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Monday, October 20, 2014

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What is your cause?

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I am writing this column from Israel, three days before embarking upon what may be the craziest thing I’ve ever done: bike 250 kilometres uphill from Haifa to Jerusalem to raise money for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

Raising money? That’s not crazy at all. I do it all the time. Biking 250 kilometres over five days, mostly off road, mostly hilly, mostly in forecasted rain and fog, mostly with young rabbinic students in their 20s who are fit as a fiddle? Now that’s crazy.

But it’s not crazy to be passionate. We say someone is “crazy about you” or “crazy in love.” We are “crazy about” a particular movie or our new car or our job or our kids. “Crazy about” is about passion.

This ride is about passion. Passion for social change in Israel, for which the IMPJ works tirelessly. Passion that there be a true religious choice for Israelis, no more black-and-white categories of religious/not religious or dati/chiloni. Passion for religious pluralism, so that every Jew in Israel can find a Jewish niche. Passion for egalitarianism. Passion for the freedom to choose and the ability to question, within the framework of Jewish culture. Passion for a renewed Zionism that holds true to the highest values it originally held. Passion for a Jewish society based on tzedek – righteousness – in which no Jew can claim superiority over another Jew, and no Jew can oppress a non-Jew under the banner of Torah.

Most Israelis and Diaspora Jews, too, for that matter, are under the utterly mistaken impression that there are only two ways to be Jewish in Israel: religious (picture here either Chassidim in their distinctive dress or modern Orthodox, beret-wearing women pushing strollers to some hip Jerusalem synagogue on Shabbat) or secular (picture an Israeli family going to the Tel Aviv beach on Yom Kippur for a picnic, carrying their hibachi grill).

In fact there are 34 thriving Reform synagogues in Israel and they offer Israelis the “middle ground,” tradition that embraces modernity, egalitarianism, and a life of religious meaning without religious coercion. However, these movements receive little government support and even less “common knowledge” support.

I chose to Ride for Reform because not only do I want to put my money where my mouth is, I wanted to put my body where my passion is.

Passion is defined as “boundless enthusiasm,” and we mislabel it as being about sexuality. Passion is when you’re so moved by your cause that you cannot think of anything else. You’re so dedicated to your cause that no obstacle seems too big. You’re so sure that a rainy, muddy hill climb through the devastated Carmel forest seems pleasurable.

Yes, I’m sure I’ll stumble and even fall, and come home with many bruises, exhausted and sore. But passion is what gives life meaning. As Steve Pavlins wrote, “Passion and purpose go hand in hand. When you discover your purpose, you will normally find it’s something you’re tremendously passionate about.”

We should all have passion for our families and our work. But do we have a passion for a cause bigger than ourselves? A cause that changes the world? It doesn’t have  to be a big cause. It can be helping one child learn to read. And it doesn’t need to be a small cause, either. It can be building a school for 100 kids. The people I admire most all have the same two  things in common: passion and purpose.

So what is your cause? What would you hold as so precious that you would go a thousand miles to do something for its sustenance? 

This column appears in the April 5 print issue of The CJN

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