Living Consciously

I - Life is more holy when we are living with awareness and intention.

The unexamined/unconscious life is not a holy one. We engage in our daily activities consciously and thoughtfully as structured by our tradition's mitzvot.

  • If we eat an apple, the b'rachah (the Jewish blessing) is different from the one we say before eating a potato (the b'rachah for food from a tree is different from the one for food grown in the ground). We can't eat something before we know what it is and where it comes from.
  • We need always to be conscious of where we are in time. We have special morning prayers upon waking and in the morning service (referring to daylight and to the creation of the day and to being thankful for waking up) which are different from the prayers for evening services and nighttime (prayers for a peaceful night, for protection during sleep). There are lines of prayer we say in our worship services that change depending upon the time/season of the year.
  • There is a special b'rachah for every kind of human experience: Is it the first fruit of the season?  Do we see a rainbow?  Are we in the presence of someone whose intellect and expertise we particularly respect? Our tradition teaches us to say a specific b'rachah for each of these experiences so that our eyes and ears are always open to the many blessings that surround us.
II - Our every action and word has universal importance.

Our deeds and words matter. Every individual person matters. We are not simply dust in the wind.
  • There is a Jewish image of the world as a scale with everything positive and life-affirming balanced on one side and everything destructive and selfish balanced on the other. The story goes that every single word and action is placed on a side of this global scale. The good we do tips the scale toward that end and the bad we do toward the other.
  • Our mitzvot include even the seemingly tiny things: what food do I put in my mouth? Which b'rachah do I say? Can I wear this garment that mixes different types of fibers?  Do I touch the mezuzah each time I walk through the door?
  • On the High Holy Days we imagine a Divine Book of Life: each of us is a page in that book. What is written on it?
  • There is a teaching from the Midrash that is based on a line from the early chapters of the Torah: "Anyone who has saved a single human life, it is as if he (or she) has saved the entire world."
III - Everything on the planet is part of God: we strive to be thoughtful and responsible with how we interact with things in the physical world
  • Kashrut is a set of prescribed limitations on eating things that had to be killed in order for us to eat them. While we are not required to be vegetarian,  we do need to recognize the seriousness of ending the life of an animal - even for food.
  • The mitzvah of bal tash-khit (Do not destroy wastefully):  This mitzvah, derived from a verse in the book of Deuteronomy related to preserving fruit trees in war, prohibits us from using more than we need, needlessly destroying anything, using something of greater value when something of lesser value will suffice, and utilizing something in an unintended way that  would increase the likelihood of it being broken or destroyed.