Faith, Spirituality, and the Pursuit of Peace
The Jewish faith has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The beauty of being raised in Israel is that you are so naturally surrounded by Judaism that it is a seamless part of your existence.
It is the Jewish homeland after all.
As a little girl, my parents would lift me up to the mezuzah* every night and repeat the Shema* prayer to me. Afterward, my mother would lay me down to sleep. I can still feel her hand on me and her voice in my head as she put me to bed, whispering “May G-d bless you and protect you. May He cause his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May He turn His face upon you and grant you peace. Amen.”
It’s that peace that I've been searching for as an adult.
Growing up, I never questioned my religion. It was more than a religion, it was a way of life. It was Bible study from elementary school to high school, it was synagogue on the High Holy Days*, Shabbat dinners, Jewish holidays (e.g. Chanukah, Passover), Israeli national holidays, and across it all - the Hebrew language.
In the last few years, however, I’ve questioned my religion, for better and for worse. It was Judaism that encouraged me to do so - interpretation of the Bible is what we do best. There are many people in my life who are not Jewish and who I respect and love. It's with them and others that I’ve had many in-depth theological discussions that have all culminated in me not being able to debunk my own faith, while also not wanting to change theirs. It's not about convincing myself or another to change.
My Judaism is not a one-size-fits-all religion. I interpret the Bible in my own way. I abide by the laws of being a good human being. I'm a spiritual Jew who believes in one G-d, in energy, in destiny, in karma!
I haven’t quite found the serenity and peace I've been searching for. Years of water under bridges have drifted me to a place where I find it hard to breathe deeply and sleep soundly at times. In my quest for the peace in the prayers of my childhood, I've found that looking back and finding the moments I had felt the most at peace and pinpointing my state of mind and the situation I was in helped.
It's so hard to disconnect today. Between Instagram and Netflix, my face is always directed at a screen. I work in marketing for goodness sake, it’s unavoidable. The restlessness I've felt from not being able to communicate with myself because I couldn’t find a way to listen to my emotions and thoughts brought me to a point where I knew I needed to take a beat.
While I grew up with Judaism in an effortless way, it was meditation that brought me back to my faith. It was meditation that helped me calm my mind enough to recall the times I felt at peace, comforted, fulfilled, whole. In most of those instances, I was surrounded by family and friends, my community. In ALL of those instances, I felt like I was never alone, even when I was.
In an effort not to sound cheesy, I never felt alone because I was secure in the knowledge and the faith that G-d was always with me. “May G-d bless you and protect you, may he turn his face onto you and grant you peace. Amen.”
Acknowledging what gave me peace back then, had me taking steps to educate myself theologically once again. On my 28th birthday I vowed to read the Old Testament front to back during this year (here it is). The purpose is to remember the stories of my ancestors, all of our ancestors. To read the ultimate family tree (with a whole lotta drama lemme tell you!), and to take from it what I consider helpful tools at navigating this crazy world we live in.
But even without reading the Old Testament, I find (now, after a lot of self examination) that everything I need lies within the people in my life and in myself. My community (not just my Jewish community, either) give me strength, clarity, faith; they show me what to do (and sometimes what not to do), they are my mirror, my conscience, my heart. And in myself the whole of the universe lies. And we all know who created that one…
*A Mezuzah is a small rolled parchment affixed to the doorpost at the entrance of a Jewish home as well as at the entrance of each of the interior rooms except for the bathrooms. The parchment includes two biblical passages that include the prayer of Shema, the ancient Jewish declaration in the belief in one G-d.
*The Shema is the ancient prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services, confirming the belief in one G-d and giving praise to Him.
*The High Holy Days include the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the 10 days between the two holy days, where we have a chance to repent on our wrongdoings in order to be transcribed into The Book of Life.