Monday, September 9, 2013

Granting Permission

Shabbat Yom Kippur
10 Tishrei 5773 / Sept. 13 - 14, 2013

Granting Permission
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

As I walked the streets of Mexico City, I noticed something quite amazing. On countless occasions, as I caught the passing eyes of restaurant waiters of street caf├ęs, taxi drivers waiting for their next fare, or security guards casing the crowded streets, I was offered an enthusiastic, “Buenos Dias!” (or Tardes, or Noches – depending on the time of day). The people of Mexico City seemed primed to offer a blessing to any passerby. It gave me a feeling that no matter what political and/or economic turmoil is at play (and in Mexico there is plenty) the fact remains that each person has the power to uplift and support another. I tested this phenomenon out multiple times. Passing someone from behind, or as they were looking down, I would say, “Buenos dias!” And without fail, like a spring release catapult, a gregarious reply of  “Buenos!” came flying back at me. I think it is a challenge to always be primed to offer goodness to another, especially when we are feeling lonely or disconnected. We all have tons of problems, yet we can snap out of our own limited stories to create an uplifting connection with another soul.

On Yom Kippur we are called together to spend a day in prayer and introspection. We take a break from eating, wear white, and wear simple footwear. Even between different Jewish groups (Sefardi and Ashkenazi, for example) where specific liturgy might vary, we commit to the same flow of prayer service. It is our sacred duty on Yom Kippur to help each other remember how connected the human community is to each other. On Rosh Hashana the liturgy crowns God as king, and on Yom Kippur we crown each other as agents of Tikkun Olam (#Repairing the World with Tessa Wells).

From a traditional and mystical perspective, we are taught that on Yom Kippur we take on excessive devotional practices so that we can resemble angles and be closer to God. Great! But,what is an angel? One perspective is that angels are messengers that transmit life energy (chayut, in Hebrew) from the Source of Life to all manifestations of life. This is like the bio-electric charge that bounds neurons to activate our physical body. As we take time to intend towards a more perfect world and inspire each other to do so, we are elevated to the status of angels. It is said that an angel has only one task to accomplish. Is it not true that no matter what dress our life story wears, underneath we are always tasked with the service of making the world around us better in some way?   

During our daily Morning Prayer services (Shabbat and Holiday included), right before the Sh’ma we proclaim that the angels “give permission, one to the other to sanctify their Creator.” How perfect a metaphor for us this Yom Kippur to show up to synagogue, not only to pray for a good and successful year, but to give permission to each other to engage in our life purpose for the next year that has just begun!

Every Moishe House, no matter what flavor of Jew you are or language you speak, is creating an environment for people to be Jewish in a way that feels meaningful and important to you. Your participants use the environment that you create to access the Jewish piece of their identity to feel more connected and empowered in their lives. As I continue my work with Moishe House, I learn that there are many young Jews that are invisible to the organized Jewish community. They do not connect to the Judaism of their families and are in a way like religious orphans. This phenomenon is for the most part not acknowledged by the mainstream Jewish community.

Like the angels do, I want to personally give all of us permission to be inspired by each other to continue to do this important work of service to the Jewish community – and by extension to serve all people and the world.

Shana Tova U’Metuka and G’mar Chatimah Tova!



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