Religion & Beliefs

Making the most of many paths

While I’m in San Francisco, it seems like a good time to mention Rabbi Alan Lew, the “Zen Rabbi.” I first came across Lew when I read his truly amazing book about the High Holidays. But then I discovered he … Read More

By / November 6, 2006

While I’m in San Francisco, it seems like a good time to mention Rabbi Alan Lew, the “Zen Rabbi.” I first came across Lew when I read his truly amazing book about the High Holidays. But then I discovered he was a pulpit rabbi, and I was so excited, I flew him to Iowa (where I was working for Hillel) to lead services, and do a guided meditation with my students. He’s the rabbi of a really interesting synagogue here in California, with a noteworthy focus on Buddhist meditation, but also on social justice. And Lew is worth mentioning for many reasons, obviously, but right now I’m thinking about the way he has seamlessly blended the paths he’s trod. I admire that a lot. He’s taken the riches of the varied chapters of his life (monastic Buddhist meditation, MFA writer, Jewish roots and education) and made something new from them. It’s easy, when you try on different lives, to discount the prior choices you’ve made each time you make a shift. To reconceive yourself entirely, and understand the world through that particular temporary lens. It’s much much harder to find a way to blend your selves, to find a home for your many incarnations in one mature body and mind. But when it’s done well, as in Lew’s case, it’s startling, and innovative, and creates new models for the world around you.