Losing My Religion

First, I am not losing my religion. So don’t worry.

But I think R.E.M. wrote the greatest title. It does say a lot.

At times you wonder if you are losing it or getting lost in it? At least I do. But how do you document real life? When real life is getting more like fiction each day. I wish I wrote that. But we all know Jonathan Larson did. May he RIP.

Time to talk religion. Those of you, who actually read this blog, might have read some of my pieces that discuss religion.

Am I perfect? No. Will I ever be? No.

Let’s see, I go to services almost daily. I haven’t missed putting Teffilin on in many years. I read the Tehillim. I may not read the right one for that day of the week. But they are all inspiring. I’ve been studying The Tanya for a while. It is a great read. It is very deep and informative. It makes me ask a lot of questions. I am always trying to get a better understanding. I even read the daily portion on my iPhone. The other day, I was running on the treadmill and reading it.

Yes, there are times when I am wondering why I do this? But then I see some signs from HaShem. No, he didn’t text me or friend me on Facebook. I wish that were the case. Don’t we all? But there are so many things that may be ordinary or extraordinary that happens and I just know HaShem has put this into play. Do I like them all? No.
I try to eat the right way. In many ways, I am lucky. I’ve never liked shellfish or cheeseburgers. I’ve tried and love other foods that are not appropriate for my religion. I stay away.

I think the spirituality of my religion has a lock on me. I am not sure where I got this part of me? Although I am willing to bet it may have been from playing Meteu, the medicine man in the BSA’s Order of the Arrow ceremonies. Who knows? I know there are other reasons. I don’t mean my countless rituals at the Stadium. But those help me.
Anyway, what I love about the teachings are the acts of kindness and trying to help other people to the best of your abilities. I know we have the daily rituals, praying three times a day, washing hands before we eat bread (I am so proud we have that), and many other things.

Sometimes I question if we could get closer to the Torah not by worrying so much if we did all of those things. But lived less critically and did more to help others.
I used to play the clothes game. My friends and I would see who could out price each other with what we were wearing. I rarely lost. I haven’t played this in nearly 10 years. I am sure I’d still win. But does it matter? No.
There is so much more to us than that. There are too many people that I’ve met that forget this.

I wonder how “really” religious they are? All they seem to worry about is following everything to the letter. They’ve been way too critical of people who do not.
I don’t think that’s what religion especially mine should be about. I’ve been told because my parents are divorced, I’ve been to Broadway shows, seen Elton John and surf the web, I am the one holding us back from what we all dream of: The reconstructed Jerusalem.

Funny, I surf the web and are often studying Torah on it. Ok add in the Yankees, music, the market and buying stuff. Some people have told me the Internet is the new forbidden fruit and it should be banned. They should take the blinders off. As for Broadway, my musical and sports loves, I’ve heard I am sinning because I am seeing people play or perform who are not of my religion.
Like get a life. Maybe if you were more mature and more worried about whether people our own or others have food, an education and the other basic needs we ‘d be better off.

I am so lucky. I have people that are not wearing blinders. They can explain things to me the right way. Some live about a block away. I wish the others did. But they are always there when I need them. Oh and they all can make the most amazing Shabbat meals.

So am my losing my religion or finding it? And finding the way to understand it better and do more? The answer is obvious. My goals are to do more.

B”H

When 2 Jews Argue, You Get 3 Opinions

Music: Frank Zappa - Willie the Pimp

Sam and I had decided to dive deep and introspect ourselves more on Friday. We are famous for doing introspective talks together.

It was a fine Friday. We had picked up some sandwiches from the Whole Foods in Westwood and a bottle of Duvel, the golden standard for Belgian ale.

We walked over to a “Five Guys” burger joint and sat outside to eat and drink.

Two Jews Are Walking Down The Street

Sounds like a joke opener…

In the middle of our not-so-orthodox dining, 2 Jews walked by. I noticed their traditional dress, and I wished them “Shabbat Shalom.” One of them asked if I was Jewish, and I said yes.

"Want to wear Teffilin and pray?"

"Sure!" I responded.

I stood up (partially buzzed from the Duvel) and he began strapping my left arm and head with Teffilin.

We recited the Shema prayer together at first. Since high school I have recited the Shema every morning upon waking, at night upon bedtime, and before I leave my home and when I return to home.

With his smart phone, he guided me through the traditional Teffilin prayer. My Hebrew was rusty.

A Conversation With A Jew

Normally it is 2 Jews resulting in 3 opinions. This time? 2 Jews, 1 opinion.

I had told him a little about myself. I told him I went to UCLA and on I was job hunting. He said something that struck a chord within me:

"Talk to G-d, ask him, pray, and He will give you a job. Exactly where you need to be."

He continued on later “…it is so easy to be distracted by the uhh…secular world.” Keep your focus.

Jews have this uncanny ability (Myself included) to SAY something but it says something different.

I grew soft. Just his facial expressions and voice tremor, there was something inspirational. I knew exactly what he meant. Sure, he meant that if I pray and ask and seek, it will be given to me.

But what he also meant is faith. That is not something you teach or force or can speak about verbally.

It is something you feel. Something you just believe it. It is an invisible presence that you trust and love no matter what.

This man was faithful. I look at him and quietly said “You know, I know exactly what you mean. I have prayed and asked, and I know things will work out. Sometimes the seemingly “right” thing in this world is not what G-d want’s me to do.”

It is up to Him.

My soul was humbled and refreshed, as passersby looked on in curiosity upon this scene.

A Conversation with Sam Yang

Early on during this INFP-ish lunch, I was upset about something related to my bike. I was not too crazy with the idea of drinking beer in public because I was in a bad mood (Otherwise, I would be all about breaking rules and saying “fuck it!” to situations like that).

He says something so very Sam Yang / UCLA tuba-ish:

"You know, an old research boss told me if you’re going to break the rules or mess around, make it look like you’re supposed to be doing it. Just own it."

Nice.

So, we ate Sandwiches from Whole Foods at a random “Five Guys” burger joint patio, and we drank beer in public like nobodies’ business.

Misc.

I came to Westwood for a Thursday music rehearsal for a Brazilian girl named Mariana at UCLA. She is premiering a piece called “Sustos” in Brazil soon, and wanted to rehearse it here first. Gorgeous piece. I got in touch with my spiritual music side through tuba again.

Patrick threw a goodbye / graduation / moving out / last hoorah party at his apartment on Friday. It got pretty sloppy.

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