By Rabbi Zolly Claman
(AJNews) – I have noticed that there are two categories of activities that fill our time. You can tell right away which of the two categories any given activity belongs in just by looking at the body language. Picture the way we enjoy a movie, we are sitting back, relaxed and enjoying the show. Compare that to that way someone would be sitting while playing a video game, sitting at the edge of the chair and leaned in.
It is clear to me that the body language is an outward manifestation of something that lies deeper. Different activities demand varied degrees of heavy lifting on our part. A movie supplies it all for us: the visuals, audios, tone and emotions are all there for us to take in. If we don’t fall asleep we will receive everything the activity has to offer. A video game on the other hand, much of the heavy lifting is done on our part. If the joystick isn’t moved, the game will not react – the whole experience is very dependent on us, so we lean in.
Allowing this phenomenon to resonate in our spiritual endeavours can guide us to more meaningful growth. When we pray, study Torah, or are involved in mitzvot – what is our body language like? There is most definitely a time and place for both – but remember this rule of thumb: inasmuch as we are doing the heavy lifting and leaning in, the activity will have a lasting impression and impact on us. Sometimes it’s more enjoyable in the moment to passively engage in the experience, but it won’t make as much of a lasting impression on us.
The Chanukah story is one of the most celebrated miracles in our rich and exciting past. The strong and many, fell to the weak and few. After that victory the Jewish people desperately searched through the ransacked Temple to find any remanence of purity, and that search was proven to be a success as well when a small jug of oil was found – still closed shut with the seal of the high priest. The modest amount of oil was poured into the Menorah and it miraculously lasted long enough until they were about to replenish their stock – 8 days.
The bravery to take on a larger army and the tenacity to search through the Temple were all active engagements on the part of the Jewish people, and it left an impression that we are still celebrating. The same goes with all other miraculous moments in Jewish history. The sea did not split until the Jewish people were nose-deep in salt water. The Purim salvation did not happen until Esther had the courage to orchestrate the salvation from within the palace – and the list goes on.
If we realize this lesson in our own personal life, relationships, professional sphere and spiritual journey, we will be able to create a meaningful growth much faster. Want to see miracles in your personal life? Start leaning in more.
May we all have a healthy winter and a Chanukah that fills our own life and others with light!
Rabbi Zolly Claman is the spiritual leader of Beth Israel Congregation in Edmonton.