By Cantor Mark Perman
The question keeps coming up as to how we can bring people back to a more active and involved Jewish life. From my
perspective it seems that it is very easy for all of us to become so absorbed in the details of our own lives (as stressful as they are these days) that the larger issues of community, spirituality, and tikun olam (the healing of the world) often take a back seat.
But yet it’s easy to see that if we become so mired in the practical details of every day life without looking at “the larger picture” we can easily lose sight of the collective steps we need to take to move our society in a more positive and enlightened direction. All one has to do is turn on the news and see that the violence, greed, and materialism that permeates our society springs from an approach that puts the self first and the needs of the greater community last. It is an approach that abandons the spirit and sees our ultimate goal as beating or coming out ahead of the other guy rather than working together for the common good.
In his groundbreaking book “The Sabbath,” Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: “He who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the world. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self” (“The Sabbath,” p. 13, AJ Heschel).
So perhaps if our soul longs for something deeper, more meaningful and eternal than our every day existence, it is time to look to a living and experiential Jewish life that can take the focus off ourselves and put it back on the larger community and our collective search for the Divine. Judaism asks us to approach life not only with an emphasis on building a committed faith and structured practice (on some level) but to look at the universal concerns that affect all human beings and all life. Maybe by returning to a more active involvement in Judaism and in our congregations we can begin to live our lives on a level that connects us in a deeper and more profound way to each other, to our own souls, and to God.
Cantor Mark Perman is cantor of the Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation-Emek Shalom in Simsbury. He can be
contacted at MarkP9@juno.com.
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