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Back To The Future

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“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” 

As someone who loved learning about history in school, I always found this saying inspiring. Our history, whether it’s of the Jewish people, the United States, or the world, gives us a roadmap for how to approach the many decisions and situations that appear in our lives each and every day. And our Torah portion this week reiterates this idea.

In Parashat Ki Teitzei, the Israelites receive dozens of commandments as we prepare to enter the Promised Land. After several of these commandments, we read: 

“Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.” – Deuteronomy 24:22

As rational as the many commandments about family life, animals, property, and farming are, we’re reminded of our history as slaves in the land of Egypt and the oppression that we’ve faced. Without these reminders about our history, the Israelites may have been doomed to fall into similar situations, or, even worse, repeat the oppressions of Pharaoh. The portion’s last words are a triumphant, “Do not forget!”, challenging us once again to remember who the Israelites are and the experiences that have brought them to this point. 

We’ve all learned various lessons in our lives that have come to shape who we are and what we believe. By knowing our history – our family history, the key experiences in our lives, our values that guide us along the way – we can continue the journey of becoming our best selves and living our best lives. 

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evan

About the AuthorEvan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Protecting The Asset

traylor

Have you ever read a book and had a feeling it would really change your life? Well, last week, I finished “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown, and had that exact feeling. In exploring how to live according to our essential values, I was really struck with how McKeown described strategies for taking care of ourselves: “protecting the asset.”  

McKeown’s argument, which I agree with, is that in order to be at our very best, we have to protect and take care of our body, mind, and spirit. Taking care of ourselves is at the core of success.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-et’chanan, we receive a similar instruction from Moses:

“But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live.” – Deuteronomy 4:9

This portion comes as the Israelites are close to entering the Promised Land and later on, we read two key passages of Judaism – the Ten Commandments and the Sh’ma. In other words, right before laying down some of the most important words in Judaism, what does Moses tell the Israelites to do? Practice self-care. Because we can only succeed and thrive when we take care of ourselves. 

Fast forward to 2019, we would all benefit if we took on this mentality. Isn’t it ironic that in some of our most stressful moments – moving apartments, starting a new job, navigating family challenges – that we take care of ourselves the least? Those tough moments are exactly when we need to actually sleep, spend time outside, journal, exercise, or whatever else brings us joy. We have to protect our most valuable asset in life – ourselves. 

 

evan

About the AuthorEvan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

So how about those New Year’s resolutions?

In 2019, I didn’t create “resolutions,” but more themes or intentions for the year.

I wanted to create more joy, meaning, and connection to others throughout the year – and so far it’s been pretty great! I’ve started by just making more time for the things that bring me joy, like playing basketball, watching great TV, traveling to new places, and eating delicious food. I’ve pushed myself to also identify more meaning and purpose in my life through journaling, reflection, and constantly reading. And I’ve been really intentional about reaching out to old and new friends to expand and deepen my relationships with folks.

But, as with most goals or resolutions, I’ve started to feel myself stray a little bit from my intentions for 2019. This last month, I was traveling a ton for work and felt like I wasn’t as focused on what I wanted this year to be for me. Some days, it just felt like life was happening and I wasn’t getting the full amount of joy, meaning, and connection I wanted for 2019.

journal

Checking in on my 2019 intentions

So, I’m using the month of April to check in with myself. Not only is it my birthday month (April 2nd!) but it’s also one of my favorite Jewish holidays: Passover. This holiday is all about the Israelites going on a journey toward freedom and redemption, escaping slavery to experience the land flowing with milk and honey. Our story of going from an oppressed community to a redeemed nation includes a ton of joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community – just like the intentions I set for myself in 2019. Our freedom story provides us with several different insights on how each and every one of us can experience more freedom and a better life each and every day.

Rediscovering joy

Just like my first intention for 2019, the first lesson from our Passover story is all about joy. Although it begins with anguish and pain, by the time our people cross the Red Sea we are totally and completely ready to celebrate our freedom. With Miriam leading the Israelites in song and dance, we expressed a lifetime of joy after that tremendous moment.

But you don’t have to wait for all the big moments in life to celebrate. Whether it’s trying a new restaurant, sleeping in a little longer on the weekend, or just pausing to really appreciate the cherry blossoms, each and every day represents an opportunity to experience joy in our lives.

Finding meaning in our lives

My second intention for 2019, and the second lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is all about finding meaning in our lives. Understanding our purpose in life is one of those deep, existential questions that is really tough to figure out, and I’m not saying that you need to tackle that question to truly find meaning in your life. But the Passover story provides us with a great starting place to think about the big questions of the world. A core component of the Passover seder is the reading of the Four Questions.

Here are some adapted questions to help think about how you might create more meaningful moments:

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What brings you pure joy?
  • How are you going to make a difference in someone else’s life today?
  • What do you believe is possible in your life?

Connecting with community

My final intention for 2019, and the last lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is that community is essential to success. Although there may have been bickering amongst the Israelites when escaping and definitely while they were in the desert, staying together as a community was necessary for their survival. And for us in 2019, community is necessary for our survival. We are naturally wired to be around other people and it’s even more important when you’re wanting to make a change, big or small, in your life. One of my goals for this year was to be more connected with the people in my life because I know that it will make me happier and bring more meaning into my life.

Among all of the ways that society, other people, and even ourselves sometimes keeps us from fulfilling our true potential, there is always the opportunity for more freedom in our own lives. And if we focus on the lessons from our Passover story, we can seek out more joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community to be on this journey with us.

Passover resolution check-in

If you set resolutions or goals or themes for 2019…

  • How are you doing on them?
  • Would you change them at all?
  • What do you need to do in order to adjust?

If you didn’t set any goals for 2019, now’s the time to start.

  • What’s one thing you want to do for the rest of 2019 to make yourself more free this year?

As we celebrate Passover, may we use this time to check-in with ourselves, to connect with those in our communities, and to commit to freeing ourselves so that we may be our best selves.

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evanAbout the Author: Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.