Friday, October 28, 2011

Does it Matter That You’re Performing Mitzvot if You Haven’t Converted Yet?

By Susan Esther Barnes

This post was inspired by Skylar Curtis’s Why We’re Probably Crazy After All posted on her blog You’re Not Crazy, and the comments that follow it.

To be clear, I’d like to say that I have never met Skylar, which I am sure is my loss. I have been following her blog for the past year or so, and from what I have seen there, Skylar appears to be an intelligent person who is sincerely and diligently seeking an Orthodox conversion despite the many obstacles she has encountered.

In no way should this post be taken as an opinion about Skylar. This isn’t about her. It’s about a way of thinking that I find disturbing. I don’t know Skylar, I don’t speak for Skylar, and I am not qualified to render an opinion regarding to what extent she may or may not think along the lines I am about to describe. For all I know, she may, in fact, completely disagree with the following line of thought.


The post referenced above starts, “Pre-conversion, it is very frustrating to feel that your actions (your mitzvot) don’t matter. After all, you’re not Jewish. You’re not required to do anything.”

Subsequently, it goes on to list various mitzvot and other actions, such as, “That it will matter that you spent thousands of dollars and who knows how many hours on seforim,” “That it will matter that you defended Jews and Israel,” “That your Jewish knowledge will finally be more than useful Jeopardy answers,” and “That it will matter that you have suffered anti-Semitism.”

What disturbes me about this post is it implies that performing mitzvot doesn’t matter if one is not Jewish, as if the mitzvot have no intrinsic value of their own.

Yes, the mitzvot are commandments that only Jews are required to do. However, if they don’t matter in any way except that they are things Jews are commanded to do, if they have no intrinsic value in and of themselves, then what that means is that God just commanded us to do a bunch of random stuff for no reason other than to allow us to follow God’s commands (and, perhaps, to reap from God some sort of reward for doing them, much like a dog gets a treat for rolling over at its master’s command).

I don’t believe God wants us to do mitzvot just to prove we’re willing to follow meaningless, random commandments. I don’t think God treats us like dogs doing tricks. I believe God gave us the commandments because God knows that when we perform the commandments, especially when we do them in a thoughtful and meaningful way, we improve our lives and the lives of those around us. I believe God gave us the commandments in order to help us to be a “light unto the nations,” so we could, through our example, suggest to the world that there may be value in doing certain things and behaving in certain ways.

For instance, when I spend money and time on seforim (books in general, or, more specifically, books about Jewish thought and scripture), it matters because I gain knowledge and understanding. When I follow the laws of kashrut, it matters because I learn about the ingredients of the foods I am eating, and I pay more attention to what I am putting into my body. When I follow the mitzvot regarding lashon hara (for instance, spreading rumors or unkind stories of others), I improve my relationships with other people.

Whether or not one is Jewish, it appears self-evident to me why it would matter that a person would defend Jews and Israel, or why it would matter that one has experienced anti-semitism, or any other kind of bigotry or discrimination.

If one can perform a host of mitzvot and not feel that any of them matter, that they have no value and have provided no benefit to themselves or anyone else, then I fail to see why that person would want to convert to Judaism. Why take on the burden of commandments that don’t matter except insofar as they allow you to do random, otherwise meaningless things that Jews are commanded to do?

This view of the commandments is expressed explicitly by commenter Mikeage, who wrote, “The purpose of mitzvos is to do them _because_ they are commanded; hence the term ‘commandment’. Period.”

I believe that to take this view is to greatly underestimate the transformative power of the mitzvot. It devalues both the mitzvot themselves and Judaism in general. We may do mitzvot because we are commanded to do them, whether or not we understand their benefit, but that does not mean they have no benefit beyond some unknown reward we may get from God later on. God forbid.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Applying to Learn About Jewish End of Life Care

By Susan Esther Barnes

I recently filled out the application to attend the training for “Kol Haneshema: Jewish End of Life Care,” given by the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.

This isn’t a class you can take on a whim. It’s 40 hours of intensive training, and to participate you have to fill out a four-page-long application. Then, if your application passes muster, you get an interview. It’s only after the interview that you find out whether you’re going to get into the class.

I can understand why they do all the screening. I’m sure the last thing they need is people of the wrong temperament barreling into the Jewish Home and making the residents feel uncomfortable. Also, I suppose they don’t want to waste their time and effort training people who aren’t going to follow through once the class is over to actually visit people who are elderly and/or dying.

I found the application to be quite interesting, although one question struck me as a bit odd. It asks whether the applicant has ever attended a funeral. When I saw that I thought, “Everyone who’s applying is an adult, and most of us are probably at least in our 30’s or 40’s, so of course we’ve all attended a funeral at some point, right?”

It turns out I was wrong. I recently visited my 83-year-old mother, who informed me she has never been to a funeral. Go figure.

I was pleased to find I’ve already done most of the stuff they ask about in the application. Yes, I have been to a funeral. Several, in fact. Yes, I have spent time with someone who was very sick and/or dying. Yes, I have seen (even washed!) a dead body.

The application also asked questions that took some thought to answer, such as the effect that my experiences with serious illness have had on me, what kinds of situations or patients I think I’ll have the most difficulty working with, and why I’ve chosen this kind of volunteer work over others that are available.

I must have answered at least some of the questions right, since I have an interview scheduled on December 1, with the fabulous Rabbi Elliot Kukla. Stay tuned for what comes next.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Visiting the Sick: Lesser Standing and Greater Stature

By Susan Esther Barnes

Every year, my synagogue’s chevra kadisha – the group of people who visits the sick, comforts mourners, etc., receives additional training. These classes are a good way to bring new members of the group up to speed, as well as to give current members additional information.

In a recent class, we discussed a quote from Talmud Bavli, Nedarim 39b, which says, “’The mitzvah of visiting the sick has no limit.’ With regard to what does it have ‘no limit?’ Abaye said, ‘Even an individual of greater standing should visit someone of lesser stature.’”

What does this interpretation of Abaye mean? I’m pretty sure he’s not saying people of high standing should visit short people. It seems to mean that people in high positions in society should visit the sick, even if it means visiting someone lower in the hierarchy.

Setting aside that I’m not a big fan of hierarchies, the idea that those higher up should visit others lower down seems like a no-brainer to me. Of course, everyone, on up to the King or President, should engage in the mitzvah of visiting the sick.

As with anyone else, of course, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. I once knew a woman who was hospitalized with pneumonia. When her boss walked into her hospital room, she thought, “How nice it is that she came to visit me here.”

Then the boss took out a pile of paperwork for the hospitalized woman to work on, and her husband quickly kicked the boss out of the room and told her not to come back. It’s no mitzvah if the “visit” is to increase the patient’s workload, rather than to provide comfort.

I find myself thinking what a good thing it was that this woman’s husband was present to throw the boss out. Why would the Talmud encourage people of greater stature to visit those beneath them, without any further instruction?

One of the problems facing people in the hospital is they may feel a loss of power. They are confined to a room for most, if not all, of the day and night, for the most part they don’t get to pick what they wear or eat, and they have little to no control over who walks into their room, or when.

Shouldn’t the Talmud remind the person visiting to keep in mind the balance of power, so the boss doesn’t forget that this poor hapless employee may not feel they are able to kick the boss out even if they’re feeling tired, or put-upon in some way? Shouldn’t the Talmud say that if a boss is visiting a worker, they should not pressure them to come back to work before they are ready?

Maybe the Talmud assumes that the person of lesser stature will be so flattered to get a visit from someone higher up that there is no need to worry about these things, but I just don’t think that is a reasonable position to take.

I also find it interesting that the Talmud doesn’t seem to say anything about there being an obligation for those of us who are farther down on the social ladder to visit those sick people who are farther up.

I understand there are other places in the Talmud in which it discourages us from appearing to be trying to curry favor with those in the upper classes. I can certainly see how this could be a concern.

There is a rabbi who used to work at our synagogue, and her husband, also a rabbi, still works there. I have taken classes from this woman, as well as from her husband, her father (yet another rabbi) and her mother. One could argue they are all of “higher stature” than me.

When this woman’s grandmother died, I wanted to attend the shiva minyan, but I wondered how it would look. Would the family, or others, think I was just there to “brown nose” with higher-ups, or would they see my visit as sincere?

I wrestled with the question for a while, and I could see how the same issue would come up for me if, God forbid, anyone in their family were hospitalized and I needed to decide whether to visit them. In the end, I decided to go to the shiva, concluding that since God and I knew the visit was sincere, I shouldn’t be overly concerned about what others might think.

Still, I can’t help but wonder, why is it that the Talmud, which addresses so many issues, does not address this one? Why does Abaye mention visiting people of lesser stature, but not visiting people of greater stature?

Does this mean Abaye took for granted that those of us of lesser stature will visit those further up, or does it mean he doesn’t think it is necessary or desirable for us to do so?

If any of you have references to any place that the Talmud addresses these questions, I’d appreciate it if you could let me know.

Were High Holy Day Services Boring? Next Year, Try This (at TCJewfolk)

Learn how you can make your High Holiday Services deep and meaningful by reading my post Were High Holy Day Services Boring? Next Year, Try This at TCJewfolk.

Monday, October 17, 2011

22 Things I've Never Done

By Susan Esther Barnes

This post was inspired by Mama’s Losin’ It, who got it from Pioneer Woman.

I am 47 years old.

And I’ve never:

1. Questioned whether God exists.

2. Eaten tuna fish.

3. Met either of my grandfathers.

4. Met a melon I didn’t like.

5. Been happier with my life than I am now.

6. Been baptized.

7. Changed a diaper.

8. Thrown up on an amusement park ride.

9. Used my EpiPen on myself.

10. Felt sorry my parents chose not to surgically correct my deformity.

11. Donated blood.

12. Learned how to whistle.

13. Visited either of the countries where my parents were born.

14. Cut down a tree.

15. Understood why nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

16. Written a song.

17. Worn a miniskirt.

18. Voted against marriage equality.

19. Gotten a traffic ticket.

20. Broken a bone in my body.

21. Gone to bed hungry.

22. Regretted hugging anyone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Haveil Havalim #334 - the Sukkot Edition

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs -- a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It's hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack.

As a general rule, I don't post more than three submissions by the same person, so if you sent in more and you don't see them here, that's why. Opinions expressed in the posts linked below are those of the respective bloggers and not necessarily endorsed by me.

We Need More Hosts!
Hosting the Blog Carnival is easy. Just contact Jack through the Blog Carnival website here, and tell him what day you can host. You will receive links to posts as they are submitted through the week. You can read them as they come in, and build your Blog Carnival post over time, or do it all at once - whatever works for you. Or, if you don't have time to read all the links, at the end of the week the Carnival will send you an email with HTML you can copy and paste that puts together the whole post for you with one easy cut and paste. So please host - we need you, and it will build traffic to your terrific blog!

Now, on with the submissions! Sukkot - the festival of the booths - started this week, and many people start to build their sukkah right after Yom Kippur, so I added a special Sukkot section this week.

Sukkah STL: A Contemporary Twist on Ancient Tradition posted at A/N Blog has photos of ten unique sukkot on display as part of a sukkah-building contest.

I present a photo essay of our efforts building one of the sukkot at our synagogue this year in Assembling the Synagoge Sukkah posted at To Kiss a Mezuzah.

Perry Block presents a cute, funny Sukkah story in The Year We Built the Sukkah posted at Nouveau Old, Formerly Cute.

Sharon A presents Sukkot photos from Israel in 10 Sukkot Favorites « The Real Jerusalem Streets posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets.

Jacob Richman offers several Sukkot resources in Educational Resources and 34 Cool Videos for Sukkot posted at Good News from Israel.

Rivkah Lambert Adler writes a heartwrenching story about what it's like to feel left out on the women's side of the mechitza in The Story of Yom Kippur and Me posted at Bat Aliyah.

Once you get past the typos, G.A. has written some interesting advice to the Orthodox in God's Sukkos Message to Orthodox Jewry posted at Dov Bear.

Friar Yid tells us how a comic book led him to think about observing shabbat in Baby Steps toward Shabbat posted at Friar Yid.

I have never written in a siddur, but Mordechai Torczyner suggests we might want to try it in Write in your siddur posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Joel Katz presents news and more news in Religion and State in Israel - October 10, 2011 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel - October 10, 2011 (Section 2) posted at Religion and State in Israel.

A new center which wishes to build community in Jerusalem is open, according to Esser Agaroth's post The Jerusalem Soul Center's Grand Opening! posted at Esser Agaroth.

Was it wrong for Israel to release the body of a Palestinian while Gilad Shalit is still being held captive? Batya says yes in Gilad Shalit, Jonathan Pollard, Biblical Yona and Our Responsibility as The Jewish Nation posted at Shiloh Musings.

Batya presents thoughts on the prisoner exchange for Gilad Shalit The Death Penalty for Terrorism Would Keep Us Safer posted at Shiloh Musings.

Esser Agaroth says Christians are practitioners of foreign worship, so they should not be welcomed in Judea, Samaria, or Binyamin, in A Post-Yom Kippur Message To "Right-Wing" Jewish Writers posted at Esser Agaroth.

Batya presents Arab Terrorism Endangers The Entire World posted at Shiloh Musings.

Mordechai Torczyner presents an interesting look about the cultural challenges of synagogue fundraising in The Taking Shul: The Challenge of Shul Fundraising posted at The Rebbetzin's Husband.

Read my review of an interesting new book in Hoffman's "The Dovekeepers" a Fascinating Look at Four Women's Lives After the Second Temple's Destruction posted at TCJewfolk.

Yosef offers us a couple of kosher recipes in Baked Tilapia with Sweet Potato and Spinach Hash posted at This American Bite.

How you can participate:
You may submit your blog post for the next edition of Haveil Havalim by using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Words Matter

By Susan Esther Barnes

I’m old enough to remember when people in wheelchairs were called crippled. Then the idea arose that there should be convenient parking spaces for people with mobility issues, but signs saying “Crippled Parking” didn’t sound palatable, so they went with “Disabled Parking.”

Then there was a big push to stop talking about “Disabled” and to say instead, “Differently Abled.” Somewhere in there the word “Handicapped” became popular, and now we mostly just have blue paint and signs with the internationally recognized depiction of a person in a wheelchair. I guess the lobby for people with canes, walkers, and prosthetic legs was asleep at the switch the day that decision was made.

This odyssey of a condition in search of an acceptable descriptive word is one category of what has come to be known as “political correctness” or “being PC.”

Another form of political correctness is the disapproval of the way a word is used. For example, the word “gay” has come to mean “homosexual.” In the online video games I play, the word “gay” used to be used frequently as an insult, in reference to something of which the speaker disapproved. The implication was that homosexuals are not okay, so therefore calling something “gay” meant that thing also was not okay.

Because I don’t agree that gay people are not okay, I used to speak up when the word “gay” was used in this way. Sometimes I received an apology, but more often I received a response along the lines of, “You get offended too easily, and I don’t have to change what I say. You are the one with a problem,” or “I’m not going to let you PC police take over the world.”

I’m happy to say that the people I play with online now no longer use the word “gay” in this way, but I know it is still used this way in other venues, and there is still a backlash when people encounter what they perceive as overzealousness in the pursuit of political correctness.

Sometimes people misuse a word in order to emphasize a point. See, for example, this article and related comments,in which Johnny Depp compares photo shoots to being raped, and later apologizes for his poor choice or words. Many commenters say they don’t think the actor should have had to apologize; they think he shouldn’t have caved in to political correctness.

This use of the word “rape” is one way some words are used because of their power to shock or to convey a strong message. The trouble is that, in this world in which the media, celebrities, advertisers and others are constantly fighting for our attention, formerly powerful words are overused. As a result, they can lose their impact or even their original meaning.

Words whose impact is being diminished by inappropriate uses include words important to Jews and Zionists, such as, “Hitler,” “Nazi,” and “apartheid,” along with a whole host of other words which are important to the public at large. The more these words are overused and misused, the more they lose their meaning.

I had a friend once who used to swear like a sailor. Every sentence was punctuated by words that fifty years ago would never be used in polite company. The trouble was, when the time came that she truly wanted to emphasize something, she couldn’t do it. She had no powerful words left. They had all been devalued to the point that what would be shocking in other circumstances was, coming from her mouth, routine.

Although I do have some concern that we do, at times, go too far in trying to moderate the speech of others, that concern is outweighed by my fear that our language is being diminished by the incorrect use of words and the overuse of words meant to grab attention.

Like the story of the boy who cried, “Wolf,” I fear the day will come when the word we mean really is “rape,” or “Nazi,” or “apartheid,” but we will not be heard because these words have been so overused that they have become meaningless. I am concerned that if, one day, an issue needs our dire attention, it will be lost in the cacophony of bold headlines and exclamation points, and we will not notice it until it is too late.

So, at the risk of being overly “PC,” please, people, watch your language. Don’t use words that convey something other than what you truly mean. Don’t try to shock when shock is not necessary. Think about your words before you say them.

In the beginning, God created the world with words, and it is said that the world can be destroyed with words as well. Words matter.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Assembling the Synagogue Sukkah

By Susan Esther Barnes

Above is a photo of the t-shirt I wore for to assemble the sukkah at our synagogue this morning. Actually, we assembled two of them. Below is a photo essay of the big one we assembled in the back courtyard. We also assembled a much smaller one in the front.

This is the third year I have helped to assemble the synagogue sukkot, and it's a lot of fun.

First, we arrived at 6 am to start assembly. The first task was to lay out all the pieces. It was still dark outside, so Marc brought his own lights to wear!

Next, we put together the frame:

Then, we raised the frame and secured the pieces together:

Marc was able to set aside his lights as the sun rose higher:

We attached the lattice:

More lattice. My apologies for getting the sun in the corner of the photo.

We're done, and the sukkah is ready for the palm fronds to be added on top and for the kids to add their decorations!

I hope to take a couple more pictures at our congregational dinner in the sukkah on Friday so you can see it with the palm fronds and decorations.

Review of "The Dovekeepers" at TCJewfolk

Looking for something interesting to read? See my review of Alice Hoffman's new book The Dovekeepers at TCJewfolk for one good option.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Having Your Picture Taken is Nothing Like Being Raped

By Susan Esther Barnes

According to CNN,Vanity Fair recently interviewed Johnny Depp, who compared having his picture taken to being raped. Below is the quote:

“It is obvious that being photographed all the time hasn't gotten any easier for the actor. ‘You just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped. The whole thing. It feels like a kind of weird—just weird, man,’ Depp says of getting his photo snapped. 'Whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like —- you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.'"

Let me clear this up for you, Johnny, since you’re so gravely misinformed.

Being raped isn’t like standing around in a nice warm room with makeup artists and hairstylists helping you look good while a photographer snaps your picture and tells you how talented you are. It isn’t like being in a place where you can reach for a bottle of water or your cell phone on a whim. When you’re being raped, nobody listens to you when you say, “No, stop, I don’t want to do this.”

It isn’t just weird. It doesn’t just feel dumb or stupid.

Being raped is more like thinking your life if going along like normal, and then suddenly, and without warning, knowing your life is about to be irrevocably changed for the worse. It’s about being thrown onto the cold, unforgiving ground by someone bigger and stronger than you. It’s about there being nobody, nobody at all, who can possibly help you.

Being raped is realizing, for the first time in your life, that you have absolutely no control whatsoever over what is happening to you and your body. It is knowing that no matter what you say or do, you cannot stop what is happening to you. It is about having your clothing and your dignity literally, and I do mean literally, stripped away from you by a complete and utter stranger.

Being raped is painful, mentally and physically. It is, above all else, a brutal act of violence. Being raped is not knowing whether you will live through the next hour. It is not knowing whether you will ever see your family and friends again. It is not knowing whether your dead body might be dumped someplace where nobody will ever find it.

Being raped is knowing, even if you survive, that you may never get over it. It is fearing you may have contracted a deadly disease. It is being scared that you may become pregnant from the seed of this monster who has attacked you. It is suspecting you may never be able to have a normal relationship with a man ever again. It is the complete loss of your ability to ever walk down a street alone again without fear.

Being raped means sitting in a hospital room, feeling violated all over again, as you describe the incident to the doctors and the police. It is spreading your legs to yet another stranger so they can gather evidence from within your body.

It is the beginning of years of struggle, of trying to make sense of how such a thing could have happened to you, of blaming yourself for what was, without a doubt, not your fault. It is about looking into the eyes of others and seeing their pity. It may mean reliving the incident over and over again, for lawyers, and in front of the public for a judge and jury.

Being raped is the end of life as you knew it, and the beginning of a life you never asked for.

So no, Johnny, I’m sorry, being photographed is nothing like being raped. Get over it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Your Questions Answered #5

By Susan Esther Barnes

One of the fun things about getting website statistics for my blog is I get to see the search terms people use to get here. A lot of those search terms are questions. You have some great questions, and I think they deserve an answer. So here is the latest installment of “Your Questions Answered.”

How to Respond to Lashon Hara
Lashon hara means “evil tongue.” Sometimes it is referred to as gossip, but it is anything harmful one person may say about another. The best way to determine whether something is lashon hara is to ask, “Is it true? Is it fair? Is it necessary?” If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you should not say it.

If someone speaks lashon hara about you, the best thing to do is to speak with that person privately. Tell the person how their words have hurt you, and ask them not to do it again. Unfortunately, the problem with lashon hara is that once the words are in the public square, some people will continue to believe them even if the original source recants.

If someone starts to speak lashon hara to you, you should tell them you don’t want to listen to such things, and if they persist, walk away. If you are consistent in not listening to this kind of talk, people will eventually get the picture, and will stop coming to you with it.

Can I place a mezuzah on a coffin?
A mezuzah is properly placed on the doorpost of a person’s home. It belongs on buildings where people live, sleep and eat (some synagogues have a mezuzah on the door, but others don’t because nobody eats or sleeps there).

A coffin contains a dead person. The person inside is not living, and can no longer sleep or eat. Therefore, it is not appropriate to put a mezuzah on a coffin.

What does “building a fence around the Torah" mean?
In the Torah, there are 613 laws. It is important to observant Jewish people to follow as many of those laws as possible. Therefore, the rabbis instituted some extra rules in order to try to make sure that nobody breaks a Torah law by mistake.

Making up those extra laws is called “building a fence around the Torah,” because if you don’t cross the line of that extra rule (or fence) then you can’t get close enough to the edge of the law to break it.

One example is the line in the Torah that tells us not to “boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” In order to be safe, the rabbis tell us not to eat any meat or dairy together. And in order to make sure we don’t eat meat and dairy together by mistake, the rabbis made a bunch of other rules about having separate dishes and cooking utensils for meat and dairy, waiting a certain amount of time before eating dairy after a meat meal, etc. These extra rules are the metaphorical fences around the Torah.

When God calls, do we have an option?
Great question. God gave us free will, so we always have an option. God may call, but we may choose not to follow that call.

That said, sometimes we feel compelled to do something, and we do it, and it isn’t until later that we realize God was calling us to do that thing. In that case, we had an option, but we may not have known at the time that we had chosen to do God’s will.

Also, in my experience, God is persistent. When God calls softly and we resist, God calls a little more loudly. The longer we resist, the stronger God’s call becomes. God can make things uncomfortable for us when we don’t answer the call. So, although we have the option not to do God’s will, in the end we’ll have a better life if we follow the call when it comes.

Why don’t Reform Jews follow the commandments?
Although there are many levels of observance among Reform Jews, many Reform Jews follow many of the commandments. In fact, whether they know it or not, many people who are not Jewish also follow many of the commandments.

The main difference between observant Reform Jews and observant Orthodox Jews is that the Orthodox Jews follow halacha, which consists of many “fences around the Torah” as described above. If one looks at the 613 commandments in the Torah, one will not find many that an observant Orthodox Jew follows which an observant Reform Jew does not.

On the other hand, in the Reform Jewish world, people who are less observant are not looked down upon by those who are more observant. Rather, we recognize that we are all on our own Jewish path, and that every person must decide for themselves what that path looks like. In the end, all Jewish paths lead to the same place.

What is the point of being a Jew if you are not Orthodox?
The point of being a Jew if you are not Orthodox is the same as the point of being a Jew if you are Orthodox.

The point is to bring oneself closer to God. The point is to continue beautiful traditions that have been practiced for hundreds, even thousands, of years. The point is to follow God’s commandments to the best of one’s ability. The point is to live a spiritual and moral life. The point is to be part of a sacred community and to pass on valuable traditions and values to future generations. The point is to learn from the Torah and to try to incorporate its teachings into one’s life. The point is to do God’s will and to be a light unto the nations.

Keep those questions coming!
I would love to answer more of your questions, so feel free to ask some in the comments section below, or just keep coming here via interesting search terms.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

10Q 2011 Day 5

By Susan Esther Barnes

See an explanation of what 10Q is here.

Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

I'd say my most spiritual experiences come during "Shabbat Unplugged," when a bunch of us gather in someone's home on Saturday night and we sing with Dan Nichols.

We mostly sing Jewish songs, but sometimes we sing other meaningful songs as well. The sound of the music is so sweet, and the sense of community is strong.

It is always easy for me to feel God, but I feel God even more strongly during Shabbat Unplugged.