I had one of those moments today where my view of something was completely flipped around. I'm not going to pretend that now I've seen the light and my perspective is forever changed and oh how wonderful it is to be alive. It wasn't that dramatic. No, today's epiphany was just me seeing my life through a bit of a different lens.
It was in my class on the depth of the Hebrew alphabet, also known as "The Aleph Bet" (or "The Aleph Bais," depending on how yeshivish you are). We were discussing the letter dalet, the fourth letter that looks like this: ד
My teacher said that the letter itself alludes to a delet, the Hebrew word for door, and that the door leads into the next letter, hay, (ה) that represents Hashem (G-d). The letter dalet has a ninety degree angle - a corner that represents limitations. Ninety degree angles don't occur in nature - they represent man and his imprint on the world.
So how do the ideas of harsh corners and limits segue into G-dliness? Here's something for you to chew on: People can move beyond their limitations because of their limitations.
As a religious Jew, I adhere to the complex, multi-faceted, rewarding, and frustrating code of halacha - Jewish law. From an outsider's perspective, it would appear that I am so restricted in what I can and can't do.
I can't sit down at any restaurant or mall or cafe and pick up a snack, nor can I walk into a grocery store and buy anything that looks good. There are laws of kashrut that govern what I eat and how it's prepared.
I can't participate in fashion trends such as skinny jeans or mini-dresses, or even go to the gym in yoga pants and a tank top. There are laws of tzniut that govern what I wear.
And then there's that day where, in the words of a friend of mine, I "go Amish." On Shabbat, I can't use my cell phone, iPod, or computer, watch TV, turn on lights, or write. There are thirty-nine basic principles of work that are forbidden, which make for volumes upon volumes of detailed restrictions.
But here's the thing: the boundaries of halacha clear the way for us to develop our spirituality and connect to something infinitely greater than ourselves. The restrictions actually liberate us from being slaves to our desires.
I know how to exercise self-control when it comes to food - I am not a slave to the fast-food industry or to the mouth-watering smells of cheeseburgers and chili fries. (That is not to say I don't indulge!)
I have a deeper sense of self than what I look like and what size I am at H&M - I am not a slave to the fashion industry, to airbrushed billboards and outlandish clothes that go out of style after a week. (That is not to say I don't care about fashion!)
And I am capable of unplugging myself from virtually all forms of technology for days at a time to be with my family and friends and community - I am not a slave to Facebook, texting, Glee, or modern conveniences (though I very much enjoy those things - I have been known to text friends while watching Glee, then dedicate my Facebook status to the episode. And, you know, running water is nice, too).
I'm not implying that non-religious people are slaves to any of these things. But let's face it - being a religious Jew is hard. Today, it's so tempting to dismiss halacha as irrelevant and outdated and just ditch it. But if we shift our perspective only slightly, and see the laws as a ticket to a liberated and meaningful existence instead of a ball and chain around our ankles, it can open the door to a whole new way of living.