Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Time of Reflection


A quick snapshot from a quote I read in the holiday prayerbook

I have a strange relationship with organized religion. My upbringing was in the Jewish faith, but my parents were more culturally than religiously Jewish, if that makes any sense. They were not observant, nor did they attend services. I ended up being the sole member of my family to belong to our local temple because it was a place of social gathering and I wanted to be like all the other kids in our neighborhood.

So I attended Hebrew school, 3 times a week for most of my school-aged life, sang in the choir at family services, and became a Bat Mitzvah.

But I wasn't like all the other kids there; my family didn't attend with me. And it had something to do with organizational politics and the stubbornness of two men - the Rabbi and my father. I'm still not sure of the full story. (But it reminds me of the old joke about a Jewish man marooned on a desert island. When he is finally rescued after several decades, he proudly shows off the two temples he built to keep busy and sane. When asked why he built 2 temples, the man replied "This is the temple I attend. That other place? Hah! I wouldn't set foot in that other temple if you PAID me!")

What I loved about services at the temple was the music. So many of the prayers are sung in haunting, old tunes and in minor keys. They are ancient laments that have always stirred my soul. I'm not sure I ever believed in 'God' as depicted in the Torah or in the commentaries, but I also enjoyed the way Jewish scholars over the centuries continued to argue over interpretations and laws.

As I have lived my life, my spiritual alignment has drifted closer to a Buddhist philosophy. And still, while I am not terribly observant in terms of the Jewish rituals, there are some concepts that resonate with me. One of them is that of Tikkun Olam, which literally is translated as 'repair of the world.'

For me, what Tikkun Olam means is that my choices and my actions have consequences and I strive to chose the path in life that heals rather than shatters.

The other ritual that resonates deeply is that of the yearly fast and day of reflection on Yom Kippur. Say what you will about religion in general and Judaism in particular, those early scholars were nothing if not pragmatic:  They created a way for self-assessment and community building that just makes sense.

In the High Holiday services, there are repeated mentions that you can obtain forgiveness through prayer, but ONLY for those transgressions against God (ie, lapses in observancy, etc) . If you wronged a member of your family or community, you had to ask them directly for forgiveness. And saying 'sorry' wasn't enough. You had to make a commitment to action and change that your community would hold you to.

So here is my apology and my plea: If I have, by word, deed, or inaction, caused harm to any, please forgive me and know that I will strive to be a better person in the year to come.  And please continue to help me be that better person.

I wish you a world full of healing, light, and love.


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