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Spirituality is one of those funny things

Thursday, 5 May, 2016 - 11:11 am

"You are Jewish; your husband, a lapsed Catholic. Neither of you believes, much, in G-d, although occasionally you like to meditate and you both would go hiking more if you could. You’ve had those moments — who hasn’t? — on mountaintops or in art museums or even in prayer when you’ve felt that overwhelming sense of bigness and smallness all at once, the awesomeness of existence, the miracle and fragility of being human. But it’s easy to switch the channel. Life — work, TV, an alluring new bar — intervenes and all that reverence dissipates." This is the 1st paragraph in the article by Lisa Miller titled "Why Kids Need Spirituality" in the New York Magazine.

Spirituality is one of those funny things; it is hard to define and is stereotyped as on a mountaintop or in private meditative prayer. Spirituality is made out to be the opposite of engaging with the world. True spirituality is making the mundane holy. Think of eating food, slowly, enjoying every bite, savoring the taste, paying attention to every spice and thanking the person who cooked it for putting it all together.  That is somewhat spiritual. Now, add the final ingredient and make a blessing before that first morsel touches your palate. You have thanked the Creator for creating all the spices and ingredients in this food to be able to give energy and keep us healthy.

Such an experience with food, mindfulness, recognizing the energy the food will bring and thanking G-d for the wonderful world he created, is true spirituality. It is the physical and spiritual synergy; it is transcendence while uplifting the rest of the world with you.

This week's parsha tells us this in a few verses:

Verse 2 “And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron, that he should not come at all times into the Holy within the dividing curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the ark, so that he should not die, for I appear over the ark cover in a cloud....”

Verse 12 “And he shall take a pan full of burning coals from upon the altar, from before the Lord, and both hands, full of fine incense, and bring [it] within the dividing curtain. And he shall place the incense upon the fire, before the Lord, so that the cloud of the incense shall envelope the ark cover that is over the [tablets of] Testimony.”

The service of the incense (the Ketoret) represents the uplifting of the physical world. The incense included a foul smelling spice as well as a spice from a non-kosher animal, teaching us that you can take the mundane and uplift it.

The Torah teaches us that our job is not to always be "in the holy" but  to engage with the world, lead "normal" lives and when being "spiritual", bring the mundane (the incense) with us to be uplifted.

Take the time to be mindful and enjoy the moment of physical spirituality.

Have a great shabbos,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman 

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