Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rabbi Min on Yirah

Awe; Awareness of Something Bigger than Ourselves - Basic Jewish Value #16:  The mission statement of Jewish Family Service of New Mexico reads: “Guided by Jewish values, we offer targeted social services that help preserve and improve the quality of life for New Mexicans.” What are these Jewish values? How do they help guide the day-to-day work that we do at JFS? When new employees join the staff of JFS, they are introduced to eighteen of these basic Jewish values.

The word “yirah,” here translated as ‘awe’ is the same word that is often translated from the Biblical text as “fear”, the source of the concept of being a “G-d-fearing” person.” The original meaning of the word is not “fear” as in being scared or afraid, but “in awe,” as “in wonder,” “astonishment” or “amazement.” The Jewish value of yirah reminds us that our everyday lives, worries, accomplishments and interactions are part of something much larger and more complex. Whether we are among those who have a belief in a Creator or not, whether we experience awe in nature, in personal relationships, in meditation or in a really good dinner, the underlying understanding is the same. To quote part of a poem by Marge Piercy: “We are part of a great web of being joined together.”

At Jewish Family Service, we are reminded every day that we are part of this web of connectedness. One client may be seen by the Care Management team, who might realize that the client could benefit from a Chaplaincy visit. A Health and Wellness staff member might refer a client for Housekeeping/Companion Services. The Senior Transportation drivers might bring their concerns about a client to the Nurse Case Management staff. Volunteers at the Food Pantry keep an eye on repeat clients. Board members keep an eye on overall JFS growth and development, while Administrative staff makes it possible for it all to work together. When we stop and think, we are in awe, recognizing this web of interconnectedness, something larger than each of us, greater than the sum of its parts. 

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