Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
December 13, 2013
6 AM -- Tuesday morning. The phone rang: "School is closed due to inclement weather....." My initial reaction was that Ezra and Faith were going to be thrilled. I was about to shut off my alarm, which was due to go off 15 minutes later, when I remembered that I had scheduled in my calendar that I was going to the gym right after the school bus picked up the kids. I immediately began a familiar internal struggle whether or not to get up. Ultimately, I forced myself up so I could go to the gym as I had planned.
I've been told that at some point the regular discipline of going to the gym would become easier. However, after several years, I have yet to find this to be the case. I don't mind the gym so much when I'm there, but it's the getting there that is difficult.
Some may easily identify with the "gym" struggle, but there are many other parts of our lives with which we struggle and as a result, give up. Most of us would say that our Judaism is very important to us, and we want our Jewish identity and faith to remain spiritually healthy. Yet, we don't plan time to regularly take advantage of opportunities to make ourselves more spiritually fit. We are surprised when our Jewish anchor holds us a bit less firm and we, and our children, become slightly more adrift within our Judaism.
If someone were to forbid our Jewish engagement, we would angrily resist. If there was even a suggestion that we distant ourselves from our Judaism, most would stand up and declare non-acceptance of such whispers. But, when our Judaism is not threatened and non-judged, we can begin to become complacent in our Jewish priorities.
When Joseph was viceroy to Pharaoh, he would have had multiple opportunities to become more "Egyptian." Yet, despite the significance that would have come with his "assimilation," he remained firmly committed to his Jewish faith and identity. It was Joseph's individual commitment that would pave the way for the Jewish People's survival; a safe Jewish port of exile from which to flee famine.
Each of us is like Joseph. We might have opportunities to assimilate, but we are proud to be Jewish and want our faith to remain strong, not just for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. But what are we willing to commit to in order to assure this Jewish spiritual health? Will we calendar each week a meaningful Jewish commitment of time and energy? Will we choose to make a sacrifice of something a little more mundane even if in the short term it feels more pleasant?
It is rare for a child who goes through a long school day to then enthusiastically thank his/her parents for the opportunity to go to supplemental religious school, or early on a Sunday morning gleefully forgo a secular "fun" activity for Sunday school. How do we answer? Simply, "You are the 21st century Joseph. Upon your shoulders is the very future of the Jewish People. And, we want our future to be great because we love who we are; where we've come from; and where we want to go."
But it's not enough to schedule Judaism into our children's week; we have to calendar and commit ourselves as well. Sometimes the temptation will be to "sleep in," to skip for next time. But if we make this choice, we need to acknowledge that our spiritual health is not a priority. It's not always going to be easy to get there, but usually we are pretty happy when we finally arrive. And, even if this isn't always the case, we do know it's always spiritually good for us.