Before I start, I just want to mention that I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Israeli singer/songwriter Idan Raichel at CSULA this past weekend. His music is powerful and beautiful, and what gave me the chills was hearing a theatre full of people singing along… in Hebrew. There is something about hearing Hebrew in a non-praying or chanting sing-along that takes it to a whole other level. So peaceful and joyous… breathtaking… It was… for me… G-dly, and brought me close to tears. Amazing…
Through the JMI group, we do a thing called Torah and Beers and it is almost always lead by Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld. The topics vary, but this particular night last week, was about living a fulfilled life, something I also write a lot about here. After all, religion and faith, in its best form, is designed to give life purpose and meaning.
We talked about the Counting Of The Omer, and how Passover and Shavuot are connected by this mitzvah. We start on the second night of Passover, and count 50 days… and on the 50th day, we received the Torah. The reason they are connected, according to Shlomo, is that we cannot truly have freedom (Passover) without meaning and purpose (Shavuot… and the Torah).
A free life without meaning… is meaningless. A free life with purpose and meaning is meaningful.
This lead us to discuss the Modeh Ani, which got me thinking about the beautiful bookends that daily Jewish prayer provides us.
From the very moment we arise, we pray:
“I gratefully thank you, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – Abundant is Your faithfulness!”
So we wake, or should wake with gratitude… thanking Hashem for returning our soul and not allowing us to die in our sleep. And yet, the implication is that while we sleep our soul leaves… or most of it leaves… As we sleep, we go into an almost death-like state.
Therefore every single night is a near death experience. And that… and every single morning we wake from that, should be enough to kick us in the butt and motivate us to act and live and fulfill, just as a perhaps more dramatic near-death experience would. It is those moments that show us how fleeting and fragile life is, and it is those moments that make us stop and think, we are here for a reason… Hashem must have something in mind for us.
And our souls are returned to us, because Hashem believes in us… G-d has faith in ALL OF US! Wow! If this does not motivate us, what will?
G-d wants all of us to be motivated and to live joyous and fulfilled lives. BOOM! (As the kids say.)
This is bookended by the last prayer of the day… The Bedtime Shema.
It starts with us forgiving anyone who “angered, antagonized or sinned against” us. We then ask G-d to forgive our sins. What an amazing and peaceful way to go to sleep. And the idea of “peace” continues…
In the actual prayer we say “May it be Your will, Hashem, my G-d and the G-d of my forefathers, that you lay me down to sleep in peace and raise me up in peace. May my ideas, bad dreams and bad notions not overwhelm me…”
Again… Wow. By us forgiving everyone, we can clear our mind, our soul and our heart and lay our head down in peace. But we recognize that G-d is in control and we put our hands and lives in His hands. We also need to ask Him for forgiveness.
The idea that a religion… that a set of prayers… can guide us to fulfilled and meaningful life… a peaceful life… a life filled with peace… is a beautiful and powerful religion. This is Judaism.
In 2014 a trip to Israel set my soul free… Like the Jews feeling Egypt, and Passover, it gave me my freedom. In the years since, the study and understanding, like Shavuot and being given the Torah, have given me purpose. It is as if I personally have been given the Torah… and guess what? I have… we all have.
From morning and when we arise, to night and when we sleep, Judaism bookends, protects and guards our lives… It allows us and encourages us, and makes sure we express and truly comprehend gratitude… How important it is to be thankful for every little thing. And… It gives us meaning and purpose. We are all here for a reason. Let us live fully and find that purpose… find that meaning… grab it and fulfill it… Make the most of our lives. Have a peaceful day, my friends. I am grateful for you visiting this post and sharing this journey with us. Amen.