I must admit, I am fairly addicted to technology and gadgets. I grew up loving video games (Pong and Atari 2600 started it all for me) and still have four different console systems at home. I tend to be an early adopter of new devices, and can seldom be found without my iPhone or iPad close by. Yet, even when I admit this to myself, there is still a little judgmental voice inside that believes that smart phones, tablets, computers and games disrupt society and distance us, especially in a Jewish context. Luckily, a number of recent experiences have proven that technology actually helps to connect us and to improve our Jewish lives.
After the drama of the High Holy Days, we have returned to the beginning of the Torah. Early on, in chapter 19, we meet a character who has much to teach us, although she is with us only a short time: Lot’s wife. She is almost anonymous; her reactions to being told to leave her home in Sodom are not shared. We know only that she turns around to look behind her at the city they are escaping, and turns into a pillar of salt for all eternity.
On the High Holy Days, we are encouraged to look back. We ponder the year that has passed, what has transpired, and how we might change it in the future. But what if we are stuck? What if we can’t get past a specific event? How many of us have experienced a terrible ordeal?
Judaism has mechanisms in place to help us cultivate a sense of gratitude.
Rabbi Marci Bellows
Jewish Week Online Columnist
Story Includes Video:
Life is busy, right? It’s crazy. And frustrating. There is just so much that happens each day that annoys us. Our co-workers, or our in-laws, or our kids… our bills, our obligations, our struggles… all of these factors can add up to a very troublesome existence. It is so easy to let days go by before we take a deep breath, pause, and actually take time to be grateful. To say a blessing. To be satisfied with what we have right now, rather than what we want.
Last week, I rode a record-breaking roller coaster. Kingda Ka, as it is known, is the tallest and second-fastest in the world. It climbs as high as 45 stories into the sky: closer to the heavens than any other ride. There was peacefulness, and a sense of closeness to God (though I know that those who are afraid of roller coasters will scoff at my sense of divinity).
As some of my readers may remember, I am getting married later this month. I feel so lucky to have met my soulmate, and our relationship gets stronger and stronger as the months pass. And, though I’ve officiated at dozens and dozens of weddings, I find myself feeling as though we are creating the whole thing from scratch. I guess I expected myself to be an expert on all things wedding, but I’ve learned the lesson that you are probably all anticipating: it’s always different when it is your own event!
Ani Maamin – I believe with perfect faith in the coming of a messianic era. In Reform ideology, we don’t necessarily wait for an individual Messiah, but we do encourage people to do all they can to create a better world, and to work towards a time when all will be peaceful, loving, and safe. Among Jews of various denominations, we have differing opinions about what will bring the Messiah. Some believe that, once every eligible Jew has observed certain mitzvot (like laying tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles), the Messiah will finally arrive. Others believe that, once things get particularly bad, the Messiah will surely come. I have a bit of a different idea.
“Let’s go!” I said, excitedly waving my hands in encouragement. “Let’s go dance with them!” We stood up, grasped the hand of the person nearest to us, and joined in the celebratory dance around the sanctuary. As the melodies of Lecha Dodi surrounded us, I watched a new feeling of joy develop on the faces of my students. They had never before had the chance to express themselves through dance in a Shabbat worship experience, and it was just the first of many eye-opening experiences of the weekend.