Temple Aliyah


Judaism that touches the soul

Posted on January 1, 2018

I just want you to know that I started writing this article about something completely different than what you’re about to read. As I was writing about my initial concept, the proverbial light bulb turned on and something much closer to my heart revealed itself.  It’s not always easy thinking of things to write about every month!

I remember the very first time Judaism touched my soul and I never realized it until now as I am writing!  It was years ago when I became a bereavement supporter for our synagogue. As a supporter, I received an education in our bereavement rituals and how supporters can help congregants through the stages of mourning. Before my training, I had a different view of our mourning traditions. I thought they were rigid rules that had to be followed to be a good person: a good Jew. I was amazed to learn how these customs are designed to help the grieving heal and go on with life. They are not rigid rules put in place to make one feel guilty if not followed. I remember that during our training, I was occasionally moved to tears by the sensitivity to the bereaved in many of the mourning rituals.

Not long before becoming a bereavement supporter, my father passed away. I did not follow any of the traditions except to light the memorial candle given to me by the cemetery. My relationship with my father was complicated, and he was not observant, so I didn’t feel the need to sit shiva. The following weekend, I went to a bridal shower for my husband’s cousin. It never occurred to me not to attend. The bride was surprised to see me there. I just thought I would go about my life. But that day, at the shower, I realized my heart wasn’t into it. And the following week, I felt the weight of my mourning. Even though I didn’t have a good relationship with my father, his passing affected me.

The bereavement training opened my eyes to the meaning behind many of our rituals. As a person who was raised in a non-observant home, I understand that it’s very easy to feel intimidated by Judaism. My husband, Jeff, was raised in a very observant Jewish home. When we were newly married, we took an Introduction to Judaism class together in the hopes that I would learn some basics so that I would feel more comfortable in my religion.

To be honest, the class didn’t really help me. I still felt lost. I still didn’t really know the prayers, and I still felt like the traditions were more like rules. I just didn’t get it. Until the bereavement supporter program. That was the first time I felt Judaism touch my soul. I felt it when I got teary during training, as I mentioned. And you know what, for a brief moment or two, I actually toyed with entering a chaplain training program!

There is still so much I don’t know about Jewish traditions. We are very fortunate to have wonderful, sensitive clergy, who understand that not all of us come from observant homes. I have learned from your participation in our community conversations for our visioning project, that our congregation has a varied background. Some of us grew up very observant, and some of us did not, and that is ok. Some of us know all of the prayers without even looking at a siddur, and some of us just read the English version. What matters is that we are all here, learning and experiencing life together. To me, this is how Judaism touches my soul. I feel it every time I am with all of you, as we navigate the joys and challenges of this crazy thing we call life. I feel it right now, writing this article that is going in a completely different direction than when I started! So even though you may or may not be experienced in the ways of Judaism, our traditions and wisdom are just waiting to touch you, even when you aren’t expecting it.








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