Judaism… Building A Better Box – By Marc

Our educational system is messed up. Instead of learning for the sake of learning and growing, it seems that we are taught for grades, test scores and to get into the best school possible. Kids are put in a box and taught the same way, no matter how each individual child learns and excels.

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Google Ken Robinson’s TED Talks and you’ll see what I mean. I am linking in his talk on how schools kill creativity.

World and life lessons are few and far between, and so kids leave school book smart… perhaps… but not very street or life smart… and certainly with very little spirituality and a direction into what their life purpose might be.

This, in a nutshell, also describes my Jewish learning as a youth. I was studying with the goal of being a Bar Mitzvah… and not much more after that. This cut short so many possibilities and certainly so much inspiration. It was like studying trumpet in grade school and only being played band and marching music instead of Jazz. Who knows what would have happened if I had heard Louis Armstrong or Bix Beiderbecke back then… Sigh…

Jews have been known for their love of learning. We study and debate and love to get into things. We also seek out spirituality, and when we feel we are not finding it in Judaism, we seek it elsewhere… which explains why so many cults are filled with Jews… or were in the ’60s and ’70s.

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But here is the thing… It IS in Judaism, and in amazing and wonderful ways. All one needs to do is return to the roots, our roots… and actually learn and study. The great thing about the word return is this (And thanks to Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld for this)… you cannot “return” to a place you have never been to. We are Jews, and no matter how far we have strayed, we can always return. While I never strayed, I clearly had not fully explored either… so welcome back to me! Until I went to Israel in 2014, I can honestly and sadly say I did not really STUDY Judaism… Not in the way I should have… or the way we all should. There is a wealth of riches in our books… a deep spirituality and so much inspiration. The Torah is a guide for living… it is a blueprint on how to life a fulfilled and meaningful life… and I have finally and joyfully discovered this, even if it is years and years late!

According to Rabbi Avi Rabin, much of the way modern Jews look at Judaism is through the eyes of Christianity and other religions. If you asked me about Meditation? I would have said that was a Buddhist practice. Reincarnation and life after death? Christian. And yet, as one studies and learns, it is clear that all of this stems from Judaism, which of course pre-dates both.

As I have written before, mediation and mindfulness are the rage these days. There are books, classes, workshops, CDs, you name it. It is no longer  a cottage industry, but all over the place. Yet our Prophets meditated. Clearing their minds and going into deep meditation was how many prepped to receive their prophecy. Kabbalah writes extensively about it, as does Rebbe Nachman and Areyeh Kaplan. In fact, they give you step by step guides on HOW to meditate. My newly acquired technique from Rebbe Nachman… the “Silent Scream”… is now one of my favorite ways to clear my brain and get into meditation.

Where was any of  THIS when I was growing up??? 😦

In the most recent JLI Course “How Success Thinks” we learned to redefine success and make it about living a fulfilled life… finding the things we love and are passionate about and using them to serve Hashem and the world.

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In the last JMI night we had with Shlomo, we discussed how we must externalize things in order to fully internalize them. The example for the evening was keeping Shabbat and how actually doing it… the meal, the rituals, the prayers, the company… were vital to fully living and understanding the teachings. Learning is vital, but action is key in cementing those lessons, making them take hold and actually allowing us to embrace them… live them… become them…

In his phenomenal book Taking Action: Learn The Joyful Art Of ZerizusRabbi Zelig Pliskin teaches us how to find joyful willpower and stop procrastinating. He does so in a practical, thoughtful and easy to understand way, and he uses ancient Jewish teachings to do so. This is a guide in how to live LIFE… not just Jewish life, but LIFE.

Far too often we are put in a box… limited in what we can see and do with it, what we are taught about it, and how we are taught. It is dangerous trap. But the escape route is clear… and ironically the way out is to return… return to our roots… explore that which we already are… learn and be inspired by this amazing religion… lifestyle… existence called Judaism.

We must let Judaism spark our creativity and spirituality… and we do not need to search elsewhere. It is right there waiting for us… waiting to be discovered, rich and filled with everything we could want or need. Just open our eyes, our ears and our hearts… and let it in!

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To be continued…

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