Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Naasay Shalom

The traditional Jewish song Ya'ase Shalom (or Oseh Shalom), meaning "He will bring peace" modified with lyrics na'ase shalom, meaning "we will bring peace." Instead of v'al kol yisrael, meaning for all of Israel, they lyric is v'al kol ha-o-lam, for all the world.

lyric source 1
lyric source 2

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why "Lone Jew"

I derived the title from the idea of the lone scout, which in the Scouting community is a scout that lives in an area that has no scout troops or a scout that is otherwise unable to join a troop. So what do I mean by lone? I quote someone I know well, "I'm not a joiner." I have never been one to be active in clubs or groups. I thrive on my own. I'm no social butterfly.

The most group-time I have spent was my four year stint in the Boy Scouts (in a troop that met at a synagogue, of course (but not my parents synagogue)). But even there I was not so heavily involved. In four years I only achieved the rank of Second Class (though I had a First Class board of review twice, and not passing was one of the things that may have caused me to give it up). I did not earn one merit badge (you read that right). Oddly enough the one award I did receive was my RELIGIOUS award, the Ner Tamid. Does that qualify as irony? Basically it was earned by a sizable group within the troop by going to classes with a Rabbi (I think), we sat through lectures. I don't remember having to do a heck of a lot in terms of written work but I did pay more attention than I did in Hebrew school, don't ask me why. As far as the scouts went, I didn't go on too many camping trips. The ones I did enjoy were to Gettysburg and other historical sites. Years later there was an alumni camping trip. I was the only alumnus to go other than former scouts who were now adult leaders along with the current troop. On that trip my hindsight got the best of me and I regretted (and still do) not taking advantage of what the scouts had to offer. But hindsight and regret are easy. I was not a joiner and I still am not.

Community is was seems to be touted when you visit a website for any congregation. But these days I consider my extended family to be really all of the Jewish community I need. I get together with aunts, uncles and cousins on Passover and I enjoy it. Here I am a joiner. Some say the family is getting so big that Passover with all of these people might become too unwieldy, but I hope not. This is a community I like.

I have lately looked into the various Jewish communities around me. I started looking at Reform. I looked at the Jewish Community Center. When I learned recently what Reconstructionist and Humanistic judaism were, I looked into them too. But as far as the broader religious community goes, I think I'm still not a joiner. I understand other people are social, and these social organizations need money to keep going, but a part of me screams inside, "faith should be free." I know, it sounds like I am criticizing the fact that they all require fees to join. Maybe I am a little. I am certainly not condemning organized religion completely. Being who I am, its just not for me.

So I realized, it is possible, albeit unusual, to maybe be alone and be Jewish.

In the beginning

I was born and raised in suburban America. In fact, I've never lived anywhere else. My childhood neighborhood was a mixture of typical Eastern U.S. suburban folk of various religious and ethnic backgrounds. My family in particular belonged to a conservative Jewish synagogue. My grandparents lived very close to us and I remember going there on Shabbat as a child in addition to the other holidays.

I wasn't all that interested in religion as a child. My father seemed to be able enough to read Hebrew and brought his own tallis to temple. I don't really remember my mother lighting shabbat candles at our house, though my grandmothers certainly did in their own homes. Other than holidays and our two sets of dishes (three if you include the Passover stuff), the religion did not seem to be too large of a thread in our house.

I am the youngest of three children. I played with my brothers some and got along with them, but more often I recall playing by myself and easily entertaining myself for hours on end with matchbox cars, GI Joe and playmobil. I think this was the beginning of my introversion. To be shy on top of introverted (and they're not the same thing) lead me to value my introspective time greatly. So, when it came time for me to go to Hebrew school (at the aforementioned conservative temple), my attitude was mostly one of contempt. "I have to go to regular school and then go to MORE school after that? Do you realize how many matchbox cars are going unplayed with right now?", I must have thought.

Thus was born at least a small part of the seed of my initial rejection of religion. As I grew older (and continued disliking having to go to Hebrew school), I developed an empirical, scientific mind (after all my father is a doctor and his father was an inventor). I have a tendency to be very literal, and I need proof, I have to know how it works and why. I am a skeptic. At times to the point of stubbornness. And I still am and wouldn't trade it for anything. Its great.

So with the scientific mind in place and the lack of appreciation of how anything temple-related cut into my time, I more or less concluded that religion was not for me.

So that's the beginning, where I came from, but its certainly not the end, or even the middle...