The world we live in is certainly one of great uncertainty, and what lies in the future is not guaranteed for me. Despite this, I have expectations and dreams for the world that I would like to see come to fruition. One of these, something I have been taught my entire Jewish life and considered to be one of the obligations of Jews is tikkun olam. In the future, it would be incredible if not only Jewish people could “repair the world”, but people of all religions and backgrounds.
Ethics, to me, are someone’s morals. Morals are what they think is right versus wrong, and what they believe should come first, over everything else. Also, my ethics are very simple: as long as I am not hurting someone else, in any way, shape or form, my ethics aren’t being broken. In addition, you must have a standard of morals in which you have to choose what comes before everything.
As with anyone, my morals play a large part in the actions I take in life. Most choices I make, from the smallest decision to a life-changing action, are considered carefully, taking into account possible ramifications and benefits. My ethics have, like most things, been affected by Judaism greatly. Judaism has shown me what a huge difference a small person or action can make. This past month, our confirmation class went on a trip to Washington D.C. with the R.A.C., or Religious Action Center, to speak with the very people who make laws in the United States.
When I started confirmation classes, following my Bar Mitzvah, I had no idea that in order to complete the program I needed 18 hours of community service work. I had already begun volunteering at CentraState Hospital when I was 14 years old, the required age. At the same time, I decided to volunteer at the religious school and became a teacher’s aide one day a week. When I initially began my volunteer work it was simply to do “good things” for the community as opposed to fulfilling a requirement. Additionally, I believe that completing the Mitzvah Program for my Bar Mitzvah started me on this path to performing community service and realizing that in life we must all help others and give back to our community in some way.
Our ark doors at Temple Rodeph Torah have the words l’dor v’dor written on them. This means from generation to generation. To me, Judaism is about passing our stories, beliefs, and traditions down to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, just like my grandparents and parents have. Tradition, tzedakah, and perseverance are three of the most important aspects of Judaism I will want to pass down.
It is imperative to fight for what you believe is right and what you value. In February, I attended the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social Justice seminar with my TRT confirmation class. Through this experience, I learned to appreciate specific Jewish values and beliefs. The Religious Action Center, also known as the “RAC”, is the Washington DC office of the Union for Reform Judaism and has about 900 member congregations including Temple Rodeph Torah.
I’ll admit that at first, going to temple and going to religious school was not my idea of a Friday night or after school activity. But looking back on that now, I don’t know what I was thinking. About a month after confirmation class started, I would walk into school in the morning all happy and hyper. My friends would wonder why, and I would tell them, “It’s Monday. I’ve got Hebrew High tonight.” Yes. I actually enjoyed Mondays.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve heard those words countless times, but I’ve never understood them. Actually, I understand this saying perfectly; what I don’t understand is why people believe it’s always true. Life is just not that simple. Sometimes it gets so rough that one doesn’t have sugar to make the lemonade with. When that happens, there are a number of things that can be done. One could distract oneself with earsplitting music to forget the pain. One could turn on a reality show to remind oneself that there are lots of people who have made their lives worse; I recommend Jersey Shore. Otherwise, one can do what I always do. Turn to someone who’s always going to be there for you no matter what, because that’s why he or she exists. What I always do is turn to God.
My first recollection of community service started with my older brother Scott. One of the services that he did was bring unsold food from the loading dock of Delicious Orchids onto waiting trucks that would then deliver them to various organizations that fed the poor or ill. Since Delicious Orchids was far, he needed to be driven so my whole family would go. Many times it was cold and dark but it was fun because we would get to take the perishable items home with us. It was only when I started my own community service that I realized what community service was all about.
My entire life, I have been surrounded by Judaism. From my baby naming to my first Hanukkah to my Bat Mitzvah, almost everything has revolved around being Jewish. The people around me have not only supported my Jewish life, but they have changed it drastically as well. Without my family, friends, and rabbi by my side, none of these Jewish things in my life could have been completed. Life changing events such as my Bat Mitzvah and my trip to the RAC in Washington, D.C. have been stepping stones on my path to confirmation.