Spiritual New Year's resolutions
Here are my spiritual New Year's Resolutions. Write to me and tell me yours.
Happy New Year!
Volunteer at Meals on Wheels. I received this soul-warming note from G in Central Florida following my giving to beggars column:
"About five years ago, when we moved to Central Florida, we discovered there were senior citizens who had no one to celebrate the holidays with them besides the Meals on Wheels volunteers. At that time, there was a waiting list for Meals on Wheels of over 200 individuals! When we dropped off our annual check this year, we discovered there was a Christmas tree in the lobby with tags asking for certain gifts for senior citizens. We chose a man and a woman whose needs brought me to tears. They weren't asking for bicycles or toys; they were asking for basics.
One asked for body wash and a set of towels. Another asked for a comforter and slippers. When we dropped off the wrapped gifts, we asked if there were any senior citizens who hadn't had any Christmas Angels assigned to them. We chose a 76-year-old man who asked for an XL winter shirt and a 71-year-old woman who asked for pajamas and a robe. While the first two were referred to by their caseworkers, the second set of recipients were referred to by their Meals on Wheels volunteers, God bless them.
It was an honor to shop for these people whom we never would meet. Senior citizens have been part of the working system for most of their lives. That they must depend on Meals on Wheels and the generosity of others breaks my heart. I wish there was a way that more attention can be given to senior citizens who are lonely and in need of basics. Thank you, again, for your God Squad column. Peace be unto you."
Learn more about a religion that is not yours. The most arrogant and foolish of all religious beliefs is the belief that God gave all the truth about God and salvation to just one faith. One can believe without arrogance that one's own faith is most true and most conducive to salvation from sin, but also believe that other religions have some really good things in them.
Judaism, for example, created the belief in life after death but sadly, over time, the belief in Heaven has mostly been championed by Christianity. I learned from Father Tom Hartman to appreciate the hope that life after death gives us as we face our own death and the death of those we love. Tommy learned from me about the importance of finding one's beliefs in a sacred text and not just in some trendy popular book. The best way to learn is simple. Just visit some other house of worship. Visit for a service or visit for a study group, but visit. Religions study from books but they are lived in real life. Experience the lives of those walking up the same mountain as you but up a different path.
Read all the Psalms and start with Psalm 34. If you read one Psalm a week you will have completed the Psalter by next year. The Psalms are my favorite part of the Bible because they are so full of wisdom and hope but also because they are the only part of the Bible that links Jews and Christians in our liturgies. Both of us use psalms when we pray and that is a deep and loving bond between us.
Here is just a foretaste of what you have in store for you. You know Psalm 23 but listen to the wisdom of Psalm 34. Pay special attention and meditate on verse 8, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." That is the verse I hope you can keep close to your heart this coming year. That verse constitutes the spiritual value of New Year's resolutions. They are not thoughts, they are actions. They are not passive intentions. They are active tastings. We cannot live life unless we taste life. We cannot experience God's goodness unless and until we taste the world.
Surely some of the world tastes bitter but the world is sweeter than you would ever know if your only contact with the world is through news and social media. You must taste the world yourself and tasting requires moving beyond the posture of an observer and becoming a true participant in the wonder of your life. The possibility that I might become an outside commentator on my own life and not a full living owner of my life is too terrible to contemplate. So taste and see that the Lord is good. It will make it so much easier for you to believe that the Lord is good.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)(c) 2020 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.