Photo courtesy of Micaela Ezra
Last week, we shared Part One of our list of top ideas for creating a meaningful Jewish home – something that’s on a lot of our minds right now during COVID. No matter where you are in terms of your background, knowledge, or level of Jewish observance, there are so many beautiful and non-intimidating ways to ground yourself spiritually during this unsettled time for the world – last week we covered observing Shabbat, collecting Judaica that sparks joy, celebrating holidays, participating in Rosh Chodesh groups, and tuning into the Jewish calendar – and this week we’re back with five more ideas to get you going.
Build a Jewish Library
Jews are the people of the book, after all! There are so many incredible Jewish books, and whatever your interests trend toward, there’s something out there for you – whether you’re looking for Torah, Jewish life, history, philosophy, Jewish law, fiction, poetry, or even a cookbook!
Jewish books are a popular discussion topic in the Smashing Life Facebook group – a few titles that come up again and again are Anita Diamant’s Living a Jewish Life and Harold Kushner’s To Life – and if you’re looking for inspiration, there are all kinds of great Jewish book lists out there to get you building that reading list.
Also – if you have children PJ Library is the most wonderful free resource.
Put Up a Mezuzah
One easy way to add some Judaism to your home is to put up a mezuzah, a piece of parchment inscribed with two verses from the Torah, placed in a decorative case, and hung on doorposts.
It’s traditional to put a mezuzah up on all doorways in your home, but if you want to go for just one – whether on your front door or bedroom door, whatever you like – that works too!
Mezuzot serve as a clear marker of a Jewish home, and just seeing your mezuzah as you come and go is a wonderful reminder of our Jewish identity – as well as the fact that are homes are places of holiness.
And there are so many beautifully designed cases available these days, whatever your style!
Start a Prayer Practice
I know this one might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! While it’s true that Judaism has a lengthy and complex liturgy, there are so many ways to approach prayer Jewishly. It doesn’t have to take a long time, and it doesn’t have to involve Hebrew.
You can pick a prayer that speaks to you, to get in the habit of reciting in Hebrew or English (or whatever language is most comfortable for you) – the Shema, an affirmation of belief in God’s oneness commonly considered the most essential prayer in Judaism, is a great place to start, but if that doesn’t do it for you there are so many choices. Modeh Ani, a short prayer traditionally recited on waking up each day thanking God for giving another day of life, is another wonderful option – one of our Smashing Life members even made a recording of this prayer her alarm, so she now wakes up to it each day! You could also opt to recite blessings over food – or one of these little known but very cool Jewish prayers! The sky is really the limit.
And of course, you can also talk to God in your own words – you don’t need to feel constrained by the liturgy. After all, that’s how Jewish prayer began – it was only with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem that structured prayer as we know it today really began to take form.
Tzedakah is often thought of as charity, but a more accurate translation is “righteous behavior.” And in Judaism, supporting those in need isn’t just a nice suggestion, but a commandment! Whether that means giving money, giving time, or simply striving to be the best person you can be toward the people in your life and the world you live in, tzedakah is a beautiful way to connect to Judaism and the world around you.
Find a Community
Easier said than done, I know – especially right now during COVID. But a Jewish community doesn’t have to mean a formal, organized community (though it certainly can) – and it doesn’t even have to be local to you. Joining a synagogue community, or having a strong network of IRL Jewish or Jew-ish friends, can be wonderful. But these days there are also so many ways to make Jewish connections online, especially via Instagram and Facebook groups, and of course in Smashing Life we’ve got a wonderful community of diverse, passionate Jewish and Jew-ish women from all over the world learning and growing together and forming the most beautiful friendships.