I received a thought-provoking email a few years ago from someone I don’t know personally. She must have read something I penned on social media or one of many publications for which I write. I know that when I put my work out there in the world, there will be questions and sometimes pushback. I love honest conversation. That’s one reason I write.
“Dear Rev. Weinstein: It sounds as if you are of Jewish ancestry. If so, I feel it is sad that you possibly felt the need to give up on your own rich religious tradition where you might have found what you are looking for if you tried harder. Another BuJew?”
(To clarify, that terms originate from the writing of Roger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus. It refers to people who embrace Judaism and Buddhism.)
I took a deep breath and pondered how I would respond to her query. I knew nothing about her or what prompted her to inquire about my spiritual path.
“No, I haven’t given anything up. I was raised Jewish with parents who encouraged learning about other traditions. I went to Hebrew school until I was 16, became a Bat Mitzvah at 13, studied various faiths in college. I was ordained as an interfaith minister via The New Seminary in NYC in 1999, which was founded by a ‘modern Hassidic rabbi’ named Joseph Gelberman, as well as a minister, a priest and imam. The motto of the school is “Never instead of, always in addition to.” When I told my parents I was enrolling, my mother said “I have one question for you. Are you converting?” I told her “No, I’m expanding.” She said “Ok.” and she and my father flew up from Florida for my ordination. When my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, I officiated at a vow renewal ceremony for them and when they each died, I officiated at their funerals, with their full consent. My mother would jokingly call me her “Reverend Daughter”. I say that Love is my religion and God is too big to put in a box.” Hopefully, that answers your thoughts. Judaism is a rich culture and so are the others in which I immerse myself. I don’t have the right to tell anyone what to believe spiritually.
Blissings and Blessings,
I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t receive a response. Maybe she was satisfied with my answer since it was unexpected. Maybe she didn’t know what to say. Either way, it caused me to contemplate my spiritual journey. I had the foundation of Judaism that taught me about Tzedakah, which translates to charity, but even more so, justice. In the chambers of the deeply missed RBG were the words, “Justice, justice, thou shalt pursue.” Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue.” In our home was a box, called a ‘pushke’ into which we would place coins and when it was full, my parents would encase them in those paper wrappers from the bank, deposit them in their account and write a check to whatever charity they were supporting. Tonight I heard an interview with Barbra Streisand on the World Cafe’ and she shared that as poor as her family was, they did the same thing.
They volunteered in the community, donating their time, even into their elderhood. Although they didn’t use the term, Tikkun Olam, which translates to ‘repair of the world,’ that’s what they were doing. I never asked how they came to the choice to live that way. I’m guessing that my grandparents modeled it for them as I model it for my son and I know that he and my daughter-in-law will model it for my grandson. Multi-generational mitzvahs, good deeds.
I had a paradoxical relationship with my religion of origin, since there was a time when women did not have the same spiritual roles as men, which frustrated the heck out of this budding feminist. I took to studying other teachings which led me to The New Seminary and its all- embracing philosophy.
What I came to believe was that religion is about doctrine and dogma and spirituality is about the connection between my heart and soul and the God of my understanding. Sometimes the way I see the Divine changes depending on the lenses through which I gaze. Lately, it has been a challenge to recognize the ‘bless in the mess’ that occurs on a day to day basis. Pandemic, war, violence, women’s reproductive rights being torn away, the children who have been born being abused and neglected, bigotry and hatred all loom large, like a lunging behemoth, claws bared. It takes everything I’ve got from this human form to endeavor to make a difference. All throughout the day, I have Godversations in an attempt to wrap my mind around the meaning of it all and the next right thing I can do.
My home is filled with spiritual icons, images and tools; Buddhas, a dancing Shiva, mandalas, Kwan Yin, peace signs, a Hamsa, saints, a scapular, spiritual teachers, menorahs, mala beads, angels, Goddesses, Tibetan prayer flags, Seder plates, Shabbat candlesticks, prayers, books, a family bible, as well as a few altars. They serve to remind me that I am always surrounded by blessings, guidance and protection.
These are the words that came to me from a night of restless sleep.
“May everything we think, say and do benefit the whole of the world. May our actions be conscious and intentional. May we come together to mend the rends.” Pass it on~
Here is a song to tickle your heart and encourage you to speak to the Divine.
This post is republished on Medium.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Shutterstock