Monday, May 16, 2016

What's Your Metaphor?


From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

What's Your Metaphor?

What's your metaphor for our congregation? What would you say if I asked you to fill in the blank in the following statement: "Adas Emuno is like…"

Would you say that it's an obligation to fulfill, like paying your taxes? A tradition to honor, out of respect to parents and grandparents? A chore, like doing the laundry, shopping, taking out the trash? A box to check off, like filling out a form?

Would you say that it's like going to work, or going to school? A social activity, like going to a party, or a wedding or bar or bat mitzvah? Or a funeral? An entertainment, like going to the movies, or a show?

What does Adas Emuno mean to you?

And what can Adas Emuno mean to you?

Let me suggest one answer: A source of inspiration.

Inspiration has a spiritual connection, of course. In the past, people believed inspiration came from outside of themselves, from a divine source. The word inspire has Latin roots, the original meaning being to breathe into. You may recall that the Torah describes God's creation of Adam as follows: "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). In this sense, the opposite of inspire is expire.

For the most part, we don't have to take the meaning of inspire literally nowadays, which means that it actually is a subtle metaphor for anything that we consider to be a breath of fresh air, and a spur to creative thinking. And we certainly can recognize the importance of religion and spirituality for the arts. So much of the history of painting, sculpture, and music is dominated by depictions and expressions of the divine, the transcendent, and spiritual communion. The Torah, Tanach, and Bible is the basis of much of western literature. Theater and dance has its roots in ritual drama.

Thinking of individuals who found inspiration for creative expression through Judaism, here are a few of the many names that might come to mind: J. J. Abrams, Woody Allen, Marc Chagall, Leonard Cohen, E. L. Doctorow, Will Eisner, Nora Ephron, Lillian Hellman, Franz Kafka, Jack Kirby, Stanley Kubrick, Emma Lazarus, Stan Lee, Felix Mendelssohn, Amos Oz, Cynthia Ozick, Phillip Roth, Joe Shuster, Jerry Siegel, Art Spiegelman, Steven Spielberg, Gertrude Stein, and the list goes on and on.

But inspiration is not limited to those fields of human endeavor that we designate as the arts. There are creative possibilities in all of our activities, an art to bowling, and automotive repair, and accounting, and going to the supermarket. And every activity can benefit from a source of inspiration. This is especially true when it comes to finding solutions to whatever problems may plague us, when we are looking for a source of inspiration for creative problem-solving.

What our congregation offers is a way to step out of the box of everyday life, and into an experience of something different and unbounded. Out of the pressure of rushing here and there and always living in the present moment, and into an experience that is timeless and potentially transcendent. Out of the constant barrage of noise and distraction, and into an experience of quiet meditation and mindfulness. Out of the routines that deaden the mind and dull the senses, and into an experience that can give us a new sense of openness, that can rejuvenate, and elevate.

If you are looking for a source of inspiration, have you tried to find it at Adas Emuno?

And whether you have or have not, what is your metaphor for our congregation? Let us know!

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