The evening of the day I converted to Judaism, Torah-study buddies Peggy and Susan gave me a set of glasses that turn every point of light into a Star of David; pretty handy here on the buckle of the Bible belt. It was the first night of Hanukkah then, too, and I was just blinded by all the light… the blaze of candles, and the metaphorical enlightenment of my newly adopted faith. Judaism has always seemed to me to be about shedding light on truth, and justice, and beauty.
The Hebraic faith gets the undeserved rap of being too cerebral; in fact, it’s really a quite physical business…the lighting of Shabbat candles, the swinging on of a tallit, the passing of the spices at Havdalah, the bending, swaying, and chanting of a prayer service, the lifting of a Torah. But it’s more than these religious rituals. Judaism is, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, “praying with your feet.” Regardless of what a Jew believes, he has to take action. Whether it’s marching in Selma with Dr. King, or visiting the sick, or not—as the Torah tells us—”reaping the corners of your field” in order to leave something for the next guy, Judaism is about doing more than it’s about believing. When it comes to injustice, no innocent bystanders are allowed. Get moving.
So, that first night as a Jew, in my little sermon to the congregation, I talked about light. Every soul in the room was kindled from the first light, of the first day, of creation. I felt their warmth and the light of Torah. Tonight, I’ll feel the magic, and the light, again.