I wouldn’t call myself the most religious person around. I attend synagogue twice a year (not including friends’ parties) for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper. I would rather label myself as more superstitious than religious – (I know, I know…as my father would say, “Don’t worry over bubba meisahs — Yiddish for urban legends.)
But you better believe that I am sitting in synagogue on those two holidays praying that G-d will write my children and me, my family and friends and those that I love into the ‘Book of Life.’ I’m not sure if he’s sitting there with an actual book on hand and Monte Blanc between his fingers, but either way, I’m not taking any chances.
For those that are not of my faith, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year and Yom Kipper is known as the Day of Atonement, a day when you ask G-d for forgiveness for any wrongdoings and ask to be written into the ‘Book of Life.’ These two holidays fall close together, with eight days in between them.
Right around this time of year, I always reflect back on the mistakes that I may have made and what they taught me. Some years, I must admit, are ‘more educational’ than others – those are the years, I’m quite certain, I was mistakenly put into the AP course of life and I can’t seem to find a counselor to switch it, (metaphorically speaking, of course) – and some years glide by as if I were in study hall.
According to all the spiritualists, every person is exactly where he or she are supposed to be, and that when it comes to life, there’s no dropping classes or switching.
I also get very sentimental around this holiday because I want so badly for those that I love to be healthy and thrive. For me, this holiday is a fresh start and new beginning to my year. It’s also an opportunity to change things that weren’t working from the past year and strive to be even better.
When I do attend services, I am always looking forward to hearing the Rabbi’s sermon and leaving with a better understanding and deeper and richer wisdom to the meaning of life.
This year, most notably, has been really challenging for many. I actually won’t even watch the news right now. We have the war in the Middle East, plane crashes, plane disappearances, drastic changing weather, ISIS beheadings, Ebola drama, school shootings…the list goes on and on.
Is it me, or does the world seem like it’s just getting worse and worse?
I choose to keep my inner circle small and my walls high (figuratively speaking) and surround myself with the love that comes from my own little world.
So back to the Rabbi’s sermon…
This year’s sermon happened to be about gratitude, obligation and joy. It emphasized that each person has expectations that need to be met in this life…otherwise known as obligations. However, we also need to be grateful each day and appreciate what we have, as well as finding joy in our daily lives. He said these three things are the meaning to life.
It sounds pretty good to me. Easier said than done, though.
I guess the real trick is how to find gratitude when you’re not in a great place, feel joy when the world is a mess and you’re unhappy, and develop patience when your obligations become overwhelmingly difficult.
So I got to thinking…and you know what happens when I think. Believe me, I’m not solving world peace, but I do have some insights.
We all have obligations. When we’re young, we think our obligations are so large; however, as we grow up and have kids, families, jobs, etcetera, our obligations become even larger, and its almost impossible to carve out any time for personal joy when we feel so overwhelmed or over obligated. I think what the Rabbi meant was that even in the midst of our deepest sorrows and hugest obligations, somewhere, somehow we are supposed to find the joy in life and find gratitude for what we have, as opposed to what we don’t. I like to call this the glass-half-full effect.
Oftentimes I hear people tell me how bored they are with their lives or how unhappy they are. While I know some days are easier to find a smile than others, happiness is a daily choice. It’s a mindset we can nurture and train. That doesn’t mean it’s there every second, but when you notice it’s missing, often the tiniest shift can put you right back on top of the world.
Life will constantly test your ability to make a lemon martini out of the sourest of lemons.
It is important to find out what brings you joy.
Joy doesn’t only live in the major moments of life, but rather in the seemingly little things.
It isn’t always easy to find, though. Sometimes life is hard and sometimes the world is a very scary place. So how do we find the good in the midst of so much bad??
Well, one way to find good is to stop watching the news for a while. Take a time out from reality and just listen to great music that makes you dance or sing. Call someone who you haven’t spoken to in a while and catch up with them, or volunteer for a charity, food bank or senior center. You will surely count your blessings when you see how much worse it could be.
This is what the Rabbi meant when he said “find joy in your life.” We can only know joy when we experience sorrow, only know happiness when we have experienced unhappiness. Gratitude doesn’t always come easily when your focus is on what isn’t right, so we must learn to redirect our negative energy into positive efforts. This way, we will be able to help others while we help ourselves. It’s a cold world out there, but keep your hearts warm and your spirits high and always try to find something to be grateful for, because each day is a gift.
And when all else fails… a little retail therapy is sure to put a huge, though temporary, smile on your face.
Until next time,
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