inscribed in an Hamsa(the hand of Fatima) or in a plaque on the wall. Rabbi D gave us a drawing of a Hamsa hand with nothing in it and told us to sit with our kids and ask them ‘what makes this house a home or what makes this home special to you?’ Take their words or have them write them on the paper and color it in and make it their own. Frame it and hang it on the wall. Each time you walk past it, you will remember the time you made it and the little people that made it with you. Memories are what makes a house a home. (Hmmm, maybe I’ll put that in mine)
We each have things that make our home special or traditions that we have carried on from other generations. These little things are what makes us who we are and sets the precedence for who hope our kids will someday be. I truly hope that you can take just one thing from this post and bring it into your daily life – no matter what your beliefs are, we can all learn something from the teachers around us, like Rabbi Danny and Rabbi Z, or from the big man up above.