On Getting Religious
This weekend I had a very emotional experience.
I went for an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Santa Barbara where I live. It was a barbeque for the community.
Standing there, I was approached by a Habad-nik , a Jewish religious missionary organization that does not try to convert non Jews to Judaism. They try hard to keep those that have been born Jewish to remain Jewish through adhering to the rituals of the Jewish faith.
He asked me if I would like to put tefilin. It is a contraption Jews puts on their hand and around forehead as they recite a short prayer. Nothing major.
I have been approached by Habad-niks in airports, on the street of Israel and have put tefilin just to get them off my back because they really insist . This time it was different. I did it willingly and as was reciting the prayer I got emotional . Almost in tears. And told the Habad-nik I want to learn how to put tefilin every day from now on.
What happened I wondered? What happened to me? Was I becoming religious all at once?
Here is my insight.
One possible explanation is that I was getting emotional because in my older age I am starting to think of what the Lord will judge me for and was becoming religious to protect myself from being sent to hell for my misdeeds while alive.
No, no. That is not the case. I have no fear of after life . Anyway I have not sinned enough to be sent to hell. That is what I believe. So why the emotion? Why did I decide I will learn how to put tefilin from now on and do it daily.
Where did this religious interest come from?
As we age, (E) goes down. There is less time to enjoy the fruits of our investment. We become more conservative with how we allocate our time. We are not as prone to plant a tree when we know we will not enjoy its fruits. We do not invest for the long run. We do not build new empires like we did when we were young.
But as we become seniors, not only our (E) goes down, our (P) goes down too. That is why it is called retirement. We are not working anymore. We enjoy the fruits of our past investments. What is left is (A) and (I).
Not strange the older we become the pickier we are and easily irritated with any violation of what we consider order . That is (A) in action. And what are the manifestations for the growing (I) replacing (E) and (P)? We become more family oriented. Much more than ever before in our life cycle. We care for integration and it does not stop with family. It involves integration with higher purpose. And God is a higher purpose.
For me putting the tefilin on I believe, was symbolic of being united with all my ancestors who did the same for two thousand years. Of feeling part of the Jewish nation scattered around the world and in most cases still prosecuted for its beliefs. It was symbolic of belonging , being part and parcel of all.
Ichak Kalderon Adizes.