Nourishing the Jewish soul

Some have entered the house of Judaism through the kitchen door, lured by the aroma of chicken soup.

Others have come in through the service entrance, lending their hands to a myriad of Jewish causes — from the building of a Jewish state to caring for refugees to lobbying for human rights.

But the heart of the house of Judaism is not its dining room, its kitchen or even its service area. It is its sanctuary, a living room where the faith that has sustained a people for thousands of years is nourishing the Jewish soul. It is a place for studying Torah and Talmud, exploring Jewish history and philosophy, learning about ritual, and discovering the power of prayer and meditation.

Like the larger house, it, too, has many entrances. One of them is meditation, which has brought countless Jews home again. After long explorations through Eastern traditions and New Age philosophies, many Jews have discovered that the spirituality they had sought on a Himalayan summit or on an Australian walkabout was available in their own house.

Today, particularly in California, every Jew is a Jew-by-choice. The ghettos are gone, anti-Semitism has largely dissipated and nobody is trapped inside the house of Judaism.

The door is open. Those who wish to can leave. The question is what we as a people can do to entice them home again.

What we must do is feed the Jewish soul, creating programs that inspire Jews of all ages and levels of observance to sit by the hearth of Judaism and delight in its glow.

We must encourage programs like last weekend's Jewish meditation conference, where some 550 participants learned that Jewish meditation is not simply about relaxation and feeling good; it's also about a way of life that includes Shabbat and living a Jewish life.

And while it's vital that we nourish the Jewish state of Israel, we must do more to nourish the Jewish state inside each of us, keeping the Jewish spark alive.