Polar Vortex Judaism

The WORD – 1/9/14.  Be honest – had you ever heard of a polar vortex before this past week?  I know that I hadn’t.  I had experienced deep freezes and arctic winds, but never a polar vortex.

It’s really a curious phenomenon.  Apparently, polar vertices exist all the time on earth, but usually, they stay closer to the North and South Poles.  Under ordinary circumstances, one would have to travel to the ends of the earth in order to experience the cold of these polar vortices.  When they lose strength, however, the cold air spreads to other parts of the earth – as it did this past week across our country.  We can’t help but take notice

So, a polar vortex is something that exists all the time, but it takes a special set of circumstances for it to enter into our lives and conversations.  Then, as quickly as it appeared on the scene, it receded and we move on to something else (like, say, traffic patterns in Fort Lee, NJ).  After all, our attention spans are short.

But, the idea that there is something out there in the atmosphere that only comes to our attention under rare circumstances fascinates me.  What else might we be missing?  (Hopefully, it’s something a little warmer and more pleasant!)

The truth is that we go through life trying to provide for our families and ourselves, putting out one ‘fire’ or another and trying to sneak in some time for personal enjoyment.  It’s hard to find the time necessary to seek out things like Jewish culture, God, Torah study or religion.  In fact, it often seems as though these things are at the ends of the earth – out of our reach.

Sometimes, they work their way into our lives – the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or an illness.  But generally speaking, we go about our lives and those things that might bring meaning to our lives remain hovering over the North and South Poles.

Unlike a polar vortex, Jewish culture, God, Torah study and religion bring warmth into our lives – not only through the experiences themselves, but also by bringing us together with like-minded people to form a community.

That’s what our congregation is all about.  We take this phenomenon called ‘Judaism’ which may seem out of reach and irrelevant to our lives, and we bring it closer to all of us so that our lives might be warmed and enriched.  The greatest thing about Judaism is that there is something for everyone.  Whether you want a social experience or a spiritual one; whether you want to roll up your sleeves and delve into an ancient text or a community service project; whether you appreciate Jewish food or Jewish music, there’s something for you.

So, don’t wait for a Jewish vortex to force its way into your life.  Come to the source.  You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth.  It’s right here waiting.





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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