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Grounded

Judaism is rich in rituals, from daily prayers to Shabbat dinners with family, all aimed at infusing spirituality into our lives. The purpose of these rituals is to have a spiritual focused existence, to bring G-dliness into our regular lives. But the challenge we often encounter is how to bridge the gap between our mundane lives and the spirituality we hope to infuse it with. How do we make our Judaism not just something we do, but something we are?


Engaging in extracurricular activities as a hobby isn’t a uniquely Jewish concept; everyone does it. People work out, follow a sports team, play in a band, and many other such activities, but rarely do these activities become much more than hobbies. It’s something that we enjoy doing, but rarely does it define who we are.


Yet, Torah expects Jews to not only do Jewish things, but to actually be Jewish. Of course, anyone born to a Jewish mother is considered a Jew regardless of the rituals they do or don’t engage in. But still, we are expected to make Judaism central to our existence and what we are all about.


Going about our regular lives parallel to also doing Jewish things, won’t necessarily translate to it being our full-fledged existence. That requires intentionality, specifically focusing on integrating Judaism in everything we do. This starts with our psyche — putting ourselves in a state of mind that we are Jews first and foremost. Before anything else, we identify as members of the Chosen People. With that foundation, everything we do — both religiously and in our mundane lives — is being done by a Jew. Every activity becomes a Jewish ritual, even as we go about our daily lives, interacting with the world and people around us.


We find an example of this in the construction of the Mishkan, the temporary Temple that G-d commanded the Jews to build in the desert. The Mishkan was a sacred space where divine presence dwelled among the people. Thus, every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, played a crucial role in maintaining the sanctity of the sanctuary. One such detail was a seemingly trivial component — copper stakes to stabilize the fence around the Mishkan’s courtyard. The function of stakes, by definition, is to penetrate the ground and prevent the structure from collapsing. They were not merely decorative elements but served a practical purpose in stabilizing the fence surrounding the courtyard. Just hanging off the side of the fence is meaningless; they need to actually be inserted into the ground in order to be effective.


Without the stakes, the entire sanctuary and all the daily rituals performed in it were at risk of collapse. All the sublime and spiritual activities depended on these almost trivial pieces of copper for stability, otherwise a strong enough wind could topple the entire structure. But with the stakes properly inserted in the ground, everything else in the Temple can go about securely, without giving the need for stability much thought.


In a similar vein, our Jewish life needs to be grounded. Just as the stakes anchored the Mishkan to the ground, grounding Jewish identity in daily life anchors us to our faith and heritage, providing stability and resilience amidst life's challenges.


The stability of the Mishkan relied on the proper placement and firm insertion of the stakes into the ground. Similarly, the stability of one's spiritual life depends on the firm integration of Jewish identity into all aspects of daily existence. We need to have that one component that penetrates the ground — the lowest and most mundane part of our existence — in order for the rituals we engage in to be steady and firm. That means that we can’t limit our Jewishness to when we do Jewish things, we need to be proudly Jewish in everything that we do.


When you’re at the grocery, shop as a Jew; when you’re driving, do so as a Jew; when you’re at work, keep your Jewish morals front and center; and the list can go on — make your Jewish identity the driving factor in all areas of your life. Grounding Jewish identity in daily life is essential for fostering a sense of spiritual fulfillment and connection to tradition.

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