Monday, August 23, 2010

How do you eat an Elephant?


Answer: One bite at a time.

A dumb joke, but a great analogy. During this time of Elul, the month bringing us into the High Holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we begin thinking about the past year and how to improve the year ahead. This joke gives us an idea of how to approach the coming Holiday season.

It's normal for us to get involved in what we need for living our everyday lives. Everything from - what am I going to have for dinner tonight to the ability to make a living. These are obviously important things to consider, but we have a tendency to overlook the spiritual parts of ourselves while just trying to make ends meet.

There is a major assumption that we may have when thinking about our involvement in Judaism.
* That involvement in Judaism is an "all or nothing" proposition.

"All or nothing" is not Judaism. This is certainly not to say that G-d isn't asking us to keep all the commandments, or to pick and choose the ones we like doing most. Realistically we have to take into account human nature - keeping the Torah and mitzvot may seem overwhelming to some. This is why the elephant analogy is so apt. We are meant to approach our Judaism one step at a time.

Judaism is a lifestyle - the way that G-d explained to us to get the most out of our time alive. While we may see this statement as intellectually true, it is not always easy to implement it into our lives. That's why we should take it slowly.

King David instituted the idea of saying 100 blessings daily. Why? To bring the recognition of G-d into our every day actions. One hundred blessings might be a bit much for us right now - but how about one blessing said with real feeling every day?

I do this myself with one particular blessing. It's what I call the bathroom blessing. It is said after doing your "business" in the bathroom (saying it outside the bathroom). It's called the Asher Yatzar.
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the universe, who has formed man in wisdom, and created within him numerous orifices and cavities. It is revealed and known before the Throne of Your Glory that if but one of them were to be blocked, or one of them were to be opened, it would be impossible to exist even for a short while. Blessed are You Lord, who heals all flesh and performs wonders.

If we contemplate the words in this blessing - we see something amazing. We take much of our health for granted and certainly do not think much of using the bathroom - but the truth of this blessing brings us back to the basics of human biology. We are delicate creations, with organs and blood running through us, DNA and cells with vital information - if anything goes wrong with any of these parts of us... we are in real trouble.

Understanding the basics is where I think we should begin when approaching the New Year. By saying this blessing we gain the recognition that G-d watches out for us personally and wishes for us the best - saying one blessing with feeling once a day for a total of two minutes is a good place to start.

No comments: