Often when I teach adult Jewish education classes, people will say, “I’m not religious but I am spiritual.” At first, as we talk more, it really means, “I’m not observant.” We often interpret our connection to Judaism by the things we “do.” If I don’t keep kosher or Shabbat or go to shul every week, I can still be deeply connected to my Judaism but I am not observing the commandments in a specific way. Fortunately, being Jewish has many ways to “be”: Follow the commandments, be involved with Jewish organizations, participate in social action, or even play basketball at the J.
However, being spiritual has so many different meanings to each of us and is often hard to define. I have never taught a child who tells me that they are spiritual but for kids it is often an innate quality. In an article titled “The Great Spiritual Lessons Every Child Should Learn” on www.ahaparenting.com there are amazing “spiritual lessons” that even adults can learn from. It is never too late to be spiritual, however you may define it. Here is the opening and for those without children in the household now, just put in “adult” or “yourself” where it says “child”:
“All humans have a spiritual dimension. You don’t have to believe in a supreme being to teach your child the great spiritual lessons. Whatever your beliefs, you probably want your child to know that life is sacred, that their choices matter, that nature deserves a certain reverence, that their presence in the world contributes to joy and goodness, that things have a way of working out (not always as we expect), that the greatest joy usually comes from connecting and sharing with others, that being uncomfortable can push us to grow, and that while we don’t always get what we want, we can always choose to make the most of what we get.”
Belief in God, a higher power, is an important tenet of Judaism but we Jews spend more time arguing about whether to keep kosher than about where God is in our lives. Rabbi David Aaron, a kabbalist (check out his books), said, “I don’t believe in God but what I believe in, I call God.” Take time to reflect on how this concept of God and this spiritual connection are part of your life. In the article cited above there are 10 “lessons.” I will list them but challenge you to either read the article for more understanding or create your own understanding and your own list.
1) Trust; 2) There is always something each one of us can do to make things better; 3) Love of nature; 4) Gratitude; 5) Limit technology noise so you can hear the stillness; 6) Take time for what really matters; 7) All humans benefit from time for reflection; 8) You are responsible for your own interpretation and implementation of your religion; 9) You can do hard things; 10) All of us have a need to contribute, and that’s usually where we find our greatest joy.
Hopefully, as you read this list, you will say, “Wow, I guess I am spiritual!” Spirituality is not just a feeling but a doing — we live our beliefs and now, more than ever, we need to reach beyond ourselves to change lives.