On the listserv of one of my congregations, the spate of emails offering to give away household items indicates the influence of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series about organizing and decluttering our lives and the spaces we use. But for Jews, this is not a fad. It’s part of Jewish tradition.
God was the first organizer. When “the earth was without form and void”—tovu v’vohu—as the Torah’s second sentence says, God organized the universe.
“The more possessions, the more worry,” Hillel teaches in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) 2:7.
In Mussar, the Jewish self-improvement practice, order is one of the middot, traits to strive for.
“A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven,” Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) teaches us, including “A time for keeping and a time for discarding.” (Ecclesiastes 3:6)
The prayer, in English and Hebrew, appears in “The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: CLAL’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings.” This 2001 publication, by the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, has a two-page spread titled, “Organizing Your Room, Your House, Your Office, Your Affairs, Your Life.” In addition to the blessing, it has a meditation, a simple ritual and a teaching.
Depending on what you do after you organize your things, you can turn to the two pages titled “Donating Food and Clothing.”
I highly recommend the book, which has all sorts of rituals and blessings: for falling in love, running a marathon, sending offspring to college, losing a pet. I flip through it periodically and am astonished to be reminded what’s in there—and to see what rituals I missed doing only recently.
In these days of de-acquisitioning, this is a book to have and keep. It might just improve your life more than Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
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