Ikigai: What Do You Wake Up For?


As many of you know, I am so fortunate to be part of a unique fellowship program called Rabbis Without Borders (RWB). The purpose of RWB is to build a rabbinic community committed to exploring and implementing real innovation. The RWB faculty pushes us to look beyond the boundaries that we tend to think define contemporary Judaism and discover precious lessons that breathe new life and purpose into our tradition’s wisdom.

Earlier this week, I was in New York City for the launch of Leaders Without Borders, a lay leadership training program sponsored by RWB. It was an honor to bring two of Ramat Shalom’s lay leaders, our President Craig Mayer, and Craig Lamm, with me. We met for two days, exploring ways that rabbis and synagogue leadership can work together to ensure that the Jewish community flourishes. We will share more information about our experiences at Leaders Without Borders in the months ahead.

As we prepare for winter vacation and begin to compile our New Year’s resolutions, I want to share just one of the many lessons I took away from my time in New York earlier this week. Some suggest that this lesson can make you live longer. It certainly can make your life more meaningful. It is called Ikigai, a Japanese word that means “the reason you wake up in the morning.” In Judaism, we are taught that the first thing we should do upon waking up is give thanks for our life. Learning about Ikigai helped me better understand what we should be doing when we give thanks in the morning: we should be expressing our appreciation for having a purpose in life. Without a clear purpose, without knowing why we woke up today, it is too easy to get lost in the stress of daily life. Having a purpose keeps us on task and puts things in perspective. It helps to quiet the distractions out there that can so easily fill us with negativity. Ikigai empowers us to focus on what matters. It makes it possible to wake up in the morning, say “thank you” and really mean it.

Before 2015 comes to an end, do yourself a favor: watch the video below and figure out what your Ikigai is. What is it that you wake up for? Write the answer down. It is your New Year’s resolution. Put it on your night table and every morning, give thanks for another day to live your Ikigai.

Cheryl, Abigail and Jonah join me in wishing each of you a relaxing winter vacation, a Happy New Year and an Ikigai that lets you flourish in 2016!

When It Comes To Holiday Blessings, Assume The Best


I am honored to be a monthly contributor to The Wisdom Daily, a website that provides political, cultural and spiritual commentary and analysis. This month, I wrote about how challenging it has become to give and receive holiday wishes and greetings. I’ve shared the article below.

For all of us who celebrate Chanukah, may the last few nights be filled with lots of light. May we share this light with those who celebrate Christmas or other December holidays by offering our good wishes and blessings. And may we be grateful for the genuine holiday cheer that friends, neighbors and even strangers share with us. Hopefully we’ll all spend some time this holiday season giving thanks for the fact that we live in a country where various religious traditions have so much to celebrate at this time of year.

Happy Chanukah and Shabbat Shalom!

The Wisdom Daily – Andrew Jacobs

Back in 2009, Gap released one of my favorite holiday commercials. It featured a group of happy, sweater-wearing, scarf-clad people dancing while chanting the following:

Two, four, six, eight ’tis the time to liberate!
Go Christmas! Go Chanukah! Go Kwanzaa! Go Solstice! Go classic tree!
Go plastic tree! Go plant a tree! Go without a tree!
You 86 the rules. You do what just feels right.
Happy do whatever you wannukah and to all a cheery night!

To read the rest of my article, please click here.

A Little Bit Of Light



Chanukah couldn’t come at a better time. The world is very dark right now and needs some extra light. As we kindle the Chanukah candles beginning on Sunday evening, each of us will have the opportunity to add some much needed light to the darkness. Hopefully, the light of our Chanukiahs (Chanukah menorahs) will lift the mood and fill your homes with happiness. Chanukah songs, latkes, a competitive game of dreidel and a few special gifts will add some much needed levity. And, given that it is tradition to eat sufganiyot (doughnuts) on Chanukah, it is my hope that this gift of a FREE Krispy Kreme Doughnut will make you smile: click here to get your FREE doughnut coupon!

Cheryl, Abigail, Jonah and I hope to see you at Ramat Shalom on Sunday evening at 6:30 as we light our outdoor Chanukiah, sing some songs and, of course, eat doughnuts! (We’ll move indoors in the event of rain.)

Happy Chanukah!