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07/04/2023 06:44:48 PM


Jewish time plus Jewish study equals genuine Jewish spirituality

The story is told of a jetliner that abruptly stops after taxing down the tarmac.  It returns to the gate and stays there an hour.  Finally, the plane takes off.  A concerned passenger then asks the flight attendant, "What was the problem?" 

"The pilot was bothered by a noise he heard in the engine," explains the attendant.  The passenger then asks, "How were you able to take care of the problem so quickly?"  Responds the attendant, "We didn't fix anything.  It just took us a while to find a new pilot." 

This story may be absurd, but its essence is reflected all the time in our society.  All too often, people attempt to solve complex issues with simple, direct responses, which are inappropriate.  For example, legislators recommend that posting the Ten Commandments in public schoolrooms will stem the growing tide of violence.  Or they think that vouchers will rescue our troubled schools.  Or they remove evolution from the curriculum.  It's not that such acts don't address the issue.  We may even debate their effectiveness.  The problem is that such solutions do not address the underlying concerns.  Politically they allow our leaders to claim they are doing something constructive.  Pragmatically, however, they are of little significance.

The temptation to address complex problems with simple solutions is not unique to politics, of course.  It happens on a personal level as well.  For many, it is tempting to think a solution to our problem awaits us, perhaps in religion or spirituality.

When it comes to finding more meaning in life and addressing the questions that plague us, I believe we must look beyond the simple, superficial answers of pop culture spirituality.  Someone once said that people who call themselves "spiritual" without being "religious" usually mean they like the thrills but not the discipline.  It's like being for education but against schools.   Ultimately it won't get you anywhere.
One of my favorite quotes is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said: "I don't give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would die for the simplicity on the other side."  In other words, simple solutions to the complex world in which we live are never helpful.  But when we work through the complexity of the world, there can be a higher simplicity that helps us understand ourselves. 

And when we think about it, I believe we will see that our Jewish tradition provides this kind of profound simplicity.  Life is complex, but at the same time, the secret to a life of meaning is simple: It's about involving your whole self in the discipline of study and observance.  It's about integrating the spiritual with the every-day.  It's about being aware of the holiness around us.  To put it plainly: Jewish time plus Jewish study equals genuine Jewish spirituality.  Accept no substitutions!

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784