Friday, March 5, 2010

Do I Know You From Somewhere? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
If I ever want to find a wife, I think I have to leave town. I know all the Jewish girls here from school days, and none of them interest me. I don't go to synagogue to meet people, because I was never very into Judaism. But I do go to parties, and see the same old faces every time. What can I do if I already know everyone?

Answer:
You remind me of the guy who was walking down the street and saw a familiar face. "You're Mark, aren't you? Remember me? We went to kindergarten together!"

"My name isn't Mark", was the response.

"Listen, I haven't seen you in thirty years, but you look exactly the same. Are you sure you're not Mark?"

"I don't know you."

He couldn't believe someone could look so much like Mark but not be Mark. Then it dawned on him. If that was Mark, he would have grown up too...

People change. The fact that you knew someone ten years ago has little relevance to today. You are not the same person today as you were when you were sixteen, and you wouldn't appreciate people seeing you now as you were then. Well, everyone else has grown up too.

And you can't always rely on your views from back then either. As you develop, you may find the friends of your youth have little in common with you, while you may have become more aligned with the very people you used to avoid. The things that excited you ten years ago are not the things that still excite you now. Otherwise we would all be firemen and ballet dancers.

Just as we mature, so must our view of the world around us. We have to be ready to drop outdated opinions, and take a fresh look around us.

Another example of this is our view of Judaism. There are many people who hold on to a negative view of Judaism developed in their youth. This may have been based on bad experiences - a boring Hebrew teacher, a hypocritical rabbi, or a mean religious relative. Or we may simply have not enjoyed studying Torah and going to shule, it just didn't grab us, or it felt like a burden forced upon us by our parents when other kids were having fun. So at some point we opted out of Jewish life. That may have seemed like the right reaction at the time. But that doesn't mean it is still right.

As a mature person, we can re-engage with Judaism from a whole new angle. We can come to realise that bad experiences of the past can be left in the past, and individuals don't necessarily represent the whole. What seemed irrelevant and uninteresting then may be inspiring and uplifting now. The view of Judaism we developed at age twelve is probably due for a review. As a mature person, we may realise there really is something there for us.

So when you see an old face, don't forget that they grew up too. Meet them as the person they are now, not the way you remember them. And approach Judaism in the same way. You can revisit it, like an old acquaintance that you never really appreciated. Who knows, you might just fall in love.

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