Thursday, 15 July 2010

The rest of the story...

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about what I've learned from my friends of many faiths. But I forgot to add something very important to that post...I never said what I've learned from my own religion.

Why the omission? Maybe because to me, the answers are obvious. They are a part of my very being. And maybe, just a little, it's because my focus is almost always on healing the separations and bridging the gaps that drive us apart on the basis of religion. Or maybe it's a fear that my words will come across as "We have this and you don't" -- and that's not what I believe.

Whatever the reason, I am happy to be where I am, and better-late-than-never, here is the rest of the story...

From being a Jew, and from my Jewish friends and family, I've learned:

Don't pay attention to the numbers or the odds. No matter how unlikely it may seem, or how the odds are stacked against you, if it really matters, anything is possible.

Asking questions matters. Anyone can accept a creed on blind faith or because someone in authority says it's so. But the real test is when you can take it all apart, and look at it 10 ways and still find that the core holds solid. And it's not only okay to ask questions, it's part of the plan.

The small stuff counts. Forget the common wisdom about not sweating the small stuff, because those details make ALL the difference. How you treat someone begging on the street, how you deal with receiving too much change at the drive-through window, or how you look at a rainbow or the food on your plate or the doorway of your house all come together to shape the big picture. Unless you pay attention to the tiny pieces of the mosaic, the big picture will never come together.

Even the big external practices can change without destroying what counts in the heart and soul. Ironically, the big things often matter less than the little ones. We lost the Temples, and all the practice and ritual that was centered there, and kept on going. We lost our collective home, and wandered the world, and kept on going. We lost our freedom, but kept the faith. We were imprisoned and killed by the millions, but kept on marrying and raising families, as a symbol of hope. We changed the role of women and radically rewrote the words we use to address G-d, and yet stayed the course where it really mattered.

Ethics matter. The more I study and learn, the more I see the teaching is less about ritual than it is about ethics. So mouthing the right words or showing up at the right time isn't nearly as important as caring for the earth and other people and being an example of good and upright behavior.

There are things beyond what we can see, write down, or categorize. There is, without a doubt, so much out there/in here/all around/in us/ that we cannot even conceive of. And that there is a reason G-d gave the Torah outdoors, because in nature we can see/feel things that can never happen in a closed room or a book.

And a new lesson... Something truly beyond words and beyond comprehension happens under the Chuppah. It's not just getting married...there is more happening there. And that opens up worlds of possibilities.

I know many of you have received these same lessons from your faith, from your family. I do not doubt that for one nano-second. But I wanted to share the lessons I've learned from my path -- and THAT is the rest of the story.

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