Each Moment is a Jewish Moment

I have long stated that my goal as a Jewish educator is to help people live their lives – every day, every moment – through a Jewish lens.  I have been challenged by many on this concept, with doubt that non-Orthodox people can do this.  People have challenged me to be self-reflective:  “Do I live every moment Jewishly?”  Yes, I try.

The obvious examples include my choice to eat kosher-style:  don’t mix meat and milk, don’t eat pork/shellfish, keep separate dishes in my home, only eat hekshered meat in my home, etc.  So every time I look at a menu in a restaurant, or go to prepare a meal at home, I do so through a Jewish lens.  Another easy example, is my choice to not do professional work on Shabbat (i.e. email, conference calls, work travel, etc).   And yet another example is the abundant Jewish art and books throughout my home.  You cannot turn a corner in any room (which all have mezuzot on the doorposts) and not see some Jewish artifact. For the most part, people get these – but they call me out that these are obvious and that they aren’t 24/7/365 (I’m not so sure I even agree on that one, but ok).  So here’s an example of how my choice to live my life in a Jewish way, as often as I can, turned a generic morning into a Jewish experience.

People who know me well, know that I am not a big daven/t’fillah person (the blog on not being a G-d-person is another story!).  But there is something about waking up each morning being thankful (to whomever) that you have indeed woken up.  Judaism gives us the Modeh Ani blessing just for this purpose:

Modeh Ani lifanecha, Melech chai v’kayam.
Shehechizarta bi, nishmati b’chemla rabbah emunatecha.

Translation:
“I give thanks to you, Everlasting Sovereign for you have returned my soul
to me in mercy. Great is your faithfulness.”

I know myself well enough to know that I won’t wake up every morning and recite a blessing, but thanks to technology, I can still awake with this thought in mind.  The alarm setting on my phone is set to an Mp3 of Rick Recht signing Modeh Ani.

In a recent visit to my family in St. Louis, I ended up staying over at my brother’s house and my nephews (then ages 5 and 7) often get up before the crack of dawn.  Whenever I stay over, they manage to sneak into my bed in the wee hours of the morning for some snuggling (sometimes we get a little sleep, but often it’s just quiet whispering).  So one morning, the youngest – Jack – managed to come down before my alarm went off.  We were snuggled up and dozing when the alarm – Modeh Ani – went off.  Jack sits straight up and says, “I know that song!” and proceeded to sing along (although the melody he was using wasn’t the one playing).  After 4 years in a Jewish pre-school and 3 summers in a Jewish summer camp, he knew the words and a melody to Modeh Ani, but it wasn’t a part of his daily at-home wake-up routine.   [Note: his bed-time routine includes a nightly Sh’ma which I love being a part of when I can be.]  By just having my alarm clock set to this blessing, Jack joined me in a Jewish moment as we were waking up.

While this is just one example of how I, as a non-Orthodox Jew live my life Jewishly, it was such a powerful moment as an aunt,  as a Jewish role model, and as a Jewish educator,  that I wanted to share it.  In the work I do as a family educator, I try to teach that it’s choices like this that families can make – easy and integrated into daily living – that make all the difference in raising proud and connected Jews.

Another way I live Jewishly, is that my nephews call me Dodah (Aunt in Hebrew). It reminds them, and me, that I’m not just an aunt,
but their Jewish aunt.

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