We are faith leaders representing many different traditions and congregations who seek to promote understanding, dialogue, and common purpose in our community. This space offers members of our association an opportunity to share reflections with the broader community. The writings represent our individual views, not the positions of the Association or of our respective congregations. We aim to model dialogue that welcomes a diversity of ideas and perspectives grounded in friendship and respect.
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Tidying and the Gratitude Tune-Up
Every summer we take a family vacation to the beach.My favorite thing to do is read on the
sand, under the umbrella, facing the ocean, breathing in the sea air and
hearing the waves gently crashing on the shore.I always pick some light reading for the beach- either some
trashy, pulpy novel, or perhaps a non-fiction that’s the latest craze.
Two summers ago, I read The Joy of Tidying by Marie
Kondo.It was extremely popular at
the time and Kondo’s method of home organizing was all the rage.I found the book helpful and
amusing.Some of her ideas were so
outlandish that I read them out loud to my family and we all had a good
Kondo’s method, the Kon-marie method of tidying, is based on
a few core principals and techniques.She believes that all of your items should be visible to you when
stored, she has a unique way of folding clothing, and she insists that you only
keep items or objects that spark joy for you.She has you go through every item you own one by one, hold
it in your hands and determine whether it sparks joy. If not, you must thank it
for it’s service to you and either donate it or throw it away.
It seemed rather silly to be thanking sweaters and old
T-shirts.It also seemed to be a
rather strange criterion to use when cleaning one’s material goods- not whether
you used something, or even needed it- but whether it sparked joy for you.But, despite my initial reservations, I
began to follow some of Marie Kondo’s suggestions.She was definitely onto something here.There was a certain spirituality that
she was infusing into our everyday objects with her recitations of gratitude
and her respect for the ordinary.
Time passed and I only partially ‘Kondo-ed” my home until
recently.Marie Kondo now has a
show streaming on Netflix where she is demonstrating her method of tidying with
a new client in each episode.I
watched and was amused and intrigued.Most remarkable to me was a ritual she performs with each client before
she begins her work with them.She
greets their home.She folds her
tiny body up kneeling on the floor, rubs her palms along the floor surface and
closes her eyes in silence for a few minutes.She says she is greeting the house and introducing herself
to it.She finishes, stands up and
begins her work.She never
discusses anything else about it.
It is just another piece in her methodology that reinforces
her respect and reverence for the things around us.It is also an acknowledgement of the sanctity of the
home.Homes are universally seen
as holy spaces- places for families to feel safe, nurtured and secure.They are our refuge from the outside world;
and provide us with shelter and also a locale for gathering and memory
making.Many cultures and
religions mark the home in a special way for these reasons- with an amulet, a
paint color on the door, a cross on the wall, or in a Jewish home we place a
holy text in a small box called a mezuzah on the door post of our houses.
As I watched Marie’s clients thank their objects as they packed
them away for donation, I was reminded of the explanation of the tradition of
covering the challah bread on the Shabbat table on Friday night.We recite a number of blessings to
usher in the Sabbath and the sages of old debated about the order of these
blessings.They finally decided to
recite the wine blessing first and the challah bread second.In order to spare the challah shame
from being placed second, a beautiful cloth is used to cover it.This shields the challah from any
embarrassment it might experience being chosen second.The lesson here is: if we are concerned
about the feelings of the challah by accidentally shaming it, how much more so
should we be concerned about the feelings of our fellow human beings and always
strive to avid shaming them.
Marie Kondo’’s techniques remind us of the gratitude we must
express for ALL of the things in our life- from the riches and immaterial to
the everyday and mundane, for combined they create the tapestry that is our
life.Everything has a
purpose.If we get this
right, then treating each other the same way may come a bit easier as well.
My house is still a bit messy, my drawers are a lot neater,
but my sense of gratitude has gotten a tune-up.Thanks, Marie.
Cantor Marcey Wagner
Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook, NY
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