Monday, December 28, 2015

Gratitude: The Most Important New Year's Resolution

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've begun writing down my prayers before I go to bed. I start out with a few things that i am thankful for, and then I ask God for help in whatever in coming up in my life. This has helped me to realize the true importance of gratitude. One doesn't realize how much one has to be thankful for until we try to write it down.

I'm not the biggest fan of traditional New Years' resolutions. Too often we start out strong with no real plan as to how to accomplish our goal, and by February 1st, all of the resolutions fall by the wayside because we get busy or lazy and that's fine. This being said, I think that there is one New Years Resolution that we all need to make this year. We need to be more grateful. Too often we look at the world with cynical disgust (I know I'm tremendously guilty of this) and forget the amazing things that we have. I'd like to issue some "thank yous" and my hope is that, in the new year, some of you all will do so as well. We forget what's important when we get wrapped up in the rabbit holes of our own minds or into a strict goal oriented mindset. Too often we remember the "what" and for the "why." Gratitude helps bring us back to the "why."

Over the course of the last week, I have gotten the opportunity to work with the amazing clergy at my childhood synagogue. And I want to start by thanking them. Thanking them for caring even though I no longer live fifteen minutes away. Thanking them for taking me under their wing. I have so much to learn, and I am blessed to have such incredible teachers (A new blog post about Beth Emet is coming soon).

Thank you to my friends who put up with my neuroses, and help me to make judgement calls, write a paper on Greek mythology, and plan Friday night services all in the same conversation.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog. I cannot thank you enough.

Friday, December 18, 2015

It Will Be Okay: Keeping the Faith

In my high school philosophy class, I was once called a religious fanatic. I can't recall quite why; I had some pretty unpopular opinions in that class. For example, I have faith, and that seems to make people in the philosophical world a little bit annoyed, but no matter. This is why you can call me a religious fanatic all you want and I won't mind:

I never really understood prayer until I was in about sixth grade. I discovered the power of prayer in a place that is still incredibly special to me today. At my camp, we have a prayer space that is surrounded by trees, and if one closes their eyes, all of the people and the problems drift away. Prayer isn't easy. It requires the putting into words thoughts that we don't speak out loud. It's not an easy way of solving problems; it isn't a cop-out answer, it's a comfort. Prayer helps me to ground my mind when things are out of my control. Prayer helps me to make decisions. Prayer is the reason that I believe in God. Prayer is how I express my faith. It doesn't work for everybody, but it does work for me.

I'm pretty skeptical of miracles, as anyone who has read my D'var Torah on Lech L'cha could tell you, but I think that faith is a pretty powerful thing. People and nature and hundreds of other agents make things happen, but nonetheless, it's important for us to have faith in one another and in the world itself. Every person is created in God's image and should be treated as such. I've been asked why have faith in something that I cannot be sure of i.e. we can't see God (I disagree with this, but that's a whole other blog post). To that, I call forward the term of Soren Kierkegaard: "leap of faith." Kirkegaard believed that faith couldn't really be faith if it was knowledge, and I agree with this. We take a "leap of faith" every time that we trust someone with a small part of ourselves or share love with someone else. As soon as we reach outside of ourselves, we are putting our faith in other people, which is where it belongs. 

No matter how cynical I may seem about politics or the state of the world, I will balance that cynicism out with a heaping dose of faith. Faith in God's work; faith that things someday will get better; faith that America will use the democratic system to elect a good president. And most of all, I have faith in the wonderful people who surround me; my mentors, my friends, my family.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Don't Let Dreams Stay Dreams: Parshat Miketz

While I was reading through this weeks’ parshah: Miketz, I couldn’t help but think about, and by think about I mean get endlessly stuck in my head, Debbie Friedman’s song, And the Youth Shall See Visions. The line from that song goes and the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions. This got me thinking about what the difference between dreams and visions really is. Anyone can dream. Young children do it all the time. But I’m not as convinced that every person can see visions. I think only those who want to see visions will see them, and otherwise, their notions of the future will be stuck in their dreams. 
In this parshah, Joseph is freed when he interprets one of Pharaoh’s dreams, and therefore, his ability to interpret dreams is what saves him both from slavery and from his brothers. It is very probable that someone else could have interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, it wasn’t that hard to figure out, but the way that Joseph interpreted it required immediate action which may be why it was included in the Torah.

We all have dreams of where we want the world to be in five, ten, fifteen years or what we hope will happen in our lifetimes, but I think what we need to do is have visions. I have a vision for the future where our discourse is not as racially and sexually biased as it is today. I have a vision for a future where kids with disabilities can go to Sunday school just like everyone else.  Visions can be big or small. They can affect just your family or the whole world, but the important thing is to take immediate action because while change may be slow, if dreams stay dreams, nothing can happen at all.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Pull Close, Push Away Approach: An Endless Frustration

You're probably reading the title to this blog post and thinking: Emily, what the heck are you talking about? Well, I'm about to tell you about something that has happened to me quite a few times in my lifetime of trying to figure out who to trust in this world. This phenomenon, which I will be calling PCPA for short is composed of two parts.

1. The sharer(me) reaches out to someone who they trust (or think that they can trust, but that part comes later). This is generally an adult in their life; someone who is theoretically and sometimes professionally obligated to be there for them. That adult continues to check in on them and treat them warmly, responding to their texts and emails, reassuring the sharer that the responder will be there for them, etc. This can also happen in person with physical warmth and kind words.

2. The responder "disappears." This can mean that they are more distant while the sharer is talking to them in person, or more often, in my life, it means that the responder stops well, responding. Texts go unanswered; calls go unreturned.

I can't say for sure why this happens but I do know two things: First, the sharer will often feel, at least in my case, that they were wrong to trust you which can cause them disappointment and anxiety that gets redirected to the sharer. Second, PCPA seems to happen when the information that the sharer has told the responder is something"heavy" or "complicated." I speculate that the responder pulls away because of fear, but since I don't really talk to anyone who has demonstrated this phenomenon for me anymore, I'm not sure. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I also want to just take a second and thank all of you who have been there for me through thick and thin. You know who you are, and I love you.