Tag Archives: Judaism

It’s 5773, but the Message of Passover 2013 Is Still as Strong as Ever

(Here’s a re-post of a past Passover message, up again by request.  The year is now 5773.  Please enjoy, and to all my Jewish readers, have a happy, healthy Passover!)

Happy Passover to our Jewish readers.

It’s Passover 2011, or, in the Jewish calendar, I think it’s Passover 5771.

This is the time of year when Jews around the world celebrate their freedom from bondage in Egypt with the commemorative Seder and Passover meal.

Think about Moses all those years ago, trying to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  Then all those plagues such as blood, frogs, vermin, slaying of the first born…

It took a lot for Pharaoh to finally let the Hebrews go, and even then, he still chased after them, necessitating the parting of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could cross to safety.

There were wanderings, new beginnings, divisions, and some heartache, but in the end, the destination was reached.

There is one part of the meal that really stands out to me.  It is during the recounting of the plagues — when Jews count down the Ten Plagues during the Seder.  A drop of wine is spilled with each recitation in memory of those who suffered in Egypt…not the Jews, but the Egyptians.

I guess it’s a solemn reminder that when blood of any kind is spilled, we all lose a little something.  Then, it is important to remember that when there are those in bondage around the world, we ourselves (no matter our religion) are in some way in bondage.

Jewish or not, matzah-lover (matzo-lover) or not, remember Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.  Work toward justice, strive for freedom, and remember those who may not be so lucky or fortunate.

Passover isn’t just about a meal.  It’s about the whole human race.

Happy Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.

Rosh Hashanah 2012/5773 — Reflect, Renew, Reenergize…and…Remember the Gap?

Happy Rosh Hashanah 5773 to my Jewish readers out there in Nobody Nation.

Or, Rosh Hashanah 2012.

Either way, for our Jewish friends, sundown Sunday marks the start of the new year.  A new beginning.  A time to reflect back on all that transpired in the last year, and to look ahead at all the goals for the days ahead.  The start of days of awe.  The start of days of wonder.  The start of the new.

The new year, or any new year, whether in Judaism or for other traditions, is a time to stand at the starting line, waiting for the word “go.”  It’s a pause.  A moment.  A gap between what was, and what will be.

But what’s in that gap?  What’s in that pause?  What goes though a person’s mind when the training is behind and the race is ahead?  Is it nerves?  Excitement?  A tremendous sense of quiet focus?

Often, when a new start comes for me or one of my friends, no matter what our religion or pursuit, I think about that gap.  That moment before the official start of a new race.  When we stand in prayer or anticipation or in a secular phase between what was and it is coming, what is it that we’re really doing?

If we’re just standing there regretting everything that has happened, then we aren’t thinking about ways to make a fresh start.  If we ignore the past altogether and just say, “I’m living in the moment now!” we risk leaving loose ends.

But, if we stand in focus…if we stand in reflection…if we stand with a real sense of desire to account for what has happened, and an earnest desire to prepare for what’s ahead, then we give ourselves a chance to really understand this moment.  This liminal phase in the doorway between what’s behind and what’s ahead.

Okay, now what does all of that mean?  Maybe it’s like this.  We had a goal in the last year.  There was something we wanted that perhaps we didn’t receive.  Now, we have a ceremony going on in this moment — secular or religious, doesn’t matter — that will give us time to pause and reflect — to stand in the reality of our situation and take stock.  So, maybe we review the paths we took to that goal that didn’t work out so well.  The false starts.  The earnest attempts.  Maybe we think about the delays, the disappointments, the things that didn’t go exactly as planned.  But now, in this moment, we’re not pursuing.  We’re not regretting.  Instead, we’re holding.  Holding a space.  Sitting in the middle between what we want and what we’ll do to get there.  So we plan anew.  We pray.  We take stock.  We get the courage up again.

And then we take a step.

We move ahead.

We put one foot in front of the other and take a fresh stride into a new commitment.

That, folks, is what a new year is about.  Take resolutions, for example.  They’re not necessarily about making a commitment to an absolute.  Rather, they’re about standing in the gap between what we wanted and what we still want and committing to a fresh start.  A renewal, of sorts.

Don’t lose sight of the importance of that.  Don’t miss the MAKING of the vow…the TAKING of the pause…the MOMENT of reflection.

The STANDING in the gap.

As the year of Judaism turns to 5773, whether you are Jewish or not, take a minute to appreciate the pause.  The stop.  The opportunity.

Stand in the gap between desire and accomplishment and renew your commitment — either to something old, or something completely new.

REFLECT on what you wanted.

RENEW your commitment to pursue it.

REENERGIZE your will to carry on, and…

REMEMBER to be fully present in the space between the dream and the journey to get there.

With that formula, I can’t guarantee you’ll reach your goal, but I can honestly say you’re giving yourself the best chance at seeing it in fresh light with a new vigor.

Heck, that’s a recipe all of Nobody Nation should follow.

Do it.  Help a friend to do it.

Then, when you reach the finish line, don’t forget to celebrate.  Your Jewish friends will tell you that Rosh Hashanah 5773 has time for that as well.

This Passover 2012, Remember (Again!) — It’s Not Your Religion That Matters, But Your Humanity

(Here’s a re-post of last year’s Passover message.  The year is now 5772.  Please enjoy, and to all my Jewish readers, have a happy, healthy Passover!)

Happy Passover to our Jewish readers.

It’s Passover 2011, or, in the Jewish calendar, I think it’s Passover 5771.

This is the time of year when Jews around the world celebrate their freedom from bondage in Egypt with the commemorative seder and Passover meal.

Think about Moses all those years ago, trying to convince the Egyptian Pharaoh to “let my people go.”  Then all those plagues such as blood, frogs, vermin, slaying of the first born…

It took a lot for Pharaoh to finally let the Hebrews go, and even then, he still chased after them, necessitating the parting of the Red Sea so that the Hebrews could cross to safety.

There were wanderings, new beginnings, divisions, and some heartache, but in the end, the destination was reached.

There is one part of the meal that really stands out to me.  It is during the recounting of the plagues — when Jews count down the Ten Plagues during the seder.  A drop of wine is spilled with each recitation in memory of those who suffered in Egypt…not the Jews, but the Egyptians.

I guess it’s a solemn reminder that when blood of any kind is spilled, we all lose a little something.  Then, it is important to remember that when there are those in bondage around the world, we ourselves (no matter our religion) are in some way in bondage.

Jewish or not, matzah-lover (matzo-lover) or not, remember Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.  Work toward justice, strive for freedom, and remember those who may not be so lucky or fortunate.

Passover isn’t just about a meal.  It’s about the whole human race.

Happy Passover 2011 / Passover 5771.

On October 7, 2011, Yom Kippur 5772 Begins — Will We Messy Eaters Do the Laundry?

So, our Jewish friends give us yet another great holiday about which to blog here at Nobody’s View.

This Friday, October 7, 2011 marks the start of Yom Kippur.  Or, in terms of the Jewish calendar, it is Yom Kippur 5772.  The holiday is ensconced in the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus 23:27 where God instructs the Hebrews that on the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei), the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is to be observed.  Other readings, including Leviticus 16, provide instructions to the priest according to the day, including the preparation of the scapegoat in order to atone for the sins of the people.  Offerings, abstaining from work, and sincere repentance are the order of the day.  This is the price for release from sins.

It’s a Day of Atonement — “at one-ment.”  In religious terms, the day bridges sinners with the One who does not sin.  The holiday that is just past, Rosh Hashanah 5772, was the start of the Jewish new year.  The Book of Life was opened and the great pen was set to parchment to inscribe names for the coming year.  On October 7, 2011 (5772), Yom Kippur, the book is sealed.

Let’s go back to that word “atone.”  What does that mean?  Perhaps it is the forgiveness of sins or the act of making amends.  On Yom Kippur, our Jewish readers come before God, admitting the wrongs committed in 5771.  They abstain from work, food, and the delights of the outside world and steadfastly appear before their Creator, seeking forgiveness and a place in the coveted Book of Life.

But now we have a different question on our hands — Where exactly are sins?  To put that another way, where is a ‘wrong’ located?  Does it become part of our body?  Is it jotted down on a Post-It note somewhere?  Is it blogged on some great and holy blog on the Internet?  (I haven’t found a blog like that so far, although there are a few that fancy themselves such a thing.)  I’m sure there are tons of theories on this, but I tend to favor a suggestion that sins do not reside in the soul, per se, but on our human clothing.

A few years ago, I was fortunate to hear a particularly interesting talk concerning sin and atonement.  The scholar compared these times of atonement to doing one’s laundry.  How?  Well, we of the messy eating crew know that stains very often appear on our pristine white clothing.  Come to think of it, that’s always when they appear — when we wear white.  And, it’s usually a colorful food we spill when draped in white — grape jelly and mustard come to mind.  Now, when someone wearing pure white returns to the office from lunch, their stains stand out, you see.  It’s true.  What is the first thing you notice about them upon their return?  The stains!  Admit it — you call it to their attention and rib them about it, don’t you?  “Nice shirt, Frank!  Did you get any in your mouth?”  Poor Frank.  That guy needs to wear more black.

So, in our example of atonement, through repentance, fasting, earnest prayer, or good will, we can, literally, do our laundry and wash ourselves clean.  Holy bleach!  Divine detergent!  Perhaps the memory of the stain is still with us.  Perhaps we regale our co-workers with the tale of the giant meatball sub.  However, the stain itself is gone — erased from memory and no longer a source of terror or embarrassment.

That interpretation (just one of many from only one scholar of many) had a profound impact on me — not as a Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, or Atheist, but as a person.  It redefined the nature of sin and repentance, casting it into a much gentler sea.  Sure, we all know that it’s easy to judge other people.  It’s easy to define someone by a casual (or intentional) deed or error.  But think about this — it is quite likely that the people whom you value most are those that look past the faults and see a shining core.  They don’t judge based on the passing acts of a human life.  They forgive us our foibles and earnestly believe in our better natures.  They don’t see only the remnants of pizza sauce on our white shirt.  Instead, they know our clean soul and better nature.

I’ve often used the following as my measure of judgement (I said often, not always!): If my life was in danger, would the person with the stained clothes rush to save me?  The answer is probably yes.  If his life was in danger, would I save him despite my stained clothes?  That answer is probably also a yes.  With those two propositions on the table, do I really have time to judge?  Probably not.  A life, not a deed, is on the line.

Become a multi-tasker: learn to love, assist, and do the laundry all at the same time.

5772 is on its way for our Jewish readers here at Nobody’s View.  For the rest of us in Nobody Nation, this can also be a time to get something good going — something that applies for all of us, whether we are Jewish or not, famous or unknown, exalted or plain, rich or poor.  Imagine that this Friday, October 7, 2011 will be your last day.  How do you want to be remembered — for the times you judged another or for the times you forgave?  For the damage you inflicted or the fences your mended?  For the fear you harbored or the courage upon which you sailed forth?

The Book of Life is in its last stages of editing.  It’s up to you.  Will you wash away or forgive the stains of the last year or let the stains blemish you?  Will you point out the stains upon others or let them eat in peace?  Don’t be fooled into thinking this post is only about God, sin, religion, or Biblical injunction.  It’s about common humanity.  It’s about all of us — all of us and our clean endings….

All of us and our clean beginnings.

Rosh Hashanah 5772 — The 2011 Jewish New Year Brings a New Start Where Every Day Can Be the Head of the New Year!…

First, I want to wish all my Jewish readers a happy Rosh Hashanah.  I know this post comes a little early.  Please forgive me.

It’s another New Year — 5772.  That’s right.  Rosh Hashanah 2011 is actually Rosh Hashanah 5772 for our Jewish friends.

This holiday is, literally, the “head” of the year.

Jews around the world will begin 5772 in a time of reflection…looking back on days past, examining them, learning from them, and then thinking about forgiveness and a new start.  The celebrations we’re likely to see won’t be like the January 1 celebrations of the secular world — no crystal Stars of David dropping to a celebrity-studded countdown…and no Dick Clark.

None of that.

These days of awe (the days from Rosh Hashanah to another Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur) are meant as a time of intense reflection, but also  a time of renewal — renewing body, mind, and spirit.

It’s a very important time of the year.  Your Jewish friends may not be at work for a few days, or there may be an empty desk next to you in school.

These days in Judaism are just one example from one religion of time given special importance.  In a sense, there is a velvety rope encircling these days on the calendar, much like a Christian may have for Christmas or a Muslim for Ramadan.  Special days.  Days of wonder.  Days of awe.

But spare a moment for this thought: Why only special days at certain times of year?

I know there are historical and spiritual reasons for having certain holidays at certain times.  And, I don’t mean that we should spend every day in intense repentance or unbridled emotional zeal.  I’m referring to something else here.  Something that goes to the core of living a life more in peace than pain.  More in joy than sorrows.

What if we considered each new day on the calendar the very start of a fresh, new year?  I’m serious.  Think about that.  If we started off each morning with a pause to reflect on the deeds of the previous day, considering where improvements might take place, and vowing to do better today, wouldn’t that really be something?  Each day is actually just one point on an infinite line that provides infinite points for improvement!  No, we’re not spiraling toward an inevitable endpoint.  In fact, we are polishing and polishing and getting better and better.  To what end?  Who knows.  That’s the adventure.

It’s worth a look.  Every day, then, could have the ring of the new.  The zest of the fresh.  The start of the spirit.

I don’t think one has to be Jewish to make something like this work.  I’m going to try this at this time of year with my Jewish friends and see what happens.  I’m going to take this Rosh Hashanah 2011 / Rosh Hashanah 5772 as an opportunity to start treating each day like the head of the year.

Will you join me?  After all, a brand new tomorrow is just around the corner.

As Ramadan 2011 Begins, Consider Discipline in Your Life, No Matter Your Religion

Ramadan 2011 has begun.  The sighting of the moon has signaled the start.

Are you Muslim?  Do you fast during this holy Islamic month?

Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, a commandment that fasting from dawn until dusk be part of a Muslim’s day for this one month of Ramadan.  Less time thinking about food, and more time thinking about God.  There is prayer and ritual, as well as an idea that something is greater than indulging in daily satisfaction of our human instincts, no matter how important they are.  This is also a month for enhancing one’s obligation of zakat, charity (another Pillar). Providing food for evening meals to those in need and supporting the local mosque are quite important.

Millions fast together during this month, aligning their wills into a goal of discipline.  There’s something powerful in the idea that if one fasts alone, it can be a trial (though a trial of love).  If one fasts as part of a world community, there is a social will that creates strong bonds.

Other traditions have discipline.  In Judaism, Jews have their day of fasting (Yom Kippur) and for Christians, the time of Lent might be a period of reflection as something is sacrificed for a time in order to focus the mind on something higher.

But outside of the religious processes of denial, is there a discipline you have that gives you strength?  See, true discipline is not really about whether or not you believe in a higher power.  It’s about whether you can subdue your urges and cravings for the purpose of reducing your stresses and anxieties.  Now, fasting is certainly a mainstay of world religion in terms of showing submission and gratitude.  But what about ordinary life in the secular world?

Well, in everyday life, discipline (yoga, meditation, holding one’s tongue, journaling, taking a regular walk) is about subverting your cravings and desires so that mentally, you are less agitated.  If we have the power to focus and do what we must, then we are less apt to become scattered and less prone to pining away for things we miss or can’t have.  When we realize that it is our constant wanderings and wantings that create a sense of unease, then we can get about solving those problems with a little attunement (atonement?).

This month is Ramadan 2011.  It’s a time when Muslims the world over will practice a discipline of fasting in order to serve and remember God.  No matter your religious persuasion, why not try to make this a month of new discipline?Walk for 20 minutes a day (with your doctor’s permission) or keep a dream journal by your bed.  Eat one more serving of veggies at dinner or sit for five minutes and listen to your breath as it enters and leaves your body.

Oh, and if you can drag a friend along for the ride, more’s the better.  After all, the will of two can often conquer what the will of one might not.  I hope you find that a little discipline goes a long way to a lot of peace of mind.