Practice made Better

Practice made Better

During the High Holiday season, writers are often looking for a great movie quote, iconic image, or meme to link to the holidays. Many do this to connect people’s lives outside of synagogue while they are inside the sanctuary. One such text that many wrote about this year is a joke offered by Paul Rudd in the Between Two Ferns Netflix movie. When Zach Galifianakis asks “Are you [a] practicing [jew]?” Rudd responds “No, I’m not a practicing Jew… I perfected it.”

Molly Tolsky, the editor of Alma, used this joke to talk about how so many Jews feel disconnected from the Jewish community because of the idea of needing to practice Judaism in a particular way. Do you pray? Do you go to services? Do you recite blessings over food? Do you refrain from using electronics on Shabbat? Molly talks about her vibrant Jewish identity, how she is the editor of a Jewish website, and how important being Jewish is to her, irrespective of practicing. She, like many, have fallen into the trap of defining practice too narrowly.

Judaism is not only about actions and rituals. It is about belief, community, values, self-development and so much more. I have met people that pray three times a day but are unethical. They use legal loopholes to collect welfare while not contributing to the larger community. When one looks at the confessions on Yom Kippur, one will be amazed at how many of them focus on the larger world. Seeing Judaism as something not to perfect, but practice in all aspects of one’s life.

What I love about Judaism, what motivates me to be a Rabbi for Hillel, and what Paul Rudd completely misses, is that Judaism is something that can and should permeate into all aspects of one’s life. It is not like the kippah that one puts on when walking into synagogue for services or sitting down for a Friday night Shabbat dinner. It is something that has something to say about everything and should be a guiding force in all one does. When I think about what foods I should buy in the store to eat, Jewish values are at play. When I go to the gym, I am taking care of the body God gave me to help the world. When I am learning in classes, I am becoming the person I need to be in this world. So my response to Paul Rudd is that you are a practicing Jew because we all are and no one can ever be truly perfect. We always have something more to learn and grow.

Dear First Year Me

Dear First Year Me

Written by Michal Coret

Dear First-Year Me,

You probably think Hillel is pretty cool, kinda nice, maybe even fun. You met some friendly people at the Hillel BBQ and felt FOMO each Wednesday when your Inquiry class was from 11:30-2:30 all year round, making you miss Bagel Lunch. Right about this time in first year, you’re stressing out about the chem exam and thinking about transferring out of your program. You feel a bit lost and confused, but excited to move out of Brandon Hall and live on your own… for real this time.

You’re gonna meet the new Hillel Director, Judith, and she will be sweet and lovely from the very start. You’ll get to work with her and maybe even go shopping at IKEA together for Hillel renovations one day (who knows?). And you know what’s the craziest part? You’ll become the Hillel President in your fourth year and it’ll be awesome. It’ll be fulfilling and you’ll get to meet so many new people and work with a dedicated and strong student executive team. You might get a bit tired of making announcements all the time, but then you’ll remember that more announcements means more events, and more events means more food and friends, so it’s okay. And you’ll go to plenty of Bagel Lunches to make up for missing out in first year.

I am now almost graduating and I think back to how much has happened in these last four years, and how much I have grown and learned in my time at Hillel. You know how – because you went to school in Burlington – you never had a Jewish community and so you thought you never needed one? Well that’s changed. You’ve found a Jewish community here at Mac, and wow, are you ever grateful that you did. Enjoy the next couple years and don’t forget to call your mom.

Love,
Fourth-Year Me

Michal Coret
McMaster Hillel President 2017-18

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