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What Are You Passionate About?

Friday, 1 April, 2016 - 3:12 pm

PrayerSports, Politics, News, the Stock Market and vacations are just some of the things that people are almost naturally passionate about. Who doesn’t appreciate a good discussion about football or baseball or about which candidate will make the best President for this country?

What about our Judaism?

People often think that Judaism is ultimately about our choices and actions. Did I choose to be a moral businessman or not? Am I a good spouse or not? What kind of parent am I? And, did I fast on Yom Kippur or not? But passion, well what difference does it make if I fast passionately or if I am a better parent passionately? Passion it would seem, has less to do with Judaism and more to do with sports, politics and other stuff. Either way even if I am passionate, this is something that should probably be personal and part of my inner thoughts and feelings and not something that I need to think about.

Right or wrong, what do you think?

In this week’s Torah portion there is an interesting teaching which sheds some light on this idea.

In the Temple / Beit Hamikdash, there were two altars that were used, an inner altar which was used for incense and an outer altar that was used for sacrifices.  The Torah tells us that a fire had to be maintained 24/7 on the outer altar, even on Shabbat and even when people might be ritually impure.

What does this have to do with passion?

Well, in the Kabbalah and Jewish Philosophy it is taught that the inner altar represented the inner part of our soul and the deeper perhaps more spiritual part of our identity and connection with G-d. The outer altar however, represented the external dimension of our soul, its expression and real life feelings and emotions. 

In a certain sense the Torah is teaching us that the flame on the outer altar, the external dimension and facets of the soul, our passion for our Judaism, need to be kept burning 24/7. In other words, it is not enough to rely on that deep rooted part of our identity that we feel strongly about and is at the core of our being. Rather the feeling needs to be somehow brought to the forefront of who we are and how we act.

In practical terms this means, that passion of our identity and Jewish value system, is a critical part of developing a healthy spiritual balance and a strong Jewish identity.  If we allow the passion to remain in a dormant state, it will be there for the big moments in life, but it won’t necessarily actively play a role in the choices we make and the things that we choose to do. However by making an effort to be passionate about our heritage, values and Judaism, it will automatically impact us more and help be a force of good that we will value tremendously.

Perhaps even more importantly, when conveying ideas and teachings to our children and youth, besides serving as great role models, when children see that we truly care and are passionate about our Judaism and its meaning, this automatically impacts them in a very deep and real manner that cannot be matched by actions alone.

So in my opinion, yes, passion matters and it matters a lot. How to develop it and find the right balance, well that is a work in progress.

Shabbat Shalom


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