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Are You Using the Right Card

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In order to enter the offices of my health care provider I have to use a magnetic card to open the door. Last time that I went to open the door, it didn’t work. I tried again making sure that the magnetic strip was facing the right way, but again the door did not open. Someone else came and used her card to open the door. As we were going in she told me that I had used my credit card. “Well, that won’t help, will it?” I said. “It will she said, but not here.”
 
How right she was. My credit card works just fine when I want to buy something. And my health care card works just fine when I want to get into the offices of my health care provider. However, if I mix them up, neither is any good.
 
Sometimes, I think we use the wrong card, so to speak with religion. If something doesn’t go the way that we think it should we blame “the system.” But nothing was wrong with “the system.” I wasn’t careful. I didn’t check to make sure that I picked the right card to use. My credit card and health care cards aren’t even the same color. In a sense, I didn’t follow instructions.
 
Sometimes, perhaps we aren’t careful enough when it comes to religion either. We don’t understand how something could happen, so we lose faith or use the circumstance for proof that religion doesn’t matter, that it doesn’t do anything for us. We’ve all heard someone say, or we have thought ourselves, how could God let this or that happen? What difference does it make if I light Shabbat candles before a certain time or an hour later? What difference does it make if I go to synagogue?
 
Just about all of us have questions. And just about all of us have doubts. But sometimes, maybe things, like the door to my health care provider really do work, just not the way we think. Sometimes, we put the wrong card in. Sometimes, we ask the wrong questions. Sometimes we don’t look at things correctly. And really, some things we will never know no matter how we look at them. Some people get answers to some of their questions, but they are lucky. But not understanding why something doesn’t work the way that we want them to, or think that they should, doesn’t mean that they are wrong. Just like the door really did work.
 
It is common to know someone, or someone who knows someone, that was running late or had to change plans for something and because of that wasn’t on the bus that was blown up, or in one of the towers on 9/11, or in an airplane that crashed. In the beginning they weren’t happy that their plans didn’t work out, but they were when they found out what would have happened if their day was running as they originally thought that it should. Sometimes things happen for the best. But, we don’t always see what is best for us.
 
To begin with we need to use the right tools, just like I needed to use the right card. Religion gives us tools. They can usually be explained quite clearly if you go to the right person. Other people may have different explanations for the same ritual, but that doesn’t make one right and one wrong. The importance is in the doing. I had to swipe the right magnetic strip for the door to open. When it comes to religion we have to do certain things to have the door of meaning open.  We won’t always understand, but we can still find the rituals meaningful. I don’t have to understand how the magnetic strip lets the door open for it to work, however, I do have to swipe it properly.
 
For instance, for Rosh Hashana or Shabbat to be meaningful you have to take some steps. The day won’t be special if you don’t follow certain instructions. If you make a bit of an effort to find the right card and insert it properly, the magic of these days may open up. Even if you keep Shabbat or the holidays, sometimes we need to look for ways to make it even more meaningful. You could try listening to someone speaking about the Torah portion or some Jewish topic, or to study the Torah a bit. Making an effort to spend some extra quality time with your family or going to synagogue if you don’t usually go, can make the day special. Picking a Jewish topic to discuss around the Shabbat table can also add to the day. The magic of Shabbat, holidays and Judaism in general are very accessible, but we have to learn to pay attention to the instructions that we are given. Shabbat is nice when you use it to relax from a hectic week, but it can become a lot more, if you put in a little more effort. And this is true with holidays and other aspects of Judaism as well. So, take the time to look at how you can make Shabbat and holidays into special, meaningful days. Let’s all try to take a little more care in how we try to open the door.
 
Marcia Goldlist is a regular contributor of blog postings on Jewish Values Online. She was the author of one of the blog postings selected for the Second Quarter 5779 Jewish Values Online Best Blogs.
 
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