on Tuesday, 26 June 2012.
Being Jewish is about doing Jewish. While Judaism engages the head and the heart, much of it is about the importance of doing over the importance of feeling. When the Torah mentions something about a feeling, "Love your neighbor as yourself," rabbinic commentators say that it is really about doing something. Rashi, the medieval French rabbi and greatest commentator on the Torah, wrote on that verse, "It is forbidden to do what you would not want done to yourself." He turns it into how to act. For Judaism, the importance of feelings is in acting them out.
What does it mean to love? It means to act lovingly. What does it mean to be compassionate? It means to act with compassion. What does it mean to be generous? It means to give generously. If someone does something wrong, it's not enough to feel remorseful—Jewish tradition teaches that we are to apologize and try to make amends when possible.
The core of being Jewish is doing Jewish. It's not enough to simply feel Jewish in one's heart and not do anything Jewish. That's like being a runner who doesn't run or a businessman who doesn't work. There's a difference between being a baseball fan and actually stepping up to the plate, ready to swing the bat. So what does it mean to do Jewish?
It starts with mitzvot, the commandments. The central commandment, according to the great 2nd century sage Rabbi Akiva, is the commandment discussed earlier, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Nothing is more Jewish than helping someone out, than being kind to a person, than remembering there is a right and wrong way to treat another individual. However, while ethics and morality are at the center of behaving Jewishly, being a good person is not everything there is to it. Mitzvot provide us with rituals and ceremonies to mark importance lifecycle occasions. They help us to speak about and solemnize the deepest, most significant experiences in life, such as birth, marriage, and death. Mitzvot provide us with ways to turn "just another day" into a holiday. As a Reform Jew, I do not believe that our lives should be scripted by the mitzvot, that we as individuals have no say. However, I believe that Judaism can fill our lives with meaning and purpose. I believe that Judaism offers us the tools to elevate our lives, to elevate the life of our community, and ultimately to transform the world.
This year, I will be teaching a class called "Jewish Living." The class will meet every few weeks on Sunday mornings over the course of the entire year. We will be learning together how we can live Jewish lives, covering everything from tzedakah, to Shabbat, to the holidays, to everyday blessings. I invite everyone to come and be a part of this. For more information and to sign up, contact the Temple office at (520) 327-4501.