Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thursday Kavvanah, 4/7/2011 - Steadying the Rollercoaster of Life

As a rabbi, I am with people for all sorts of lifecycle events: birth, death, marriage, divorce, and so forth. These events often fall on top of each other, and occasionally within the same family.

This morning, I was with a family celebrating their son's becoming a bar mitzvah (one who reaches the age of Jewish adulthood in the context of Jewish law at age 13) as he put on tefillin ("phylacteries" - leather straps and boxes containing words of the Torah that are worn during Shaharit, the morning service) for the first time and read from the Torah. Meanwhile, the boy's cousins had just suffered the loss of the patriarch of the family, and the funeral was held just an hour and a half after the tefillin service. Nonetheless, the cousins were there, celebrating with the bar mitzvah boy.

Judaism sanctifies time with holidays and lifecycle rituals; such ceremonies give our lives meaning and framework. That joyous and sad moments occasionally coincide reinforces for me the sense that life can be a rollercoaster of emotion, one which can be steadied by said spiritual framework.

עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ
Etz hayyim hi lemahaziqim bah
The Torah is a tree of life for those who grasp it

Holding on to the Jewish framework helps alleviate the angst of high and low. That's why I do what I do.

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