Posts Tagged ‘ Minute Mitzvah ’

Minute Mitzvah: Mind That Credenza

2009.08.10
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And now, it’s time for another Monday Mitzvah.

Today: Safeguard your home from accidents.

IN ITS SIMPLE VERSION, THIS mitzvah calls for a roof-edge parapet to keep people from falling off. As those living outside a Mediterranean building-climate likely have no such roof (if I did, I’d stick my telescope on it), in practice this refers to any household chore which protects the residents (and visitors) from injury or illth: washing the dishes; cleaning the toilet; maintaining fire extinguishers, electrical/plumbing integrity, etc. We may also take this as a metaphor to safeguard the trust, safety and mutual support of its inhabitants — without which, no house is a home.

Exercise: Inspect your home for hazards — and act accordingly.

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Minute Mitzvah: Praise Wow

2009.07.20
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And now, another Monday Mitzvah with a side of motivation.

Today: Hold God in awe.

THIS ONE’S TRICKY FOR ATHEISTS, so in the interests of universality, let’s assume we’re not talking about the Cranky Old Man raining smites and frights whom we learned to scoff at in Hebrew school but rather Something a good deal less childish and not at all definable. Whatever It is, one can only ever relate to the what-some-people-call-”God” on one’s own terms. (Mine are at http://metaphorager.net/2007/12/working-definition/ but also includes That Which Inspires Awe Through Beholding.) My rabbi, Jack Gabriel, likes to call It “God As Context.” A good friend and I have been discussing It since high school; he sees It in the elegance of mathematics and the physical world. Ann once said It’s what compels firefighters and other rescue workers toward situations of unforeseeable survival. Although I’ve never heard a final, explains-everything, non-paradoxical description of It, one thing seems certain — everyone’s an expert.

Exercise: Ponder who it is who is pondering Who “It” is.

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Minute Mitzvah: Free At Last

2009.07.13
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FOR THOSE INTERESTED, WE AT Metaphorager.Net present another Monday Mitzvah (and its backstory).

Today: Tell the Exodus story on Passover.

“Remember that you were slaves in the Land of Egypt” is Torah’s most-repeated commandment. But if we get hung up on speculation (Did the Exodus “really happen?” Were the plagues natural disasters? If God saved us then, why not now?) we might miss a key point of the story: a people’s journey from slavery to freedom regained. This makes the Exodus less about miracles and more about common roots — both ancestral and mythic — and compassion: for the poor, for the oppressed, for those who don’t know their own freedom. The Exodus is our root metaphor. To quote a favorite teacher, “These are our stories. They tell us who we are.” What we can become after that is up to us.

Exercise: What tells you who you are? Why?

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Minute Mitzvah: You Are How You Eat

2009.06.30
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TUESDAY’S NOT TOO LATE FOR a Monday Mitzvah, unless you’d rather read something else.

Today: Don’t eat what’s not kosher (literally, “proper, fit”).

Let’s correct two misconceptions:

1. Kosher is hygenic.
2. Kosher is rational.

The basic rules from Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are to eat nothing from the sea without fins and scales, nothing from the land that’s not a split-hoofed ruminant, and no avian predators or bats. From a particular perspective, they are both arbitrary and culturally specific as Western mores against dog or (mostly) horse. The only real reason for a Jew to “do” it, simply and honestly, is that it’s a Jewish thing to do — either as a mandate from God or cultural co-creation. Most Jews I know keep kosher to some degree (some through active opposition), and one consequence of its intentional practice is to reveal the tangible connection between you, the food, the people who grew it, the way it came to you and the world of which we’re all a part. And that’s not arbitrary at all.

Exercise: Look at what you eat today, and why.

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Minute Mitzvah: Watch Your Tongue

2009.06.22
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It’s Monday Mitzvah! If you’re not hip to Jewish ethnospirituality, feel free to pass.

Today: Don’t oppress anyone with words.

Like many of the mannerly mitzvot, this one seems easy — until you begin to ponder the meaning of “oppress.” Obviously, trash talk and insensitivity are out — but what about asking the price of something you’re not interested in buying? Trotting out that cute but embarrassing childhood story? Being rude to the help because you’ve had a bad day? Torah posits that the Universe was created through speech; is it any wonder that it also considers shaming akin to murder?

Exercise: Listen to yourself through the other person’s ears.

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Minute Mitzvah: Divine Assumption

2009.06.15
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And now, another Monday Mitzvah! If you’re not hip to things eth(n)ospiritual, feel free to skip.

Today: Know, if even arguendo, that God is.

TO A THEIST, THE IDEA of a Universe without God is a no-brainer; to an atheist, “no-brainer” describes the theist. But it’s likely that neither defines “God” (or “belief”) the same way. While varieties of divine certitude include knowledge, faith, reason and suspension of disbelief, an individual’s understanding of that certitude’s Object can be colored by childish, unevolved-since-Sunday-school notions of God As Cranky Grandpa (and pose a challenge to those making a serious go of the mitzvot). Fortunately, a more mature understanding of God — e.g., as Truth In Action, or Omnipresent Center, or Not Possibly Described — will usually be found by someone who diligently looks for it.

Exercise: As often as you can during the day, stop and ask yourself: “What connects this to everything else — and how?”

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Minute Mitzvah: Take Saturday Off

2009.06.08
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Welcome to another Monday Mitzvah! If you’re not hip to things eth(n)ospiritual, feel free to skip this post.

Today: Rest on Shabbat.

For most of the past 166,400-odd weeks, Jews have celebrated Shabbat as part of the fabric of Creation. (After all, if God gets a day off why shouldn’t we?) The essence of Shabbat is rest from and refreshment toward the workaday world of, well, creation: of making and maintaining and manipulating. Those of a hardcore bent enjoy this weekly vacation within a formal Friday-sunset-to-Saturday-nightfall structure; others unplug and recharge in their own way. The idea is to take a break from everything which keeps you from being you during the other six days. (Media critic and minimalist Henry David Thoreau might have been speaking of Shabbat when he said, “Read not the Times for Truth: Read the Eternities.”)

Exercise: This Saturday, just give it a rest.

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Minute Mitzvah: Keep Your Word

2009.06.01
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(N.B.: If you’re not hip to things eth(n)ospiritual, you may want to skip this post. Otherwise, feel free to comment.)

FOR ME, THE SECRET TO Jewish living can be summed up in two Hebrew words: “Na’aseh v’nishmah (We will do, and we will understand).” This is the nation’s famous response to Moses in Exodus 24:7 (which chapter/verse combo delights my wife no end), after the prophet asks them whether or not they’re willing to lead Torah-codified lives: “Right on! And we’ll learn by doing.”

“Torah” is often translated as “Law,” but a better translation would be “Instruction.” The sages of our tradition saw it as something alive, manifested in the day-to-day actions of ordinary people as they relate to each other and to God. Most of the 613 mitzvot (“commandments,” or what my teacher Rabbi Jack Gabriel translates as “God-connections”) deal with the currently defunct Temple sacrifical cult. But in 1931, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan sifted 270 which can still be done today — and which Serious Jews consider obligatory, or at least attainable.

When I returned to Judaism in 1997, I wanted to “do it right” and plunged headlong into a (still incomplete) study of the mitzvot. It occurred to me that most Jews are already doing 80 or so of these every day but don’t know it. And, according to Rabbi Kagan, knowing is the key: If, when your grandma enters the room, you rise because it’s good manners, that’s one experience. But if you do it because it’s expected by Torah, that’s another. Only you will know the difference. But isn’t that where it starts?

Thus: “Monday Mitzvah,” a weekly exercise in “making Torah.” (And, hopefully, a better world into the bargain.)

Today: Keep your word.

The human world is very fragile, and not only on the physical level. Human society is built on trust, and the basis of trust is the expectation that others will keep their promises to us and vice versa. That’s not to say it’s easy, especially among the important distractions of our daily lives, but when we break our word — even “just this once,” even “just a little white lie” — we disappoint someone somewhere. This adds to the net disappointment and despair in the world. And why would we want to do that? Torah tells us that we are bound to fulfill what passes from our lips, whether or not we use the magic word “promise;” better that we should say nothing than we should say and not do.

Exercise: Pay attention the next time you’re about to promise something.

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