If you’re a living breathing human with a Netflix account (yours, your parents’, your ex’s, we don’t judge), you’ve probably seen that tidy queen Marie Kondo has a new show. She enters chaotic houses with a daintiness rivaled only by daisy petals, and helps people organize their stuff and re-awaken the love they have for their homes.
One reason she’s become an internet phenomenon is her approach. Marie asks that when the individual sorts through their crap, they hold each item in their hands and ask if it Sparks Joy™. This is basically the new first-kiss-fireworks, the “did they give you butterflies though?!” an oh-so-official way of dictating what stays and what goes. People aren’t stopping at their closets though. The masses are calling for people to use this method with their friends, partners, habits, etc. Do they spark joy? This is of course just normal internet chaos, but with everyone looking for love in their tank tops, contact list, and nail-biting habit, (please read this in a Carrie Bradshaw voice) I couldn’t help but wonder, should we be looking for sparks of joy in religion?
Let’s say I was to metaphorically clean out my Jewish closet, to hold each item, each ritual, up and feel if it sparked joy to decide if I were going to keep it. I’d immediately throw out going to synagogue. Flashbacks of Bat Mitzvah training and cold sanctuaries and me wishing I could understand Hebrew. Totally not joy. I’d keep Passover Seders, warm and comfortable. I’d keep basically all the food with the exception of borscht which can get tossed the eff out.
Now it gets complicated. I hold up the Torah, do the stories and the impact they have had on society bring me joy? I hold up the High Holidays and think about the reflection and hunger and thirst and discomfort. Any joy? I hold up Israel and everything complicated and Jewish that is intertwined with it. I hold up the ways people have and will discriminate against me based on my religion. I hold up the deep, dark history. Sparkless.
My immediate response wanted to be yes. Yes, our religion should bring us the joy of a thousand sparklers, but if I created my own Judaism with those guidelines I’d be left with, essentially, bagels and my boyfriend.
The beautiful part of Judaism is that we already sort of get to do our own version of Kondo’s cleaning. We get to pick and choose which parts we agree with and participate in, but I don’t believe we base our DIY Judaism on joy. We get to pick and choose what parts of our religion make us feel, not a spark of joy, but a spark of connection. We choose to participate in parts of religion that make us feel connected to our culture, to our history, to learning, and growth and not all of that is joyful. But just because there isn’t joy, doesn’t mean there isn’t warmth, hope, and love.
So, after we finish Kondo-ing our college textbooks, Juicy sweatsuits, and whisks (what do people even have in their kitchens?) maybe we should peruse our Jewish closets. Give the contents a little dusting off and thank them for everything and everyone they’ve brought us. Then pour yourself a drink and go online and buy more crap because you deserve it.