Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Act Without Thinking.

I was going through a stack of papers, looking for an old teaching, when I came across some notes I took while listening to Rabbi Art Green* speak at a CCAR convention back in 2012. Like just about everything I encounter from Rabbi Green, it was great to read through. One bit jumped out at me, for some reason:

* It was a bit like going to a Springsteen concert**--nothing was actually new to me, but to hear the man cover his classics like this, in person, was so damn thrilling.

** I'm not really a Springsteen fan. For some reason, though, that seemed like the right analogy at the time. And, for some reason, I remember it 6 years later, and it still seems right.

I'm not sure how directly this was taken from what he said, but here is what I wrote:
A personal theology is less important than a personal religious life. It's about piety. Our tradition/piety is rooted in the open, loving study of text.  
It's like the Jews not taking the time to make provisions when they left Egypt. Don't stop to plan your escape from your personal Egypt. Just go, or you'll never get out.
I talk to so many people who, in one way or another, tell me that they're searching for something. That they want meaning, that they want to feel connected to Judaism, that they want to feel comfortable in their Judaism. And, so often, it's a sense of insecurity, a sense of not really knowing exactly what they want, or what they believe, which holds them back. They lack something, and they know that they lack it, and they want it, but that same lack keeps them from looking for it in the first place. "How can I search for religion/meaning, when I don't already have it?"

The trick in Judaism is always that we don't have to understand or believe anything before we start acting. More than that--we can't truly understand or believe anything until we start acting. Because, ultimately, we aren't a theological or doctrinal people--we don't assert facts about God and base our lives on them. We act, and we practice, and we experiment, and something grows out of that. Our belief is an inchoate sense of something which is the result of things that we do, things that we read, things that we try.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you want to feel more connected to your Judaism (or, I guess to anything) don't wait. Don't make preparations. Don't worry about which way to go, or what to read, or how to do something. Just go. Do something. Read anything. See what happens. Then go somewhere else, do something else, or read something else. It won't make sense, not really, at least not at first. But, with enough time, enough trying, enough openness, and maybe a little bit of grace, something might start to stir, or coalesce, or present itself. Something might start to mean something.

Yeah, I'm being vague. I can't really tell you what you're looking for, or where to find it, or what it'll look like when you do. Each person has to find this for him or herself. But, I'm pretty sure that sitting around doing nothing isn't going to help.