Religion & Beliefs

Why Be Jewish: Engaging the Sacred Pt. 4

We entered fairly seamlessly into a discussion about the sacred without reference to what in comparison might be considered mundane (or perhaps profane?). Picture this – We were in a corporate board room, not a Shul, nature or any other … Read More

By / May 17, 2010

We entered fairly seamlessly into a discussion about the sacred without reference to what in comparison might be considered mundane (or perhaps profane?). Picture this – We were in a corporate board room, not a Shul, nature or any other presumed sacred place. But no one was inhibited in sharing from places of personal experience, from enlightenment to pain: discovered joy, acknowledged teacher or inspiring role model, lost intimacy, lost life…

Two fundamental tensions were explored: the challenge of modernity vs. memory and the dualities of community and solitude. We traveled back and forth with Maimonides, Jeremiah and a graphic comic strip writer illustrator with whom I was previously unacquainted (Brooklyn Jews aren’t the only ones who love Andy Bachman) to affirm the absurdity of resolving either of the tensions without fully swimming in the grey areas and allowing some of the dividing lines to fade, blur or become irrelevant.

I arrived late, perhaps a bit harried from a month of travel, and yet it felt like a gift to explore the sacred with this group. I think of Rabbi Shai Held (co-founder and Rosh Yeshiva at Mechon Hadar) describing life as a "gift within a gift" like the nestled babushka dolls I saw in the Moscow duty free shops last week… Each text, modern and ancient, opened a rich discussion, reflection or emotional revelation.

Admittedly I resisted the touristy trinkets but feel I am bringing something home for Shabbat this week that may be more enduring.