I think the way some people think - or people used to think - is, "I will subscribe to a religious or philosophical idea based on its rational merit." And I don't think that way and maybe that makes me dumber than the average bear. I don't know. But the way I think is, "I'll subscribe to a religious or philosophical idea based on the kind of person it creates." And so if you belong to some sort of organization or club or subscribe to some bit of theology and it makes you a jerk then that must not be a valid system. There's something wrong with it.
-Don Miller, World Vision Chapel Address, 3/1/06
I have been struggling with Judaism. Between Jacob's father's discomfort accepting my parents' hospitality and the seemingly monolithic view of rabbis that intermarriage is completing the work Hitler didn't finish, I'm not feeling particularly welcome. Using Don Miller's framework, it seems like it must not be a valid system since it makes people into jerks.
But last night's shabbat gave me a new sense of what Judaism can offer my spiritual journey.
Jacob and I have become famous for our Shabbat dinners. Well, I guess it depends on your definition of famous. We were recently featured in the Chicago Tribune.
For the first five, we invited mostly Jewish friends and my family. The first was a little awkward, with cliques forming on different sides of the living room. I invited my friends Jake and Jess, who seem to have the joint super-power of cohesing groups of people (making them cohesive, for those that didn't follow me on my language adventure). This was a good decision on our part. Not only did it change the timbre of the events, it gave us a chance to become closer to these extremely good people. They are the couple whose back is to the photographer in the picture above.
For our sixth dinner, we extended the invitation to a couple of Jewish acquaintances that we've encountered lately and, by coincidence, none of the usual crowd except Jake and Jess could make it this time. So, we had one interfaith couple of 23-year-old artsy kids we met who live down the street, one quiet couple made up of a woman who was roommates with Jacob's sister-in-law and her boyfriend who had a yarmulke that matched his brightly colored and natty button-down shirt, and the woman who introduced Jacob and I.
A disparate group of near-strangers.
We had a fabulous evening full of hospitality, Youtube, beer, Lou Malnati's pizza, laughter, conversation and shared interests.
Setting aside an evening and a day for rest and fellowship is a worthwhile spiritual practice. It makes us into people who are distinctly not-jerks.
Shalom is a Hebrew word that means "a place for everything and everything in its place." It's a word that tries to express the concept of God's plan for the world before Adam and Eve wriggled their way out of the palm of Her hand. It's a state of being where every person feels valuable and wanted.