Archive | April, 2016

The Tainted Grain

20 Apr

There is a Rebbe Nachman story that has come to my mind many times in the past few years. This year, looking at the Pesach madness and feeling myself both drawn towards it and repelled by it at the same time, I think again about this story. It goes as follows:

The king’s star gazer saw that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would became insane. “What can we do?” said the king. “It is not possible to destroy the crop for we do not have enough grain stored to feed the entire population.”

“Perhaps,” said the star gazer, “we should set aside enough grain for ourselves. At least that way we could maintain our sanity.” The king replied, “If we do that, we’ll be considered crazy. If everyone behaves one way and we behave differently, we’ll be considered the not normal ones.

“Rather,” said the king, “I suggest that we too eat from the crop, like everyone else. However, to remind ourselves that we are not normal, we will make a mark on our foreheads. Even if we are insane, whenever we look at each other, we will remember that we are insane!”

We are limited by this world. We see our reality through the spectacles of time, place, emotion and the limitations of these concepts. We long for things we know will bring us no true happiness and satisfaction, we fear what we should embrace (death) and embrace what we should fear (disconnection from God). We are really part of this madness in some way or another and we’re helpless. We see the linear rather than the infinite and we constantly blind ourselves to God’s constant presence and messages. This crazy world is our madness that we will be afflicted with until the day we die.

Is there anything we can do to prevent the affliction? Not much. But those stickers on our brow, the reminder of what we once lost and what we ought to have may serve to gently prod us into questioning the reality we live in.

Yes, we’re mad too, in our own way. But at least we know it.




It’s Time to Come Clean

16 Apr

I’ve lived with religion in some way or another for most of my life. Whether it is a bit of tradition here, or a bit of fundamentalism there, I’ve incorporated religiousness into my life in one way or another, hoping that being with God would come along with it. I guess it’s like investing in an expensive oven in the hope that one day  you’ll be a gourmet chef. One is not really connected with the other at all.

Now I know that it’s not religion that I want, it’s God.

Yes, religion is a place of belonging, community, ‘good feeling’, order, predictability, support and the safety of having someone, somewhere, who will answer your questions for you. It’s a really safe place.

The decision to leave this cocooned environment is fraught with danger, doubt, isolation and loneliness. Religious people can’t get you….you were ‘there’….how can you go without? And when you try to explain to them….well, hate to break it to you, my friends, but the more I got into religion the less I saw God and I want God in my life. No, my friends, I don’t want ‘your God’, who is static and rigid, who cowers behind those who crave power and insubordination, who is mute and blind. My God, is the God who knows me and understands me, whose love for me is something that is all-encompasssing, a God who resides inside my heart and guides me in a quiet voice….This God of mine speaks a universal language and doesn’t require a power hierarchy.

Yes, I’ve got my beliefs and my mission statement sorted out. But coming clean when it comes to everything religiosity entails (especially when you are surrounded by it) is the harder part.

This year I will not be participating in a ‘rabbinical’ Pesach Seder as such. And this is not an easy thing.

When the whole world (or so it seems), secular and religious alike participates in  this family ceremony (which isn’t such a terrible ceremony when you come to think of it; full of fun and stories and togetherness and remembering our roots in Egypt) and you decide that this, albeit pleasant is so far from ‘real’ that you can no longer partake in it, you’ve made a strong statement.

One could argue, who cares? Participate, play the part, include yourself in the community and keep your private thoughts to yourself! Yet thought and action have to connect- surely doing one thing and thinking another is falsity personified. And God is there, this is after all about Him and us! How can we possibly ever hear what God (yes, the God who speaks to us, day after day) has to say on the matter of the exodus when we just continue to do our own thing, rabbiting from prayer books and feeling good about our religious accomplishments, from preparing the right charoset to staying up all night debating rabbinical sayings?

No, this isn’t me any more, it doesn’t reflect my beliefs, it doesn’t reflect who I am.

Yes, what will be for me, as everyone sits down for their national religious ceremony is nebulous. Maybe there isn’t an alternative ‘seder night’ at all. Maybe one hour sitting in God’s presence with quiet and peace is enough, or maybe more is required. Yes, it’s a vacuum in a sense. A vacuum that could cause those who feel as I do to run to the warm embrace of tradition and religiousness simply to escape the  loneliness of questioning.

But I’ve come clean. I’m not living the life of others. I want God. This God is not the God of others, He’s mine and I’ve got to trust Him to show me what celebrating the exodus is really like.