Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Counting of the Omer 5771 - Day 36 - Double Life

The subject may not be what it seems to imply. A Double Life. Very spy like and mysterious so allow me to explain and then muck it up by going back to my intent. The number 18 in hebrew stands for life 'chai' and therefore 36 is a double 'chai' a double life. If it were possible to be twice as blessed with life - 36 would be it! Often people use it as an excellent amount to give as tzedakkah implying that one life is good and twice as much is even better. The multiple of 18 is also used in much the same manner. But today is a doubly blessed day in the Omer count and now that we have established that I will return to 36 and living in two civilizations - a double life.

The statement living in two civilizations harkens (I love that word) back to the time of Mordechai Kaplan (1881 - 1983), the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. In 1934 Kaplan published his masterwork, Judaism as a Civilization, and raised a question that still challenges American Jews in the 21st Century. In essence he questioned whether it was possible for American Jews to sit by as reluctant bystanders or as bitter critics of American society and culture but as deeply committed Americans and Jews able to embrace the best in both civilizations. Another one of his standards was that people should be not 'men' on the street and 'Jews' at home but both. He called for Jews to develop a creative Judaism that in his words spelled 'nothing less than a maximum of Jewishness'. Times were different and more challenging then (Kaplan came to America at the age of 9) but are things any easier now, now that things are easier? Not at all.

Do we need to live a double life? Can we be the best of both? Many of my friends in the business of being Jewish are worried about these issues of creativity and mediocrity. As for me i am the eternal PollyAnna. I see progress in places where others don't and I see all of you out there - whatever the number - who have the ability of creating a creative force of Judaism for yourselves.

The stories we create around our own Jewish quests are a part of that. The Everyday Spirituality that merges the two gifts we have will help to make that happen. Here's a start for you. Today I received a copy of a new book from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Press entitled "Everyday Spirituality", The book is from a series entitled A Guide to Jewish Practices and the main text is written by Rabbi David Teutsch the Director of the Center for Jewish Ethics at RRC. T here is more commentary than text from a variety of contributors and in particular his dedication is what makes this fitting for all of you.

For Jewish spiritual seekers -
may they find what they seek
and bring their clarity and energy
to transforming our world.

Kaplan would be pleased! We find partnerships in our dual lives. Ways to combine the everyday and make it sacred and bring them together on our paths. The guide is available on the RRC website and if you have trouble finding it let me know and I'll make sure it makes it to your door.

Today is the 36th day of the counting of the Omer. We are doubly blessed by being Jews in freedom in America and although we might be frustrated by both if we bring them together and inside of us we will be richer for it.

Marilyn, proud of both

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