Faith: Chabad House and Jewish Community Center offer path 'Toward a Meaningful Life'
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
In mid-February, when many Michigan folk are looking toward a beach vacation or sunlamp to lift their spirits, Rabbi Aharon Goldstein of the Ann Arbor Chabad House will lead the six-week course "Toward a Meaningful Life: A Soul-Searching Journey for Every Jew," which aims to bring participants beyond a brief getaway.
Based on the best-selling book by Rabbi Simon Jacobson and distributed by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), "Toward a Meaningful Life" examines the spectrum of personal growth, relationships, home, work and the role of faith in daily life from the perspective of the Torah, the holy book of Judaism. Students will be invited to challenge their current views and consider more meaningful approaches to these topics, offering “strategies, tips and suggestions for not only discovering where your true meaning lies, but in actually making it a part of your daily existence,” according to the course brochure.
Goldstein, director of the Chabad House at the University of Michigan, will lead the courses on Tuesday mornings at the Chabad House at 715 Hill Street and on Tuesday evenings at the Jewish Community Center at 2935 Birch Hollow Drive.
All members of the community are welcome regardless of faith background, said Goldstein. A key philosophy of the Chabad tradition is to be non-judgmental and accept people right where they are, Goldstein explained.
“We present a Jewish perspective,” he noted, “but we do not proselytize.”
While the six class discussions can only begin to touch on these big life issues, Goldstein explained, if the participants leave each session “with just one thought or fragment” that makes a difference in their lives, “it’s worth it all.”
As an example of a Jewish perspective, Goldstein described an emphasis on the holy potential of everyday activities. “I cannot speak for other religions,” he said, “but in Judaism, marriage and intimacy are sanctifying activities.” So when a couple lives in harmony with each other, they “sanctify the home and make a dwelling place for God.” The union of the man and woman in this spirit of love and respect, Goldstein expressed, “is not just a physical, but a holy act.”
Similarly, the rituals that go with preparing and serving a meal “turn it into a holy experience,” said Goldstein. “We do not eat like animals. We set a table, use a knife and fork, say a blessing and make it special.”
“Day after day, life can be a treadmill as we go through the motions without asking why or seeking what really matters to us,” said Rabbi Zalman Abraham in JLI promotional materials. This course “offers an antidote to the monotony and grind of unchanging routines. It provides newfound energy and exhilaration in taking on challenges and it offers practical strategies for developing a deeper sense of joy and satisfaction.”
Chabad-Lubavich is a worldwide organization dedicated to the welfare of Jewish people world wide, according to www.Chabad.org. It approaches Judaism from an intellectual approach, said Goldstein, focusing on education and reaching unaffiliated Jews. Many of its houses are on college campuses, but they also serve the general community.
The Chabad House of Ann Arbor includes a Congregation Beth Chabad, a family-oriented synagogue and the U-M Student Center, providing a “home away from home for Jewish students at the University of Michigan.”
Pam Stout coordinates Faith and Parenting coverage for AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.