Before the High Holy Days we asked, “What was the most recent or what will be the next step on your personal Jewish journey?” This question was answered by members of our community in email reflections during the week leading up to Rosh HaShanah.
Now that Sukkot is here, the holiday that actually celebrates journeys, I want to answer the question. In doing so I admit that reflecting on my personal Jewish life, my personal religious and spiritual life, distinct from being a rabbi, is challenging.
That’s why during services I leave the bimah occasionally, simply to focus on my own prayer’s pace and meaning. Sometimes my Jewish journey takes place in public, especially as I grapple with choices for our community.
I prefer my personal Jewish journey, however, to take place in the quiet of my learning and thinking, the celebration and observance I share with my family and friends, the discoveries I make about Jewish wisdom and meaning that I don’t always choose to share.
I will share that my current journey includes this question. Does honoring the ideals of Judaism still matter? I find myself much less drawn to the ethnic elements of Jewish identity, and much more focused for myself on the kavanah, the symbolic intentions of doing Jewish, if and how doing Jewish matters in the world today.
I believe that it does. I also believe most Jews don’t think so. Therefore, I quest for community with others to validate this value. I journey away from being Jewish as the end and toward the hope of doing Jewish as a means, leading to a deep, rich, contented life, a destination for myself, and I pray for the Jewish people.
Sukkot celebrates our ancestors wandering in the wilderness to freedom. It’s also a chance to celebrate our Jewish journeys thoughtfully and joyously with an eye on where we’re going, not only where we’ve come from.