Transcript: Navigating the Intersection of Life and Judaism

Listen to the episode here.

Peretz: Welcome back to a new conversation with Chanie and Peretz. And welcome back here in the most literal sense because it’s been almost five months since we’ve last recorded a conversation to share with you, though in this time the two of us have had many conversations, and we’ve had many conversations with others as well. And during this time we’ve accumulated some more insights and thoughts into what we want to explore with ourselves and with others and articulate a language surrounding it. So we’ve been doing this for years, but we’ve distilled it into an understanding or into an idea that is so relevant to ours personally, and relevant to anybody who cares about or engages with Judaism and life. And we want to explore in this conversation and in the coming conversations, because this is not just one thought, one idea, but it actually expands over many areas. And that is navigating the intersection of life and Judaism. Life and Judaism intersect, that’s one point. And then to do that navigation, it requires a personal exploration of both. That’s a lot. 

Chanie: It is a lot. It’s also so simple and obvious, but it’s also not so simple and obvious. There are many people who their entire lives are defined by Judaism, and so Judaism becomes who they are. It defines them. And what is lost is who they are as people. What is their character? What drives them? Who are they made of? Because we know that every person is distinctively different from the other. Judaism, though, seems to be pretty uniform. So that discovery and acceptance, and then the possibility of living Jewishly through your own lens is something that is a lost art and skill.

Peretz: And it also changes – our lives change over time. So we have our lives that we have in our teens, in our adolescents and in our young twenties, in our thirties and our forties. And that is very different. Particularly when you start a family, particularly when you pursue a career, your life becomes more complex, more sophisticated, more nuanced. And when engaging that and Judaism together it requires a different skill set. So as a child and adolescents our engagement with Judaism is learning the text. 

Chanie: And absorbing the rituals and practice from family, school, friends.

Peretz: Then as we get older and as our lives become deeper,  it’s hard to navigate the two. Let’s put it this way.

Chanie: Life takes a priority. And Judaism follows along either in the same manner as it did in our youth and our teens and our young adulthood. And it hasn’t evolved and reflected our next decade or so, or decades. Or Judaism has been left behind because life is complicated and challenging. And we have  to learn how to navigate life itself. So Judaism kind of falls to the background or it clashes completely or is dismissed – understandably so. Or the opposite happens where the familiarity and comfort and almost need to be Jewish, which for many, is the only way to navigate the world. People hold onto that dearly and neglect the dynamics of a healthy life and relationships with other people and raising a family and cover it up in a way of, well, “this is what God wants, this is what the Torah wants.” And there’s a fear and a disconnect to engage with: what are healthy dynamics? What are unhealthy dynamics in my home? And Judaism is almost masking over that.

Peretz: Or Judaism is completely dismissed and ignored, like you said earlier. Yes.

Chanie: So when I mentioned earlier navigating Judaism through your own lens, I of course didn’t mean God forbid to dismiss God. I meant it’s to bring the person forward. That’s what it is. And isn’t that Hashem wants? I mean, he did not create angels. He did not create –

Peretz: Bots 

Chanie: (Laughs) Yes, for 2021. We are each distinctively created with distinctive characteristics and strengths and ways of navigating this world.

Peretz: And circumstances – things that are out of our control that we come into. So the way to do that though requires a new skill set or different type of experience. And that is  conversations.

Chanie: And why? Why are conversations such a critical and dear way that you and I are navigating this topic? Because it invites a person to come forward, because a conversation demands that you actually interact with ideas and words and opinions and experience. You have to talk, we’re not sitting in a mass auditorium listening to a lecture. We’re almost creating the opposite dynamics. You’re not sitting in a Torah class, either. 

Peretz: And conversations are something very different – you mentioned a Torah class – than listening to a Torah class. When you listen to a Torah class you are hearing an idea by a teacher and the teacher is formulating it in a particular way that makes it accessible. And then you say, okay, how can I adapt it? How can I make it to myself? Which is good. But a conversation takes it a step further, brings in a new dynamic. And the new dynamic is you, the person, is you, your experiences, the ones that in a certain sense can sometimes be masked and ignored and diverted by that beautiful Torah class, which sort of allows you to create some type of illusion of what you would like things be like by ignoring what is actually going on.

Chanie: So it’s not asking people to interpret, let’s say texts, in their own way, which is valuable in its right time. But it’s asking people to acknowledge and talk about where they are present in their lives. And how do ideas of Judaism – where does it land in their current reality without filters, without pretending things are good, without dramatizing. One can get to that successfully in a conversation. 

Peretz: But it’s not simple. To confront your reality is difficult. And the difficulty is because you need to remove what’s called filters or distractions that make it convenient to ignore current realities and conversations. Because conversation requires you to be with another person who reflects back to you, or somebody who can help the curate the conversation.

Chanie: Asks relevant questions

Peretz: Soothingly…

Chanie: Agitates – that’s our coupling of those two words – invites a movement that could be uncomfortable, but in a very supportive and gentle way, because the purpose of it is to, head towards a healthier and better place of an understanding of your own life and of Judaism. 

Peretz: And COVID has, in some ways done a lot of stripping. 

Chanie: It removes the distractions. 

Peretz: Not all of them.

Chanie: No, but you know, our calendars emptied out. So instead of waking up, counting down to certain days or dreading certain things, we now have to wake up with ourselves and the people around us.

Peretz: And our monotonous work that we’re doing from our homes.

Chanie: Mmhm.  that’s one of the big, 

Peretz: Opportunities ?

Chanie: Yes, for this time.

Peretz: Now I realize that a lot that we spoke about now was in the abstract and it needs to be brought down. And over the next few episodes, we’re going to bring this down through concrete examples, through concrete demonstrations of how this idea plays itself out – the idea of the intersection of Judaism and life and how it’s navigated through conversation. But in the meantime…

Chanie: We invite you to have a conversation with us. And that’s a wonderful addition we developed through M54. So head to  to understand more about what it is we are creating and how you could enjoy some time exploring your life and Judaism with us.

Peretz: Thank you.

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