Five Ways to Inject Some Life into Your Judaism
How to shake off the dust and find meaning in your relationship to Judaism.
A new subscriber to Aish.com recently wrote me, noting the similarity in our backgrounds – we were both raised going to a conservative synagogue and Hebrew school, and we were both thoroughly turned off from Judaism. She's frustrated that she has yet to find the joy and depth of Judaism, and hopes to find the spiritual connection she's been longing for.
She's not alone in her frustration, and I wish there were more people like her who are open to explore their Jewish heritage and reconsider Judaism as a thoughtful adult.
So how do you shake off the dust from your moribund relationship to Judaism and inject it with life? Here are 5 possible avenues:
Create a connection to something you personally find meaningful in Judaism.
Perhaps it's a trailblazing book that conveys relevant Jewish wisdom that actually speaks to you. Delve into various Jewish sources that address a question you've always had. Learn about Jewish history and discover how the story of the Jewish people is, the insane odds of our survival and the impact we've made on the world. Sign up to "Partners in Torah" where you can get a glimpse, with a study partner, of the profound depth behind the stories of the Bible that you could not see as a 12-year-old waiting to break free from the prison of Hebrew school.
The meaning is there; you just need to do some digging to find it.
Discover the Joy
Don't let Judaism be boring. Make it fun, joyful and inviting. Sing! Eat! Dance! Bring it to life!
Host (or get yourself invited out to) a lively Shabbat meal, with guests, thought-provoking conversation, l'chaims and singing (when was the last time you sang with your kids?).
Do some prep work for an upcoming Jewish holiday: Go sukkah-hopping, dress up on Purim, make your Passover seder more engaging. Or go online to take a course about interesting Jewish figures or Jewish mindfulness. Visit Israel. Create your own Jewish art, take up Israeli dancing, dance at a Hachnasat Sefer Torah – a celebration dedicating a new Torah scroll, get your family in the kitchen cooking up new Jewish recipes, visit a tefillin factory, volunteer at a Jewish soup kitchen… you get the idea.
Take on a Jewish Challenge
We care about the things that we invest in. You know the clichés: Easy come, easy go. No pain, no gain. The Mishna in Ethics of the Fathers puts it this way: According to the effort is the reward.
When was the last time you put effort into your Judaism?
Take on something that requires some real work (not a Herculean challenge, but something that does take you out of your comfort zone) and watch what happens. You'll be more invested and will start caring more.
Some random examples: learn Hebrew, go to a Torah class or learn with a study partner once a week on a topic that interests you, go to synagogue on Shabbat (find one that has an alternative explanatory minyan), tackle the Talmud (with a class online), build a sukkah this year, get involved in a Jewish cause you believe in, learn how to defend the Jewish people on social media…
Judaism is not a spectator sport. You need to get off the stands and go on the playing field to fully understand, appreciate and experience Jewish life and practice.
Jews are obsessed with learning, but the learning is in order to put into action. Learning about the depth and beauty of Shabbat is wonderful, but you're never going to really get it unless you jump in and experience it.
We naturally share what we love – we tell our friends about a great movie to see, recommend a book, a restaurant, share a funny joke…
Share what you love about Judaism. Whether it's sharing with a friend a piece of Jewish wisdom you found particularly insightful, talking about an enjoyable book, a meaningful spiritual experience, don't keep it to yourself. If you found it valuable, chances are your friends and family will too. And the extra benefit to sharing it is that it makes you understand and appreciate it even more.
Photo Credit: Yoram Raanan, Ki Mitzion Tetze Torah