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As many of you know, I returned to Judaism several years ago, after falling away and practicing Zen Buddhism for many years. It has been a period of joy, questions, exploration, more questions, and discovering the path that brings me closer to G-d. Although I began to enjoy many parts of the practice, I would not have imagined learning so much; I can now recite the Amidah in Hebrew and actually understand it! It has become an early morning ritual, and I rest in the silence that surrounds me as I pray. I feel appreciated by my Torah partners; we share questions, our understanding, and our joy. My learning and writing journeys with @iWe have been remarkable. Even then, I still found myself doubting my commitment. It wasn’t that I wasn’t fully connected to Judaism and feeling G-d in my life, but why wasn’t I willing to do more?
At Yom Kippur this year, I finally realized I was asking the wrong question.
On this year’s Day of Atonement, I spent the entire day in prayer and meditation and fasted. Over and over again I asked for forgiveness for my sins, trying very hard to fully engage with each acknowledgement of a shortcoming. Where in the past, I would argue with myself—have I really done this or that sin?—instead, I knew that in large and small ways I had disappointed others, disappointed myself, and disappointed G-d. It was time to own up and be at peace with the truth.
This year I also blew the shofar. It was not only a call to my ancestors, but it was a plea to G-d to let me experience him more deeply. To allow me to be closer, to serve him more sincerely, and to be more forgiving. Of myself, in particular.
It was later that day, and in the days thereafter, that I realized that to be closer to G-d, I had to forgive and accept myself. To trust, as so many Jewish friends have told me, that G-d is not angry with me with my limited practice, but that He is delighted whenever I do something that acknowledges Him and brings me closer. That he shares the joy I experience when I sense his Presence, when I feel I may have heard that still, small voice—the one that inspires me, that moves me to prayer, that encourages me to share my thoughts through my writing.
The question was not, why wasn’t I willing to do more? The question was, how do I engage as deeply as I possibly can, and simply appreciate serving G-d?
Although I know I can do much, much more in terms of practice, I now feel a certain peace that I continue to learn and grow every day. That experience does not mean I am always generous or helpful to others. It doesn’t mean that I’m never hard on myself. It doesn’t mean I won’t have sad days.
But in these difficult times, I have an obligation to extricate myself from my fears about the future and embrace the abundant blessings in my life. I must stop indulging the darkness and welcome in the light, for myself, for all of you, and for G-d.
The light that I can share is the greatest blessing of all.Published in