In follow-up to themes we explored during the Days of Awe and Sukkot, the harvest holiday, Judaism’s value is in providing strategies and outlooks to keep ourselves at our best no matter what may come our way.
It starts with commitment to “we”, partnership, Covenant…knowing “we”/you are not alone…translating God’s existence and presence into appreciation for relationships and contexts you share with people also committed to “we” more than “I”, in a I-centered society/world.
More significant than your level of belief in God is your understanding that God is less interested in your belief than what you do and your understanding that you were not created to dwell alone, in a world of “I”. So, even if God is not part of your equation that does not keep you from focusing on relationships and the power of partnership. That is a quality you can appreciate about folks involved in B’nai Israel, people who find meaning in being helpful in growing and maintaining community. No matter what the pressures may be, or become, in the unknowns of our world, having each other to share the challenges, the difficulties and the joys, makes everything more possible and manageable.
In carrying the themes and insights of the Days of Awe forward, it is important and valuable to know and understand that within each of us is Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Ra: “inclination for good”…home to wisdom, Torah, openness to learning and a commitment to do what is good and right, and “inclination for bad”, home to our appetites, drives, desires, passion, only “bad” when alone…not in partnership with the Yetzer Tov. One without the other is not enough for us to function healthfully in our daily lives. The key is to make sure they do work together, and when you see Yetzer Ra dominating a situation, to recognize it, in yourself and in others, and to not wait for next Yom Kippur to make course corrections. The Daily Amidah, the Daily Journey, carries in it a piece of Yom Kippur to remind us that Teshuva, change in direction, return to God, is something to do on a daily basis and then monitor how the year went on the daylong focus of Yom Kippur.
It is not just important to keep ourselves on a maintenance program with our cars and our health, but also spiritually, focusing on keeping healthy attitude in place, even after the Days of Awe have passed.
As to the condition of the world and our place in it, which is the focus of Rosh Hashanah, coupled with the strategies for addressing it, which is the focus of Yom Kippur, in working together in prioritizing our time and areas of concentration, we can apply the lesson of the opening portion of the Torah, Beresheet, and the story of Creation. God creates a day that God does not need, since God does not get tired: Shabbat. It is parental role modeling from on High; God models stopping so that we will have the wherewithal to keep our balance and not allow our non-stop tendencies to stress us out or throw us out of balance. In creating Shabbat, the day for not creating, God gives us “Kadosh”, a moment/condition that is “special, unique, memorable, set apart and holy”, a condition that can only come to life through stopping, that we notice.
The strategy to apply is to introduce mini-Shabbat, moments’ pauses in the course of every weekday, that in stopping for a moment you have the gift of awareness to appreciate and evaluate what you are doing and with whom (or if alone to reevaluate that). With each moment’s pause you can rebalance and check your Yetzer Tov and Ra, to see that they are in balance and in healthy partnership with each other. These pauses allow you to keep at your best in accentuating “we” more than “I”, even as you notice how much goes well in the course of a day to energize you in good ways…little and large things that you otherwise overlook or underappreciate…positive aspects of life that can counterbalance disappointments and whatever seemingly goes wrong.
So many wonderful and applicable strategies emerge from the work we did on the Days of Awe…so many blessings to appreciate from Sukkot, celebrating the Harvest of Life that is so much richer than the stuff we own.
May each day of this year provide you with ample blessings and much joy as they reflect all the good and caring you bring into the lives of others, as you turn each day from “I” to “We” and enjoy your partnership with U KNOW HU…who you know, as you continue to discover yourself, you, who know, all the wonderful opportunities that life presents, when you notice them and choose, in your Godlike capacity to act upon them.
Even as God broadcasts the pivotal question, being asked since the first people on the planet ate the first forbidden fruit: Ayekah??? Where are you??? It is nice to know you have access to the answer and can appreciate the power of answering it: Hineni!!! Here I am!!! Fully myself in responding to life’s challenges and blessings by committing to share them with U/you and together moving this world in the direction of Shalom.