If there were a path that led you to a happier, more fulfilling life, would you take it?

practicing-judaismI’m pretty sure everybody would. So when my rabbi described his perspective on Judaism as exactly that, it opened my eyes to seeing my heritage in a different way.

What we are born into we take for granted. It’s just a factor of familiarity. We already know it so it doesn’t seem interesting or novel. Less inspiring than burdensome.

However, there are those moments when the brightness shines through.

As part of my synagogue’s course for preparing for a bar or bat mitzvah, there are four classes presented by the clergy and education staff. Today’s was led by Rabbi Aaron Bergman, and the point of it was to show how our traditions position us to appreciate each moment, and to appreciate ourselves.

That’s a pretty great lesson for a tween, isn’t it? I wish I’d had that when I was preparing to become a bat mitzvah!

There is a simple prayer some Jews say before rising from bed each morning calling Modeh Ani. Simply put, the single line of Hebrew words translates to: thank you for giving me another day, returning my soul to me, and creating faith. More or less.

Imagine: to wake up with the words thank you or I am grateful on your tongue.

Very different than my typical wintry morning: still dark, the alarm blares, I slap the clock, and grumble myself to standing. I don’t want to be up because it’s still dark outside and I feel tired, and my bed is warm and comforting.

eco-friendlinessIt’s funny: in the summer, I rise so early, eager to greet the already-light day. I can’t wait to walk in the perfect dawn quiet half a mile to the outdoor pool and plunge into the water, steaming warmer than the air, and swim for an hour. The peaceful rhythm of one lap upon the next, my head turning to the brightening sky above, the endless clouds and blue dream of the sky.

Summer days are like that. And they go long into the night, ending so late in these parts, but it doesn’t matter. In the summer, I am never tired.

And now, winter, when the darkness is so eminent and surrounding and it feels like I could always revert to the couch and read under a blanket, dozing constantly.

HarmonyRabbi Bergman said today that really, we are meant to live in rhythm with nature. The harmony of the world no longer exists when we resort to manmade structures and electric lights. We wake because of alarm clocks, because we should, and we sleep because we have to. There is no rhythm to wakefulness, no rhythm to sleep.

But there should be.

At the very least, if we can adopt that attitude of thankfulness, we will be one step closer to harmony. Said the rabbi: “Every single moment in your life is a moment to celebrate.”

RhythmSo he reasons, that is why Judaism – and other religions – give us prayers for the little things: a bite of bread, the oncoming of night, even after we go to the bathroom. (I mean, thank God our systems work as they need to!)

Your life is a song if you let it be. In rhythm and harmony with the world, with others, and most of all, with yourself.

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