Tuesday, May 6, 2014

If I'm not a Coffee Bean, What am I?

I must be a coffee bean. I start the day with Dannon coffee yogurt. I've been launching my day this way since junior high school. As the morning hours tick I drink one to two cups of coffee-mostly decaf. When decadent, when yearning for sweet satisfaction, I indulge with coffee ice cream and a dollop of chocolate. So if the saying is true that "You are what you eat," I'm the bean.

Or am I my roles? I'm wife to Jay, mother of four, mother-in-law to one, sister to Alan and Lisa, educator in New York, friend to wonderful women and a handful of men, cousin to the Seidels, Kohlers, Ramos, Selas and Simons, grandmother of two, daughter to Rosalie and David and neighbor to Sheffield Lane. I am woman. I am Jew. I am American. Nice to meet you.

Or possibly I'm my resume. I am, as our times insist, the sum total of my colleges and jobs and activities. I am the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University and Gratz College. What a funny combination of ivy Jewish practicality. I don't belong to clubs per se, but Facebook groups would say I'm an aspiring blogger, reader, writer.  My sports are limited to putting on hard hat and hard boots for a ride on a horse and putting on sneakers for long walks with my husband. So that's who I am? A degreed worker with too little time for hobbies?

I'm also short. I'm short according to all the images in magazines, and movies and daily culture. I'm short in weight..or let's say over weight. I need to stand up straight and stop aging---looking my age. Daily mirror and personal reflection remind me that I'm short of what I could be and should be.

I'm short in all my roles, where I can be better and do better. I can be more patient, more loving, and be a better listener. I can keep a cleaner house and spend more time helping others.Yes, the list is longer, but don't need it all hanging out there. So I'm short, even though I'm 5'5".

Which ever definition you pick-my food, my activities, my roles, the images of our times the sum and total of me-my self-worth comes from circumstance or achievement. I've got to earn my self worth. I've been working on it and still come up short.

This Thursday, Rabbi Shai Held is going to challenge my notion of self worth. His teaching at our gathering Yachdav of over 60 congregational leaders in New York is called Flipping Self
Worth on Its Head. A Jewish Theology of Human Dignity and Self-Worth

Is there wisdom for folks like me who have built a life of fullness and shortness?
Is there a guide from our Jewish teaching to counter young people's core belief that the college they get into, and the clubs they belong to in service of a resume are their sum total? According to David Brook's column in the NY Times today, young people's sense of self worth is under assault. " people clearly feel besieged. There is the perception that life is harder. Certainly their parents think it is harder. The result is that you get a group hardened for battle, more focused on the hard utilitarian things and less focused on spiritual or philosophic things; feeling emotionally vulnerable, but also filled with résumé assertiveness. The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes."

Rabbi Shai, we need you.   If I'm not a coffee bean, what am I?

Texts to Study Thursday:
1. Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5
Therefore was Adam created singly: (1) to teach you that if anyone destroys a single soul,* Scripture charges  him as though he had destroyed an entire world, and if anyone saves a single soul,* Scripture credits her as  though she had saved an entire world. (2) And [Adam was created singly] for the sake of peace in the human  race, so that no one might say to his fellow, “My ancestor was greater than your ancestor,” (2b) and that the  heretics should not say, “There are many powers in heaven.” (3) And [Adam was created singly] to proclaim  the greatness of the Blessed Holy One, for a human being stamps many coins with one die and they are all  alike one with the other, but the King of the kings of kings, the Blessed Holy One, has stamped all of  humanity with the die of the first man, and yet not one of them is like his fellow. (4) Therefore each and  every person is obligated to say, “For my sake was the world created.”

*Some versions say: “from Israel”

2. Mishnah Avot 3:14
Rabbi Akiva used to say: “Beloved is the human being, for s/he was created in the image of God. Even  more beloved is s/he for it was made know to her/him that s/he was created in the image of God, as it says,  ‘For in the image of God God made the human being’ (Genesis 9:6).”