BY AL SHAMS / AJT CONTRIBUTOR //  

regret1Like many Jewish people in Atlanta, I have been a synagogue member for many years, but did not attend services on a regular basis until the last 10 years.

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My mom passed away 10 years ago, and I wanted to honor her life by saying Kaddish as often as possible. During these last 10 years, I believe my insight into and understanding of Judaism has grown dramatically.

I now believe, that by not attending services regularly, in the prior 10 years, I have been cheating myself.

Maybe you have also been cheating yourself. Like many, I felt that I did not have the time. There were more important matters. But I have come to learn that a break from our daily routine enhances the soul, enriches the spirit and improves our relationships.

In a sense, you create more life by redirecting your thoughts and energy to a spiritual level. I have come to learn that by living your life in accordance with Jewish values and principles, you are more likely to grow into a stronger, happier, more empowered, more successful person in many aspects of life – including family, friends, community, and commerce.

You will become an individual with a more meaningful life, better able to deal with the tough times we all encounter (think of Joseph sitting in prison all those years, yet he continued to have faith in G-d even when his faith in people had been shattered).

As a result of attending services regularly, I have come to believe that the Torah, the Great Books and Judaism provide guidance in these three major ways:

1. Who and What You Are

We are each a miracle created by G-d in his image, imbued with a soul, a spirit, and a connection to our Heavenly Father. On another level, we are destined to work and toil in a physical, unforgiving material world that man has largely created.

2.  Who is G-d

Our creator, Creator of the world, Our Heavenly Father, Our Rock, Our Redeemer, Our Provider, Our Hope when all hope seems to be lost.  Our Constant Companion, quick to forgive, always loving us. We pray each day to Thank G-d for all he has provided – we take too much for granted and need to be reminded daily how lucky and fortunate we are.

You put a seed in the ground and a tree grows. You arise each day, but do not appreciate the thousands of things that can malfunction in your body. You are injured and you heal. The earth revolves around the sun in a predictable manner.  If it were to vary by a few degrees all life on earth would cease. G-d protects and provides for us in so many ways – to numerous to count.  

3.  Guidelines on Living an Empowered Harmonious Life

The two prior points were easy; you only had to deal with G-d. He is loving, understanding and forgiving; man in too many cases is not.

The greatest challenge we all face is dealing with others in an imperfect self-centered material world. Humans have lived in organized societies for eons and it has been largely beneficial. But all good things have some disadvantages; in this case, some people can be unpleasant, difficult and dangerous. Judaism offers guidance for dealing with such people in a man-made world. Some examples include:

  • Don’t steal from others; chances are good they get upset and steal from you or worse.
  • Don’t tell falsehoods about others, they might seek revenge
  • Be slow to anger if someone commits an offence against you
  • Be slow to assume ill of others, often times we rush to judgment without all the facts.
  • Do not hold resentment against others, it diverts your energy and makes you less effective

I believe that the guidelines in the Torah, Ten Commandments and the Great Books serve to enhance, enrich, empower our lives and moderate the pain of tough times.

We are empowered with attitudes, principals and skills that allow us to travel through life with more joy, more success, more friendships and less hate.

Aside from these macro insights, other benefits I have gained by attending services regularly.

I know the service much better and my Hebrew has really improved, I feel a part of a larger community and a part of B’nai Torah, I have met some wonderful people and shared important moments in their lives.

I have seen some beautiful children grow and become wonderful adults, including my own two daughters. I saw some wonderful people pass from this world to the next with grace, humility, understanding and love.

In addition to trying to get “the big things right,” I believe we can each add, on a daily basis, a sweet touch to the lives of others, a few of my favorite ways are:

  • A kind word of praise and a “thank you” for being a friend
  • When you are in a position of authority, bend the rules a bit for someone else who is trying to advance through life
  • Don’t forget that others gave you a break, so pass it on to some one else – maybe a young person.
  • Don’t be bound by rules – be ruled by hope, compassion and friendship.
  • Allow the driver, handling a big rig a little time and room to make the turn.
  • Let another driver into the flow of traffic and wave a thank you for the guy who allows you into traffic
  • Replace road rage with Road Love

When I was a young pup starting my professional career I worked with a much older CPA; he often said, “Everyday is a holiday and every meal a banquet.”

What a wonderful way to see life. I hope these thoughts are of some value, especially to our young readers, I welcome any comments.  

Al Shams is a Sandy Springs resident member of B’nai Torah a former CPA and an investment professional with more than 36 years experience.

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