A Bisl Torah

Starting with Why

Our Sinai Temple Atid Director, Briana Benaron and I decided to take the morning to map out the upcoming year. Atid (future) is our Sinai Temple micro community for Jewish young professionals. And instead of jumping into which programs we should plan for the calendar, she paused and asked, “Why?”

We took five minutes to watch Simon Sinek’s talk on “How great leaders inspire action.” He is also the author of “Start with Why.” The short presentation was a reminder that programmers usually start with what and how. We know how to put out dreidels for Hanukkah. Planning a latke buffet is second nature. But the why is what will make any program transform into one aspect of a mission driven enterprise.

The rest of our hour was spent on why. Why the need for a Jewish young professional group? Why is a synagogue providing a spiritual home? Why is this niche a priority? Distilling the why inspired us to work harder, be intentional and remember the holy tasks we are blessed to tackle every single day.

While the Torah often asks us to do a mitzvah without an explicitly attached meaning, the study of Torah itself seems to encourage the “why”. When we open verses of the parsha, read and wonder about its relevancy in our lives, our minds and hearts are trained to ask, “Why is this story important? Why do I need the structure of a spiritual practice to infuse my life with purpose, morality and responsibility?” Even the famous phrase commanding Shabbat, Shamor v’Zachor (observe and remember) suggests that with each ritual we observe, we should remember the imbedded “why”. Rabbinic literature, both traditional and contemporary looks at the “what and how” and provides additional space to wonder, question, imagine and dig deep, pushing us forward with a strengthened sense of commitment.

Asking the question “why” is a constant reminder that the answers aren’t obvious. We often get bogged down in details and decorations. But starting with why transforms our task into a holy mission.

Try a little why in your life…And why not start now?

Shabbat Shalom

In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.

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