Tuesday, May 31, 2016


I have the amazing privilege of serving along with a treasured colleague as co-President of our area’s Multi-Faith Council. We come together monthly for programs and support and to share our sense of faith and belief along with the spirituality that is at the core of our members as we discuss an incredibly wide range of challenging issues, including prevention of gun violence, inclusion of LGBTQ members of our community, environmental sustainability, the place and voices of women in religious spaces, relationships amongst the various communities of faith and so much else.

I have to thank my son Brian for bringing this group into my life, for it is through his Track coach, who introduced me to his wonderful wife, that this amazing collection of ministers, Rabbis, pastors, etc. came to be part of the total of my ongoing involvements. I have often said that I have the most in common with people of faith whose approach to their beliefs and religious lives are similar to mine, motivated by my faith in G-d as well as the notion that G-d wants the best from all of us and that includes our most vulnerable aspects of self, our most foundational beliefs about what it is that we are here to do and be.

Interestingly enough, it is this sense of spiritual awareness and understanding of self that often separates me from too many members of my membership community, that is the shuls or synagogues to which we have belonged through the years. Too often and sadly (for me), in the Orthodox Jewish world in which I live, spirituality can be quickly dismissed as empty of religion and devoid of meaning. I have always bristled when I hear people talking about something I hold so dear in such derisive terms. I firmly believe that my adherence to Jewish practice and the laws and teachings that define it is based precisely in my belief in G-d, in the notion that there is a Higher Being to whom I owe gratitude and show that gratitude by living intentionally and with thought and care. One of the most powerful names for G-d in Jewish texts is The Compassionate One (Rachmana); and this is what I think we are here to model – truly caring for each other, seeing the pain that others are in, and in trying to do something to make our collective situation better for all who are created by G-d. This I have taught my children along with the many details that mark our lives daily as religiously observant Jews – the two elements are inextricably tied together for me.

Last month, our Multi-Faith Council decided to have our program dedicated to a discussion about loss in our lives. This was precipitated by a particularly painful loss of the child of one of our members. Several others of us had discussed how we process this part of living and what it does to our sense of faith and spiritual being at various points during the many conversations we have had at various meetings and programs. So we decided to spend the two-hour meeting (which actually went almost three hours) discussing what we, who are often called upon to support others when they experience loss of loved ones, do to give ourselves strength and fortitude at such times in our lives. What was quickly discovered was that in this group of Jews and Christians of many different denominations, there was a shared culture of appreciation of life and holding onto the legacy of those who are no longer with us in powerful and ongoing ways. Many rituals were discussed, as was the notion that these rituals may come from our texts and our respective faith’s codes of practice as well as from places very deeply set in our hearts.

There was a certain quiet and calm in this discussion, and I for one, found it amazingly healing; dare I say it was one of the most powerful exchanges I have had this year as I continue to mourn the loss of both of my parents nine and ten months ago respectively. I felt that I could freely share what I was FEELING more so than in spaces that are dictated for us to process such losses according to the myriad details of praxis found in Jewish law. We were all just there, truly holding on to each other with care and compassion and understanding. I felt as though I had just been at a retreat of some type and it has stayed with me for the month since this occurred.

I think that sometimes, in spite of the best and most noble of intentions, that we get so caught up in what we are supposed to do that we lose that we just FEEL certain things and need to process them in individuated and unscripted ways. This is where I think spirituality is fundamental to our faith, and for this Halachically observant Jew, it is anything but empty. I have often said when people look at me puzzled when I speak of G-d that I think that G-d could be considered as THE ONE who fills up all of the spaces that we can’t account for in our universe. I think that for those who do not understand spirituality, maybe that’s what fills up the spaces that we can’t account for in our own individuated beings. All I know is that I am grateful to G-d and grateful to this group of which I am part for the spiritual space we can create together.

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