I am Jewish. I love Judaism. The reason I say this, is to give some perspective to those who may be reading this who are NOT Jewish. When I write about the joys and the meaning of Judaism, it is never to say we are better than anyone else… that Jews are the best above all. I write from what I see and what I am learning, and it is my personal view of a religion that I am falling more and more in love with. And shouldn’t we all be in love with our religions and our beliefs? If not, what is the point?There are good people and bad people in any race or religion. It has to do with being a human, sadly. We are all prone to weakness and falling from time to time. It is whether or not we do it, whether we fight our thoughts and demons and come out stronger on the other side. The key is to not let it affect us other than to learn valuable lessons, to reinforce the positives of our own behavior and to act the way we know is right. Religion, in its best sense, is a moral and ethical guide. It is something that brings us meaning and fills our souls. It brings us closer to G-d, closer to our family, and perhaps most importantly, closer to our true selves. It gives us purpose, gives life true meaning and fulfills us.
For me, this is Judaism. The Torah truly is a blueprint to the world and to our lives. I am a flawed human being, but I am trying and I am growing and I am evolving, and Judaism is my guide.
It’s about the joy! This says it all, doesn’t it? Life, it seems, should have this as its goal… to feel like this as often as possible. We have that opportunity every week… and every day and moment, when we learn how to embrace it.
Thanks to Jonah Light and Saul Blinkoff I had the pleasure of spending most of Friday night in the “Chood” (hard Ch sound… and yes, that is mine… claimed right here in writing and I have been calling it that for years!). It started with a Kabbalat Shabbat at the Community Shul, one of the most joyous things for me. Being part of a human circle that is singing and dancing and pounding on the walls is the heart and soul… the literal and figurative beat… the heartbeat.
Wikipedia defines Kabbalat Shabbat, as “the mystical prelude to Shabbat services composed by 16th-century Kabbalists. This Hebrew term literally means “Receiving the Sabbath.” It is “composed of six psalms, 95 to 99, and 29, representing the six week-days. Next comes the poem Lekha Dodi. Composed by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz in the mid-16th century, it is based on the words of the Talmudic sage Hanina: “Come, let us go out to meet the Queen Sabbath” (Talmud Shabbat 119a). Kabbalat Shabbat is concluded by Psalm 92 (the recital of which constitutes men’s acceptance of the current Shabbat with all its obligations) and Psalm 93.”I never realized how much religious Jews love their sushi, but there you go. They do… I do… and that was a nice treat. As was the amazing L’Chaims provided by my friend and teacher, Howard Witkin and his amazing spirits (Cali Whiskey and Mavericks). And while that all makes for a nice evening, it was the company that made me most happy. Heck, I got to spend some time with my cohort Benjamin, who is so knowledgable and attuned to all around him.
It was also the pure generosity that stood out to me most on this Shabbat. The sushi and drinks were sponsored… and after the service, Saul and Marion Blinkoff, and Jonah and Stacy Light opened their homes to both friends and strangers… and do so every, single week. And yes, Stacy is not only a great cook, but a caring individual. She and Jonah take care of those around them. Spending time at the Light House… yes, I love that, because it is also a beautiful and accurate metaphor… with Zachary, Benjamin, Joshua and Jordan, and six young guests/strangers was powerful. The food was amazing, the conversation was deep. We prayed and ate and benched. We drank and laughed. We celebrated life and had joy. Shabbat truly is a guide… it truly is a lighthouse, guiding us in from the rocky and tumultuous waters, into the harbor and landing us safely on the shores.
Generosity leads to gratitude and grace, something I am also, and clearly not coincidentally learning as I do the latest Deepak/Oprah 21-Dat Free Meditation. It is also no coincidence that it is called Grace After Meals. So the lesson to me is clear. Be generous with others, be especially generous with yourself, in terms of self-care and in taking the time to heal and be whole, and to acquire the things you genuinely need in life to be fulfilled… And allow Shabbat to be generous to you and for you, and to be generous to Shabbat right back.
And just like the three T’s in Judaism, I now see the three G’s… Generosity, Gratitude and Grace!