Writing Practice: Simple Acts

The simplest acts in our lives–from breathing to brushing our teeth to bending over to lace our shoes–are sometimes taken for granted.

Can you think of an act that you perform daily or weekly which you may overlook in your rush to catch the bus on your way to school or as you hurry to your next office meeting?

Maybe it’s the moment at your desk when you take the first sip of your morning coffee.

Or maybe it’s when the phone rings and you hear a loved one’s voice.

Or see a rainbow from your car window.

Or hear a new song on the radio.

Take a moment to think of the blessings in your life… and then write about a specific moment in which you first recognized that moment as a blessing.

Once you’ve written down the bare bones of the moment–go back and re-read what you’ve written.

Can you find a Jewish element in the moment?

And can you flesh out that Jewish element as part of that moment?

Here’s the beginning of a draft that I came up with:

Sunday Morning Doughnuts

It’s early Sunday morning, and I’m sitting at Dunkin’ Donuts after dropping my daughter off at Hebrew school.

On the table in front of me I’ve set a medium cup of coffee (extra light, no sugar), steam rising above the rim, and, on a paper napkin, a chocolate frosted doughnut.

I lift the doughnut to my lips and, before biting into it, say a blessing to thank God for allowing food to be grown and processed and made into something as delicious as a doughnut.

This simple act of blessing the doughnut–or any food that passes my lips–is my way of acknowledging God and reminds me of  all that flows out of God and how I’m as much a part of that flow of energy as the wheat and sugar and chocolate (not to mention the human labor) that goes into the creation of the doughnut.

But part of me wonders–in the very act of saying the blessing– how I can say such a blessing if I doubt God’s existence?

Does my doubt–as slight or great as it may be on any given day– make the blessing hollow, hypocritical?

These two conflicting poles–wanting to acknowledge and thank God on the one hand, but doubting God’s existence on the other–pull me in different directions.

On some days I gravitate toward one pole; on other days, toward the other. The tension is always there. It’s part of my Jewish identity, an internal debate reflecting, perhaps, my American-Jewish soul.

As an American, I try to be open to the world. I want to be free of the shackles of the Old World, to explore new ways of living. But as a Jew I look a bit dubiously at the New World. I want to be faithful to the past and to the faith of my forefathers and my Jewish heritage.

How am I supposed to reconcile these two conflicting impulses? Are they conflicting impulses or simply different sides of the same issue regarding faith?

Do I just learn to live with them or, ultimately, must I choose one or the other?

Can both–faith and doubt– co-exist simultaneously, or must one conquer the other and emerge the victor?

And then I take a bite of the doughnut, and all my questions of faith and doubt dissolve in the moment of savoring the taste of chocolate frosting.

Let us know what you discover about being Jewish in the simple acts of your daily life when you get a chance.


Filed under American Jewry, Jewish identity, Jewish writing, writing practice

2 responses to “Writing Practice: Simple Acts

  1. Can we thank God for a delicious turkey and cheese sandwich, or a yummy California roll? Does eating non-kosher food cancel out our thanks, even if we don’t keep kosher? Should we not express thanks in Hebrew for anything but kosher food? Perhaps we can only use English words to bless non-kosher food? What do you think?

    The spirit of the law stresses the act of acknowledgment and appreciation of our blessings; shouldn’t that supersede the letter of the law, which stresses rabbinical rules about what NOT to do?

  2. Bill Bartmann

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

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