World of Faith

We can all help make the world a better place

January 6, 2014 

Our time is now rolling away from the bright lights and warmth of the holiday season. The menorah is cleaned of its Hanukkah wax, the Christmas decorations are down, and many New Year’s resolutions already broken.

We now face a long stretch of dreary winter months. As we turn to this time, there may be longing for the friendliness of the season now past. Are there things we can do, to maintain the warmth and connectedness to that holiday season? In Jewish history, the rabbis taught that it was a blessing to recite 100 blessings or prayers of thanks, every day.

If you have not tried this, you might consider it. The awareness it creates keeps God, and thankfulness, in mind and can guide positive choices throughout the day.

That may be one way of continuing to live our faith beyond the holiday season. Thankfulness is a direct conversation of thanking God for the good in our lives. There are ways, also, of reaching out and strengthening the bonds of fellowship with our fellow man, if you look for them. There are prayers to God which can have an impact upon daily activities and our relationship with the secular world which can lead to the betterment of both.

There is a prayer recited toward the end of Jewish religious services called the Aleinu. It’s a very old prayer, attributed either to Joshua celebrating his defeat of Jericho, or to the rabbis in the third century.

The translation begins, “It is our duty to praise the Sovereign of the universe and proclaim the greatness of the Creator.”

That could be considered as a way to address the 100 blessings to God, but also there is an aspect of the Aleinu that focuses on our current world and making it a more blessed place. The Aleinu also prays that we can “perfect the world…” using the phrase, “Tikkun Olam.” That term has taken on the additional meaning of “repair the world,” and is interpreted that we bear a responsibility to improve the world in which we live. Taking on this challenge has myriad channels of expression and can help to extend the connectedness of the holiday season.

There are many social organizations working to repair the world year-round. The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders work internationally, to improve the human condition. We have local organizations dedicated to helping people; the Fort Mill Care Center assists families with donations of food and other basic necessities. The Children’s Attention Home is focused on providing shelter and nurturing for abused, abandoned, and neglected children in South Carolina.

And even closer to home, at a personal level, there are so many small things we can do each day to extend the warmth and goodwill of this past holiday season. It simply takes a moment to remember the Divine that is present in the every day.

In that moment of remembering, you can thank someone, pick up a stray bit of litter, or perform some small task to help a neighbor or co-worker. These actions extend that spark of the Divine between people and work to make those moments holy, if even in a small way.

It is a blessing to be mindful of living in the present, actively looking for even small ways to help others, or our environment. If you think about it, even slowing down when driving and letting someone into traffic makes the world a better place by practicing patience. These small acts of kindness have a ripple effects, on you and on others. Practicing Tikkun Olam every day can extend the connectedness of the past season, and let us build upon that to make our present time a better place for all.

Edie Yakutis works with Ritual Life at Temple Solel in Fort Mill. Contact her eyakutis@outlook.com.

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