Every since I was a little girl, I felt quite “spiritual”. I remember reading the book Conversations with God when I was about 10, and was super inspired! I thought spiritual was “normal”. “Everyone feels like this, right?”
Truth is, I also believed in Santa Clause until I was about five, even though my parents raised me essentially Jewish. They always gave me a choice though. You see, my mothers’ mother was Catholic, and she was the most devout, faithful person I knew, going to Church religiously, and making these holy days very special for us grand-kids. Even though the whole rest of the family was Jewish, and I was Jew-ish, I remember always admiring her strength in her own spirituality. I never once questioned my own center of belief, and I knew that the spiritual inkling inside of me, even at five-years-old, was sacred.
My father broke the news about Santa that Christmas eve, explaining that it wouldn’t make any sense to the kids at the Jewish Day school I attended if I started talking about Santa. Broken heartedly, I agreed.
Growing up, my parents taught me that God is everywhere; we are all God and God is inside of us. I learned later in life about a Kabbalah concept: “God is a Verb”. I discovered that in a magical book, that jumped out of my Rabbi’s shelf and info my psyche almost ten years ago. What a blessing to find all of these concepts and ideas about spiritutalty swimming around in my mind, inside a book! A Jewish book, none-the-less.
Facts: Judaism is built on three pillars: Torah, Study and Acts of Loving Kindness. When you do a good deed, or a mitzvah, it’s considered a holy act. Doing an anonymous holy act is one of the greatest mitzvot one can do. (Side note: having sex on the Sabbath is considered THE holiest act possible. At least the Jews had some things right.)
Now, despite my very intense relationship with Judaism, I’ve always loved Christmas time, even though in my core, I am a Jew. I was raised Jewish, I speak Hebrew, I’ve worked at a synagogue for ten years, I’ve been to Israel and my dad keeps Kosher. Though some extremely religious people would tell me I need to convert, I laugh to myself because I know in my core, I am what I am, what I have always been, and that is love.
Every year, holiday cheer always brightens me up inside, especially during these dark winter days, because it is a time for our families to come together and cherish one another. It’s a time to pause, reflect and give thanks for these precious experiences. It’s a time to celebrate light, even in the dark. Though for some, undoubtedly, the holidays can be a very rough and depressing time.
I have a theory about spirituality and ‘religion’; it’s really all about nostalgia. If you have a strong fond memory of holiday times with your family as a younger person, then chances are you really like this time of year as an adult, because it reminds you of those happy memories. If you didn’t much like your family, or your Church much as a kid, then chances are Christmas time makes you gag, and that’s okay, too.
Whatever these times mean for you, I do hope you will choose to spend time with people you care about. If you’re alone, then cherish that sacred time to reflect, ground, center and embrace your place in life. With our worlds spinning so fast and chaotically, a moment of quiet can be a true gift.
Though I still can’t really explain my faith, I enjoy every minute of it. I enjoy the woven stories we tell, learning about our histories and how they relate.
Here is a fine example of three different stories, each holding their own special meaning and traditions. Enjoy!