The comfort of Judaism within an ever-changing world

The complexity of being in high school can be quite insane.  There is a need to fit in to maintain social dialogue, while at the same time, trying to find oneself to figure out how they, as an individual, will make an impact on the world. Not to mention, the stress of college admissions and test scores leads peers down the path of considering suicide and really considering if they even matter to those around them. But, my high school journey is different. Yes, it has had it’s up and downs. But, amongst my peers, I have stood out because I am not only Jewish, but love everything about being Jewish. From being in Shul, listening to Jewish music, learning Torah and so much more, I have managed to find my passion and feel confident with who I am as an individual and human being.

The Rambam teaches that Jewish law dictates that a man is required to cover his head during prayer. However, according to some authorities, it has since taken on the force of law because it is an act of Kiddush Hashem, referring to actions which bring honor to Hashem. Over time, this idea has shifted between Jewish movements. The Reform Movement does not require it, while the Conservative and Orthodox movements require it. Because of this, I have been asked:  “If I am in a reform Shul and they do not wear Kippot, do I still wear one?” My answer is always: “YES!” I find wearing a Kippah holy and comforting because it is a reminder that no one is perfect, except for Hashem, and I need to strive to be humble like Moshe. When talking about colleges, a ton of peers believed that they were better than myself and others because they were going to a more “prestigious” university. They bragged. As fun as it may be to do so, Judaism brings comfort and reminds us that we have to be happy with who we are and in the end, we are making the best choice for ourselves.

Another concept in Judaism that has brought comfort is the idea of rejoicing in creation by the Kadosh Baruch Hu through song (zemirot and Tefillot) and music. When I first started the Nosh and Drash program at Adat Shalom, music would always be playing in the background. When I looked where this music was coming from, it happened to be from the Jewish Rock Radio. In Psalm 150, we read the words: “Praise Hashem with blasts of the horn; praise Hashem with harp and lyre. Praise Hashem with timbrel and dance; praise Hashem with lute and pipe. Praise Hashem with resounding cymbals; praise Hashem with loud clashing cymbals (Tehillim 150: 3-6).” These lines are a reminder that we need prayer, music and instruments to connect with the King On High. Therefore, the music coming from the Jewish Rock Radio, was no surprise. Making Jewish music is literally a Mitzvah! Therefore, after discovering this website, I started exploring the various artists that made up the site and before I knew it, I started buying their music. Now, I listen to the music of artists such as: Rick Recht, Joe Buchanan, Abbie Strauss and Elana Arian daily. However, that would just be the beginning because I found the Nusach of the Hazzanim and traditional songleaders beautiful. Therefore, I explored and discovered Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble, Josh Warshawsky and various Hazzanim that strive to inspire on a daily basis. Therefore, when I drive and need different music, or just at school, needing something to listen to, Jewish music is what I turn to!

Finally, the last element that has brought comfort during my high school career has been Shabbat. “Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath … one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come” (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel). This idea that Rabbi Heschel presents is one that has been conversed about many times within my family. How can Shabbat be utilized when there seems to be a lot going on? Well, over the past four years, I have strived to balance Judaism with everything else going on.  While I have found meaning in the idea of “Shomer Shabbos” it doesn’t fit into how my high school and family schedule works. Yes, every friday night, my family and I are having Shabbas dinner, sometimes with guests. Yes, on some Friday nights, I am found spread out with a B’Kol Echad bencher singing Zemirot. Yes, most Saturdays, my family and I are found within the pews of the Shul’s Main Sanctuary and are helping make a Minyan Saturday nights. Yes, I strive to have all my work done so I do not have to write and use technology.  However, to get to Shul, we drive.  Some Saturdays, I work. Therefore, for right now, I have been able to build a base which allows me to be able to rejoice in Shabbat and therefore, as I get older, B”H, I will be able to grow in my practice and continue to have the reminder that I must take time to put myself within a kehila Kedosha and be grateful for the gift of creation and renewal.

הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה’ אֵלֶיךָ וְנָשׁוּבָה. חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם:  Help us and guide us, inspire us and provide us with all the wisdom Your Torah can show. Cause us to learn, grow, renew  and return, just as in the days of old, so that we all can find comfort in Your “sweet as honey” words, teachings and everything within!

Kein Yehi Ratzon, may this be Hashem’s Will!

About the Author
Sam Arnold of Farmington Hills, a freshman at Western Michigan University, belongs to Congregation Shaarey Zedek, BBYO and USY. His goal is to one day be ordained a Conservative rabbi. Sam’s goal is to “live a life full of passion and meaning.” He has volunteered at Forgotten Harvest and, as a member of the Jewish Fund Teen Board, helped allocate grants totaling $50,000. He’s volunteered at the JCC, working with kindergarteners and first-graders and at the Hillel Early Childhood Center Day Camp as a counselor. He also serves as chair of the J-Serve Teen Board Committee. He runs cross-country and plays the viola in the school orchestra. He attended the JustCity Leadership Institute at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the AIPAC Policy Conference and the Schusterman Conference as a USY representative. He was the Torah Bytes Fellow for USY Central Region and Shaarey Zedek’s representative for Motor City USY. Sam has worked at CSZ, Aish Detroit and Adat Shalom teaching Hebrew to third-through sixth-graders, and recently helped a congregant learn to read Torah and Haftorah for her 50th bat mitzvah anniversary. He is a regular Torah reader, Haftorah reader and Megillah reader at CSZ. He started his own blog on Times of Israel so he could share his love of Torah and his thoughts with the world.
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