By way of preface:
The "Jewish Spirituality" mailing list is an outgrowth of several conversations in which people told me that they felt "alone" in their quest to develop their relationship with Gd. I knew they weren't alone, just from my own interactions with other people, and so I extended an invitation to the Jewish community of Rhode Island to join in a weekly mailing list exploring issues within their relationship with HaShem.
Many of the messages posted on the list reflect people's personal struggles and sensitivities. As a result, some of the people who post remarks on this list opt to do so anonymously; they send me the e-mail, and I drop their names. The list is "blind cc'd," as well, so that no one knows who else is on the list. Our goal is that the members of this list should draw strength and inspiration from the words of their peers, and thereby continue to develop as Jews.
If you would like to join the list, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jewish Spirituality - Volume 28
Re: Judging for the Good
Re: Putting spirituality to work
Re: Judging for the Good
Subject: Re: Judging others for the good
By: Rafi Minkin
I too have had the experience of seeing other Jews whom by their outward appearance or by their behaviors seem to have strayed far from the fold. My feeling often is one of being threatened, that is I feel the way of life I'm choosing, the direction I choose to go in is rejected by these others and I want them to be involved in Judaism as a way of life. I have been reading a book by Zalman Posner titled Think Jewish. I'd like to quote from the foreword.
What can a 35-century-old tradition tell the 20th century?
The given American Jew is certainly a college graduate, probably with several years of graduate school as well. Too often Jewish education, whatever meager rations it was probably ended before adolescence. When Jewishness and the ideas of the secular world conflict, in effect one is pitting a child against a sophisticated adult's conceptions. Considering the unequal match, it is no surprise that the secular view is often more persuasive, and the young Jew dismisses Judaism without even really encountering it.
This book endeavors to bridge that huge gap between the Jewish knowledge and the academic, to demonstrate that Judaism's teaching must be examined with the care and rigor one examines, say, political or economic or social or scientific offerings. Torah addresses the contemporary world, not necessarily agreeing with what is current by any means, but giving guidance and challenge and goals worthy of a thinking person. Today's world has not yet solved all its problems and shows little promise of solving many of them. Torah insights can add perspective badly needed.
In the book there is a chapter on Chassidic attitudes to other Jews that describes Judaism in the Torah community of consisting of "Enclave Judaism", inward-looking, modern "shtel-type" community and "Activist Judaism" those who stress the Torah concept that all Jews are responsible for one another. The Activist attitude stresses loving other Jews but not necessarily liking all they do. Further in the chapter it is pointed out that man is not identical with his actions, his words, his thought, his values, or his strengths or weaknesses. Man in his essence is his soul, the G-d spark within him. We are all sparks from one Source, not different, not separate. The challenge for us is to recognize the other, not as another but as part of ourselves and that when we reject him we reject part of own self, and that when we help him we come closer to our own fulfillment.
My suggestion is to think and to say no longer am I going to allow situations to determine how I feel. I can choose not to be upset, depressed and angry. I am free to choose how I respond to any given situation.
Subject: Re: Putting spirituality to work
By: Scott Spiegler
> Subject: Putting spirituality to work
> By: Anne Schwartz
> Here are a few ways I put Jewish spirituality to work:
> 1. My greatest inspiration for writing meaningful poetry is derived
> from the Sedur, and the Torah. The Psalms of Praise to Ha-Shem
> provide us with hope in a hopeless world, motivation to go on living,
> striving when the world around us is hostile and accusatory.
I really resonate with this use of tehillim to ask G-d for hope. I too often
bemoan the fate of the world and feel despair that the human condition is so
poor. I never thought of taking this feeling of hopelessness to G-d and
asking for His help in finding some hope. Thank you for that- it was very
helpful. It is a hostile, greedy world in many ways, and I really agree with
you that this is precisely the time to look to G-d for strength, for
comfort, for reassurance. Good way of putting spirituality to work! :)
> 3. Thanking Him for helping me through each day even though beset by
> chronic pain; thanking him for Israel's existence and praying for true
From where do you find the strength to not feel resentful towards G-d about
your chronic pain? How are you able to thank him, while going through your
struggle (which He could, in theory, help you with)?
> 6. I walk to my garden every evening and praise Ha-Shem for providing
> its floral beauty a result of His strength within me.
I really like this one! I like how you are able to both appreciate the
beauty of your garden and acknowledge the fact that G-d gave you the ability
to create such beauty. Lovely...
> 7. I kiss the Mezuzah, cross the threshhold then gaze upon
> the indoor leaves and flowers; this helps me restore my faith in a cruel
Again, I really like your recognition of things that you do to bring good
things in your life (with G-d's help) that help insulate you, at least to
some extent, from a world, which can be quite cruel at times.
Thank you for all these good, heart-felt insights. May we all find the
needed consolation from the One from whom real consolation flows. Have a
Subject: Re: Judging for the good
By: Jennifer Barenholtz
>Here is something I have been thinking about a great deal regarding dan
>l'chaf zechus (judging others for the good).
>I was in a Jewish bookstore some weeks ago, looking for some seforim.
>And, I saw many people there whom I assumed by their outward appearance
>and behavior had a connection to Judaism that is very different than
>what the Torah directs us towards.
>And, I felt upset and a little depressed seeing all this. I know I felt
>some anger at these people for straying so far from the fold and, at the
>same time, I also know that it is not right to be so judgemental. It
>hurts me to see Jews treat Jewish articles (like a shofar or a tallis)
>more like souvenirs rather than vessels of Holiness. And, I felt
>conflicted in my sadness, my anger and my judgement.
>I still don't know how to process that experience in a positive way, and
>I wondered what others have done when they've found themselves in
>similar circumstances? Do you get angry? What do you do with those angry
>feelings? How else can you view such a situation? Do others feel upset
>when you imagine this scenario or do you react differently?
To start, they are in a Jewish book store. How many secular Jews THAT you know
hang out in Jewish book store?
People connect to Judaism in different ways. When you see Jews that seem out of
place in so-called "Orthodox settings," it might seem frustrating or upsetting that they are so removed that they almost seem to be spectators. In reality though, these experiences might prove a turning point in their life.Many Ba'al Teshuvas can remember a single moment in time where they knew things were going to change in their lives. It could be a shabbos they spent at someone's house,going to shul, even going to a book store and picking up a book.
I understand that when you see people buying a religious Judaica item, it doesn't seem that they have the same appreciation as we do because they are not fully Halachic, but in reality they are connecting to their Judaism through some of the more tangible ways (i.e. shofar, tallis).
As a Ba'alat Teshuva myself I was always searching for the "tangible" to connect me to my Jewishness. Many of my friends from the past and family are not only going to marry non-Jews, but don't feel that their Jewishness in any sense at all. If this is how these people connect to their Judaism, then we as Orthodox Jews should embrace it in an open and non-judgmental way.
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