We’re off to see the Wizard… the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
It’s kind of like that, in a way… though there will be no man hiding behind a curtain… At least I don’t think there will be.
No twister… No twirling houses… Just a journey to Oz… or Shul… or a nice Shabbat dinner…
I posted an iconic picture from that wonderful film last post, and it got me thinking… Well… thinking more…
I have heard of many folks who become observant and declare: “I’m in!” Obviously each one will move at their own pace, and the starting and end points are different for all. It seems that most will tell you to take baby steps… to not take on too much, too fast… to not allow yourself to get overwhelmed.
The key is to grab those friends or family… your very own Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion… and make your way down the road…
(Musical cue from The Wiz… “Ease on down, ease on down the road…”)
But what happens when you find yourself happily on the path, and you look back and notice that family and friends are not joining you, or, or even worse, are setting up roadblocks and obstacles?
At a class the other night we agreed that it is imperative for you to follow your heart, to embrace becoming a better human being, and to study Torah. Making yourself into the best version of you is an admirable and important goal. However, we must also work hard not to offend anyone… not to push people away… not to think that we are any higher, or holier, or better. The goal is to become a BETTER person.
I know that people look at me with skepticism. I have tried many things that have not come to fruition. I am totally guilty of starting and stopping…. Many times. I am sure they regard my interest in Judaism as a passing phase, too… a fad diet… a get spirituality quick scheme… something that will also come and go. And while I do not think this is the case, and certainly hope it is not, I cannot answer with 100% certainty.
We know what we know when we know it. We can only make a decision based on the best information we can gather and put together at that present moment.
So Oz is the answer to our questions and doubts… the spirituality and guidance each one of us needs and desires.
We’re all looking for Oz… that person, place or thing that will give us what we lack. But usually it’s right in front of us… or something we discover for ourselves as we battle our way through life… or ALREADY INSIDE of us, just needing to be pushed or pulled out. Many Jewish scholars will tell you that… That is ALL inside of us… and Hashem will test us and push us to let it come out and be discovered.
Maybe Oz is “The Hood.”
For Jews in LA, “The Hood” has a very different meaning. It is the area surrounding the boulevards of Pico/Robertson, which seems to be the center of Jewish life in Los Angeles. There are Kosher markets, restaurants and a large number of Shuls or even just spaces used to hold services and prayer and classes.
I find I am spending a lot more time there, and I keep coming across a very similar story… that of people who grew up in fairly non-observant homes, who have now found themselves on the path and have embraced their Judaism. Clearly they were looking for something more out of life, needing something more.
As I have said before, I honestly do not know how far I will go on this journey, but as long as I am moving forward and embracing it, and perhaps most importantly, LEARNING… then it is all good. I do love when my friends say with such confidence… “You’ll get there.”
So start singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” or a nice Yiddish tune if you have one in mind… and allow me to share two amazing quotes that both reflect my struggle and journey and keep me moving forward…
“Nothing can hold you back – not your childhood, not the history of a lifetime, not even the very last moment before now. In a moment you can abandon your past. And once abandoned, you can redefine it.
In the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power.
The very first step of change is so powerful, the boundaries of time fall aside. In one bittersweet moment, the sting of the past is dissolved and its honey salvaged.”
(Wisdom of Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman)
“Four centuries ago, the Maharal of Prague (Netzach Yisrael) foretold that, according to the Divine plan of history, most Jews in the pre-Messianic era will be irreligious and estranged from the Torah legacy of their forefathers. Ultimately, these lost Jews will make independent decisions to repent and return to their heritage. This chain of events is necessary, explains the Maharal, because if all Jews would serve G-d only because they accepted the word of their parents, the service would be mechanical, routine, and lifeless. G-d wants Israel to greet the Messiah with a level of enthusiasm that can be attained only through personal inquiry, struggle, and hard-earned discovery of truth.”
(Shemoneh Esrei, ArtScroll, p. 54)
Thanks to Yitz for that last one!