by Rabbi Josh Whinston
I love TED talks. TED talks are short talks given by interesting people at TED (technology, entertainment, and design) conferences throughout the year. TED talks are inspiring, entertaining, sometimes funny, and always thought provoking. The wonderful TED iPad app includes a “Get Inspired” option, which allows me to set a time limit and finds a talk for me that is within my time constraints. A few months ago, I was playing with this feature when I found this talk by Google engineer Matt Cutts. In his TED talk, Cutts challenges himself to try something new for 30 days – and he inspired me to try something new as well.
Thirty days is just enough time to try and figure out if something is meaningful or not, Cutts explains. Thirty days is manageable. In listening to this talk, it occurred to me that 30-day challenges are a perfect way to encourage folks to try new aspects of Jewish life. So many of us are scared to try something new in Jewish life for lots of different reasons. Sometimes we take the all-or-none approach, saying to ourselves, “I am not going to try to keep kosher because there is so much to it – the dishes, separating milk and meat, not eating this or that…” Other times, we may simply not know how to engage.
Beginning with each Jewish month, I invite you to join me at 30DayJewishChallenge.com, as my congregants and I explore a different 30-day Jewish challenge each month. On October 16th, we will begin with saying a blessing every day for 30 days. Materials will be available on the website to help guide those interested through each challenge. Participants also have the opportunity to sign up for emails (one or two per week) and to follow the challenge on Twitter. The emails and tweets will ask questions and maybe make suggestions about the challenge; they will help keep us all engaged supporting one another as a community.
We chose to begin with blessings because blessings are an essential piece of the Jewish experience. Our sages came up with blessings for everything, from seeing a rainbow to seeing an odd-looking person! In the Babylonian Talmud, Menachot 43b, Rabbi Meir said we are obligated to say 100 blessings a day. This number may not be achievable for those of us who do not pray three times a day, but we can all say at least one blessing a day. My favorite thing about this challenge is that looking for times and places to say a blessing will ensure that we discover many more blessings than we are looking for. Blessings are our defense against darkness and cynicism. Saying a blessing is essential to healthy living.
Starting on October 16th, join us at 30DayJewishChallenge.com as we say a blessing every day for the next 30 days – and stay tuned to see what challenges we tackle in the coming months!