The real crisis about the Jewish future

The real crisis about the Jewish future is not how many Jews there will be.

It’s whether or not Judaism does more good than harm in the world. It’s what kinds of people this religion helps raise up.

This is the same moral test that all religions have to face, all the time.

But the rise of nationalist, messianic, Arab-hating, democracy-disdaining Judaism in parts of Israel and, to a lesser extent, in the Diaspora, really has me wondering if we’re failing this basic litmus test.

I’m a rabbi. A rabbi committed to a progressive, non-dogmatic, non-literalist, anti-fundamentalist, humanistically informed approach to Judaism. I believe that progressive, pluralistic, humble, open-minded, open-hearted, risk-taking religious communities of all faiths do more good than harm, by and large. But what I can’t tell anymore is whether my religion writ large – Judaism – as it lives in various forms and ideological configurations in 2019 – is a net plus for humankind. And that makes me feel both sad and motivated to get off my ass and make my best effort to make a difference.

Hymns to an Unknown God

About a decade ago I found Sam Keen’s book, Hymns to an Unknown God: Awakening the Spirit in Everyday Life at a thrift store, and read it with great appreciation. It probably gets pigeon-holed under “New Age” and therefore, for some people, not taken too seriously. But whatever categories it does or doesn’t belong in, I love the book and have found it really, really helpful. More to come on this soon.

keen sam

Okay, I’m finally getting to writing about Keen’s book a bit.

I’m just going to share some of my favorite quotes from the book.

“I don’t pray to some super-power to make things better. But I open myself to the power that infuses and informs all life and pray to be relieved of the bondage to myself.” (p. xviii)

“[Paul] Tillich was lecturing to us about the importance of understanding that all religious statements were symbolic. They are linguistic lace, allowing only a hint of the fabric of the mystery of being. No religion possesses any literal truth, he said, and warned us against the idolatry of religion. He advised us to look for the presence of the sacred in the everyday secular world.” (p. 2) Continue reading “Hymns to an Unknown God”