I’m listening to a fantastic shiur, the kind of deep learning that makes my mind ache a little, like a muscle that’s been well-used. I know when I’m learning something that feeds me when it changes how I look at the world around me.
Have you ever gone on a long trip away from home and returned and found that home looked a little different? It’s a little like that when I find a class that really gets into me.
In this class, the Rabbi is talking about mindfulness and living in the present moment, but he also talks about finding holiness in 3 places.
- Holiness of Place – Think of the weighty feeling of Israel or even more, Jerusalem.
- Holiness of Time – Think of how separate Shabbos feels from the rest of the week.
- Holiness within the Soul (Nefesh) – This is an inner holiness, when you feel most connected to G-d.
In each of these, the temptation is to believe that we have to be someplace else to really feel connected to G-d, to really sink into our spiritual practices, to really find our purpose and live. It’s easy to keep putting off fulfilling our purpose in life to a later time. A person could say, “When I can make aliyah and live in Israel, well THEN, I’ll really be able to study Torah. Until then? What can I do? I’m stuck here.” Or, “When I get past these trying times, when my children are older or when I’m retired, or when work slows down, THEN I’ll be able to really do the big thing that I feel is my purpose in life, that volunteer work I’ve been called to do. Until then? I’ll just have to wait.” Or, even, “When I finally feel that connection to G-d, when I’m no longer struggling, THEN I’ll be able to take on more mitzvos. Until then? I’m just not feeling ready.”
It’s easy to put off our lives until there is no more life left.
In my own life, I have some challenges right now. I’m working 4 ten hour days so I can have Fridays off. The kids are busy. We live in Alaska, where observance can be tough. We have only a small Jewish community and limited resources. It’s really tempting to put off things until we’ve moved to a bigger community. We’re also still in that awkward space between Jewish and not Jewish. It would be very easy to put off other things until we’ve converted and everything is more clear cut. There are also times I’m discouraged or having trouble finding hope.
One thing this class has helped with is that I’m looking for the holiness now, right here, where I am. Alaska may not be Israel, but G-d is everywhere and can be found anywhere. My challenge is to find holiness here, now, while I am here and to fully live here until it is our time to go. Similarly, we’re in this space between Jew and non-Jew for a reason and it’s my challenge to find the holiness there. What lessons can I learn in this space that I won’t be able to learn any other way? And, even in discouragement or when hope seems fragile, what is there that I am missing? What holiness is there to be gained?
The point is that no part of my life is a waiting room for my “real” life. Each moment and place I am is for a purpose and is important and requires my attention and focus. I can’t daydream my life away thinking that I will get to this business of being the person I was meant to be when I’m in an easier place or an easier time or I feel it more. There is nothing but this moment.
Unfortunately, recently, we don’t have to look very far for sad reminders that another day isn’t guaranteed for any of us and each moment we have is precious.
As Shavous quickly approaches, I’m immersing myself in this world and this time to prepare for the giving of the Torah in the hopes that my soul was there at Mt. Sinai and soon may it merit to return to the Jewish people. Until then, though, I need to focus on what I am here for in this moment and live it the best I can.