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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - September 2019
From the Rabbi - September 2019 PDF Print E-mail

Most people who believe in G-d would agree with the idea that "G-d is everywhere."  But we rarely stop to think what we really mean by that.  In fact, most of us who are honest about it would probably admit that what we really believe is that G-d can be found primarily in our synagogue, church, mosque or other place of worship.  We go to such places and pray there precisely because, deep down, we think that G-d is more "concentrated" in those places and that we have to go there to connect with G-d.  And we often live our lives as if G-d's presence and the ethical and spiritual dictates of our religious traditions stop at the door of the place we worship.  The same person whose thoughts turn to charity, gratitude and humility when in synagogue or church can act very differently from these fine sentiments in their daily lives. 

But Judaism is famously a "way of life" that is supposed to inspire our actions wherever we are. It is a religion that places what we do over what we believe and is therefore as, or more, concerned with how we live our daily lives than with our inner life of the soul.  This is why Abraham Joshua Heschel said “Judaism is a theology of the common deed, of the trivialities of life, dealing not so much with training for the exceptional as with the management of the trivial…[T]he purpose [of Judaism] seems to be to ennoble the common.” This means that even the most trivial aspect of life can be an opportunity to connect with G-d and to live our lives in a spiritual and moral manner.

In his book "At Home: A Short History of Private Life"  Bill Bryson takes the reader through a tour of his house explaining the fascinating and often downright weird history of all the mundane items in our house that we normally take for granted.  Each room we walk through without paying attention, each item we use without thought, reveals stories of ingenuity, perseverance, and often blood and guts that made them what they are today.  If so much unexpected depth can be found in such seemingly unassuming places and objects perhaps spiritual and moral inspiration can too.  In understanding how Judaism can and should be part of our daily lives, we open our eyes, our hearts and our minds to experiencing G-d in the mundane and we can "ennoble the common" to find meaning and wisdom in the apparently trivial. 
We are about to enter the Days of Awe, a time which in many ways does involve us focusing our spiritual and ethical thinking at a particular time and in a particular place.  But we are reminded that the goal of these High Holy Days is to take the spiritual inspiration and moral self-reflection we experience at this time and continue to live according to those high and holy ideals every day and everywhere in our daily lives.   

     Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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