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Two Minutes For Your Soul

 Our daughter and her husband have chosen to live a non-observant life. They have been sending their two sons, ages 12 and 6, to a non-religious public school. But this summer they were posted by their company to Austin, Texas for a three-year period. The boys are now attending the Austin Jewish Academy and I am very pleased. Our daughter reports that they begin each day with the "Modeh Ani" ("I give thanks to you, ever-living God, who has mercifully restored my soul within me") and also recite blessings over food. I think this is a very positive thing because it adds the elements of wonder and gratitude to their lives.

I know that the gentleman who visits our neighborhood every Friday morning would agree. He too would like to enrich the spiritual lives of those he tries to engage. He is a Chabad emissary who stops passersby on the corner of our local shopping center and pleasantly asks, "Do you have two minutes for your soul?" He says it with a smile, with courtesy and respect. He is a very sympathetic man. I don't accept his invitation. I shake my head, return his smile, say "Thank you," and walk on. He is a lucky man because he sincerely believes that he has found answers and wants to share them with us. His point of view is that he has something that we lack - and he is there to offer it.

A contrary thought pops into my mind. What if...what if the tables were turned and I would show up at Kfar Chabad. Although I don't have answers to offer as they do, I do have an alternate approach to their way of looking at life. Would they listen?

When we lived in America, we built a succah every year. We liked to invite people, especially those who didn't have one of their own, for a holiday meal. We thought the experience would do something for them Jewishly and it usually did. One fall, we invited an Israeli shaliach and his family. They were kibbutzniks and had been sent to America as emissaries to the secular Zionist youth movement, Habonim. After the meal, we had a chance to talk. "You know," he said, "we, the non-observant, also have a serious approach to life. It's not your approach, but it does have content. We don't believe that a creator placed us on earth, but we do believe that man can better the world. We don't have pat or ready-made answers, but we are proud of the fact that we are searching. We believe that we are courageous in facing life this way."

I never forgot this conversation. Of course, there are many non-observant people who live their lives primarily in pursuit of their own comfort and convenience. The same can be said of observant people who only go through the motions of living a religious life, but do not apply its lofty ideals in their day-to-day dealings. What unites the true seekers in both camps is the conviction that life matters and we can do something to better it.

I ask myself: Does the Chabad emissary have something to offer those of us who are less- or non-observant? I believe he has. But, on the other hand, I also believe that the passersby that he stops on Friday mornings may have something to teach him.

 

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Thursday, 26 November 2020

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