I am terrified to write this. But then again these are terrifying times. So it seems somehow called-for.
Basically, I have a secret. I deliberately keep it hidden and have so for years, except for those rare moments when I drop my guard, and have usually regretted it afterwards. It is quite possibly a distasteful secret. A secret that could distance me from people I care about. A secret that might label me in ways I definitively do not want.
So, why share this formidable secret now?
Well, this morning I sent my kids to school with a prayer that they make it there alive.
And, quite frankly, I’m just desperate enough right now to bear the sting of shame that comes with saying my truth out loud.
So here it is…
You want to see peace in the Middle East?
— “Keep Shabbas.”
Yup, I said it. “Keep Shabbas.”
Or wrap tefillin.
Or eat something kosher.
I don’t care what it is. Just so long as it’s something G!d instructed.
Oy, I can feel the horror-clinch tightening in my chest as I write this. Horror as I imagine the 1000 glazing eyes of my beloved friends & family who simply dismiss me right here and now as a narrow-minded religious fanatic. And I hate glazed eyes. I hate being dismissed. And I hate religious fanaticism.
Believe me, I’m a therapist, I know about the dangers of ‘magical thinking’. I know about the limitations of reward and punishment theology. I get how simple-minded childish and inane this might sound…
But wait, here it comes again. Like a wave, like a labor pain…born from a two-thousand year old gestation. Birthed between my teeth and onto this screen:
“Light candles this Shabbas.”
“For Israel’s sake. For the sake of our beloved children and heritage and all that is fragile and precious. Light candles.”
My face is literally turning red. My jaw hurts with the knowledge that I can’t unsay this and you may just think I’m a spiritual crazy.
I want to whip out my many diplomas and desperately assure everyone I am intelligent. I am educated and sane.
But, the truth is, I’ve never felt saner or more intelligent in my life as I do now, living here in Israel in these rare and defining times. And it has taken an un-educating for me to get here. A re-educating to what truly matters most.
So please – if you are still reading this – don’t glaze over quite yet. Just indulge me. Just apply your well-honed post-modern skepticism to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the tangible, visible world is not all that there is. Maybe, just maybe…
Believe me, I do not want to encroach upon your lifestyle choices, your decisions, your intelligence.
…But oh Lord here it comes again.
“Do a new mitzvah.”
“Cry out to Hashem.”
I can’t hold it back anymore.
Not when I watch my 3 kids walk out the door like it’s the front-lines of a spiritual battle and we are short six-hundred-thousand soldiers and the ammunition is running thin because all we’re doing is talking politics and checking our news feed when we should be talking to G!d and checking our good deeds instead.
This is life and death my friends and my family sleeps restless in these shimmering trenches.
For the non-religious and religious alike, I beg of us to take our spirituality more seriously. It is not just a side bar, a bi-line, a luxury, a thing of fantasy for hippies and freaks. It is the next crucial and exquisite dance step of our evolution.
Because you know why we haven’t found political solutions to the conflict in Israel? – Because there ARE NO political solutions. Politics alone can not solve this inscrutable mess.
We are talking about Israel here. A miraculously destined dream-state crafted out of improbability, prophecies and prayers. Even Israel’s secular founder David Ben Gurion said, “To be a realist in Israel you must believe in miracles.”
There are no this-worldly strategies big enough to encompass this other-worldly battleground.
I’m not saying we aren’t obligated to pursue political avenues. Of course, work for peace and strategize for war. Do all you can in this world. But do not let this world limit you or do you in.
The Shema itself lays it out with utter lucidity. Do these things you have been commanded “in order that your days be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land that G‑d vowed to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.”
Yes, I really do believe this stuff.
Or let me put it this way.
We need a shift in consciousness, agreed?
This current paradigm is clearly not working out for a-n-y-b-o-d-y.
What keeping mitzvot does is shifts us into a consciousness that says that there is something bigger going on here than the sum of its earthly parts.
When you do an act that you have been commanded to do you are plugging in to the consciousness of a higher truth, a diviner order.
We are willing to invest millions of dollars in warfare and defense. We are willing to hand our youth over to the hard arms of armies. But keep Shabbas, follow the Oral-law? Ugh, unseemly, illogical, antiquated, irrelevant.
Maybe so…but maybe, just maybe, it’s real.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a more peaceful path through these land-minded fields.
Maybe we can do this thing called teshuva. And maybe, just maybe, it will save our children’s lives.
And maybe, just maybe, the entire world will be better off for it too.
So forgive me for my simple-minded reward-and-punishment Jewish-mama-guilt-trip. But if just one more mitzvah is kept because of this post then dayenu, it was worth the sting of a thousand eyes of disdain and disbelief.
I believe this to be true and I’m willing to risk life, limb and a good dose of embarrassment to live by it my friends.
Action item post-script:
Most auspiciously, this coming Shabbat is ‘The Shabbos Project’ where a million Jews of every denomination will be part of a global Shabbat initiative in over 450 locations. Here is Shabbas, handed to you on a platter. Hold it, be held by it. Click here to see how you can get involved in your community.
If you already keep Shabbas then invite guests in to join you who otherwise wouldn’t.
Or maybe there is another mitzvah that is calling to you…By all means, post below one holy act that you are going to pick up to do this week.
One wick can dispel untold darkness.
Our actions DO make a difference.
I know, it’s embarrassing, but try it.