Monday, January 26, 2015

2 Sprituality #70days70years

I am learning to remember there once lived a person called Gezela Lorinz nee Noilander. She was born in Oradea Mare, Romania, 1885 and died in Auschwitz, 1944, aged 59. May her memory be for a blessing.

by Rabbi Dr Abraham Twersky

You can read the essay by clicking on the title above. Here are my thoughts. 

If God made man in his own image then what was given uniquely to mankind and sets her apart from other animals is the spirit of mankind. Therefore it follows that if you put these unique gifts to good use you are being spiritual. As Rabbi Twerski points out, the biggest compliment Jews give each other is to say that someone is a mentsch. Literally a man, a human being, but used in the sense of being a gentleman. 

According to Rabbi Twerski, the unique features of our spirit are:
1. The capacity to think about our existence.
2. The capacity to volitionally improve ourselves.
3. The capacity to delay gratification. 
And 4. The capacity to reflect upon the consequences of our actions, how something will affect us and others in the future.

We read that if you do these four things over and above the call of duty, this is spirituality. However, Rabbi Twerski begins his essay by pointing out that in Judaism spirituality is not withdrawing from the real world, we are not encouraged to embrace asceticism, be hermits or live as monks. And yet, even in the real world with jobs, families, and a glass of wine, these features of the spirit seem somewhat self-centred. 

I remember learning in college that what sets man apart from other animals is communication. Before you start on about your expressive pet dog or horse, in the words of Bertrand Russell, "No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor, but honest."

In our most prominent prayer, the Shema (translated below), we are instructed that God is unique and blessed, and you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. We are then given a set of instructions about what to do with these words. We should teach them to our children, speak of them at all times, and write them in prominent places where they can be read easily and frequently. In other words we should communicate. 

We are not commanded to reflect upon our existence or delay gratification. We are commanded to teach and communicate. I'm not just saying this because I'm a teacher. I believe that we are all teachers (an idea I learned from Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin back in 1988). To teach selflessly is to carry out the spirit and the word of God. To pass on your knowledge and skills, is the greatest gift you can give to the world. To do this with love and patience is, for me, spirituality.  

The Shema
Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Blessed be His name for His glorious kingdom is forever and ever. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
What does spirituality mean to you?


    I'm hoping this will link you to a clip of a man called Sir Nicholas Winton who saved over 600 children during the Holocaust. A programme we had here back in the 80s organised a reunion with the man and the children...I thought you might like to see it.

    1. Thanks Gem, I've seen this clip and I saw the programme. He was a wonderful man. Thanks for taking the time to comment.