What does it mean to make something actual? To make something exist?
When we type a blog or an email, is it actual? Does it exist? We know there are things that we cannot see and we cannot touch. God, we cannot touch or see, but we know he exists. Love, we feel and cherish, but cannot see. But these are things of great magnitude, these are things that, of course, exist and to confuse them with trivialities is to be intentionally evasive.
What meaning is there in speaking something aloud? To writing something with a pen, or typing it with a typewriter? Perhaps there is something that we miss when we live on the internet. Perhaps it is a remnant of generations of living in the physical and we are not calibrated to this brave new world, yet. Maybe I should stop and ask, do I really want to be calibrated to this world?
The answer may not be so simple.
When you hold a letter your father wrote you in 1980, do you feel the same when looking at an email from 2003? While you are cleaning out your basement and you stumble upon your journal you kept years ago, do you feel the same as when you see a word document you saved for yourself, because you needed to write down how you felt a decade ago?
Do you remember receiving a letter from a friend years ago? Do you remember how it felt holding it? Knowing they wrote it? Knowing they held this same paper? Knowing they wrote these words, they spent money to have it reach you far away? Does that facebook message you received last week from an old roommate feel the same?
Could this be nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake? Perhaps. Could it be something more, Perhaps?
We pray ancient prayers to a God we have known for millennia. We perform the ancient rituals those who came centuries before us performed. Part of our religious essence is situated in history. We recall our patriarchs, and utter prayers in a language many of us don’t understand. We hold on to this, because we know that even if we don’t understand it, there is a meaning in it that we can’t let slip away.
Why do we not feel the same about the way we live? Why do we so quickly cast aside outdated ways for new efficiency. Efficiency is the God of today’s secular world. The ways we live are not always sacred, they are simply ways we exist. Ways we speak, communicate, write etc… We aren’t commanded by God to reject social media in favor of face to face communication. Maybe we need to command ourselves.
There are things we can learn from our religion.
That sounds stupidly simple and obvious, I realize this. But, is it really so obvious, and so stupid to say? Do many of us really learn things from Judaism? Or do many of us just do what we have always done because that is what we do. Do many of us think about what this or that means, and whah it points to? What it means for other things? Or do we think of it in a vacuum?
Every Sefer Torah in every Synagogue has been written by hands. Every letter in it’s right place. We pronounce Kaddish aloud. We utter the words of the Sh’ma. We make something actual in Judaism. Why have we stopped making things actual in our lives?
What does Judaism teach us here? What does our action in Judaism point to?