"This event was one of my first ego deaths. Although I tried to stay stalwart and look on the positive side, my world--built upon the fragile structur"This event was one of my first ego deaths. Although I tried to stay stalwart and look on the positive side, my world--built upon the fragile structure of my mentors--had collapsed...Now four of my elders had ceased, in one way or another, to be guides upon the way: Danny was dead, Shulamith had gone into a territory too militant to follow, and the most beloved of all, Laya and Tom, had defected. The strength and clarity I had projected upon them had shattered, and it was upon me to find those qualities within" (p. 49-50).
"So obstinately did I cling to the life of transcendence that I could not yet see the danger I was headed for...I had welcomed a teaching that trained me to distrust myself, to relate to my feelings as negative mind-states that pulled down the spirit and were meant to be jumped over as quickly as possible....I had indeed returned to the familiar psychological ground of my childhood; only the packaging was different" (p. 105).
"In the absence of a loving heart, any form of spirituality can turn into tyranny. The true test, after all, is not transcendence but love...Does the path I am on help me to connect with others or does it separate me?... Am I being trained to listen to the voice of truth within, or am I being told what the unquestioned truth is from without?" (p. 125).
"I was utterly unaware of my own potential at the time, and I had not begun to envision myself as a person with any authority of my own. Instead...I projected my spiritual authority onto any man who fit my picture of wholeness" (p. 129).
"But in the end, I was not after simplicity; I wanted a spiritual adventure. I did not know it then, but in my quest for a mate, I needed the unfamiliar, not the common, the dark side of the moon rather than charted territory. My own likeness would not do; I was unconsciously seeking someone who was my opposite, to help bring out in me more of who I was" (p. 153).
"It was not a question of bypassing agony. I was already in agony to realize that my choices were not resolvable. It was an issue of survival. Would I be able to survive the consequences of my choices? For now they were only rejecting Frederick, but one wrong move--marriage--would lead to their rejection of me! Could I bear being cut off? Or would I, like my sister, break under the pressure of ostracism and return to the fold?" (p. 180).
"Intermarriage happened all the time, didn't it? I would be fine; I would be liberated; we would live a fine life together...Often I would wake up trembling, feeling all alone in the dark, without the personal fortitude to forge ahead into uncharted territory. Once again I felt that I was on a stormy sea at night in a pilotless sailboat, not knowing if I would make it back to dry land" (p. 188).
"'Tradition is a deposit we made in the last incarnation so we wouldn't have to learn from scratch in this one,' Reb Zalman had said. 'We don't want to throw it away, God forbid, but not everything can be adopted whole as it is'" (p. 218).
"One of the greatest tests on the spiritual path is to open oneself genuinely to new learning without losing one's own power to a teacher or teaching in the process. But failing in this regard and losing one's self is not only a normal phase in spiritual development, it is at times necessary for our growth. This process is called spiritual transference, when we literally transfer onto our human teacher or guru the superhuman qualities of God. When a transference is broken by losing one's teacher--to death, betrayal, or disillusionment--it can be extremely painful and humiliating for the student, not unlike the pain of a broken romantic relationship. So much energy and hope have been invested in the relationship that its breaking is like the shattering of a precious vessel. But if we can stay true to ourselves and our experience of loss, we have the possibility of recollecting ourselves and growing more intimate with ourselves. Out of our disillusionment, we are thrown back on our own resources. Ultimately, the experience can be used to help us detach from the external provider of guidance and begin to listen to our own innermost voice, which brings us one step closer to inheriting our spiritual power. It becomes clearer through one of these shattering experiences that the only guidance we can truly count on is on the inside. The voice of the Self--which is both us and far bigger than us--is ready to guide us as soon as we have ears to hear it" (p. 256-257)....more
"Memoirs of spiritual journeys often focus on the writer's relationship with God. Visions of grandeur are recounted, and moments of despair or communi"Memoirs of spiritual journeys often focus on the writer's relationship with God. Visions of grandeur are recounted, and moments of despair or communion with the divine described. But my spiritual journey had a different character, embedded as it was in community and greatly affected by my feelings about it. Its most difficult moments had less to do with God and more to do with the people around me" (p. 187).
"Just beyond desire was the sweetness of possibility. And so I waited, still the fallow field...I knew it was a sign that the field was readying itself to bring forth life once again" (p. 213).
"I am not comfortable summarizing my experience. The truth is so deeply embedded in my life that I cannot separate it without distortion. When I open my imagination, colors and shapes and sounds swirl together as part of the vortex through which I passed on my way to conversion. And when I add snippets of memories, moments that go with words like creek and grandmother and darkness, the vortex becomes larger. And when I think of Baptist Sunday school, and when I remember my parents' home, and my mother's illness, and the way we said grace around the dinner table, and the first time I heard about the Holocaust, I understand even more; and it goes on from there, so that everything I've experienced is significant in the same way that a drop of iodine poured into water is diffused throughout" (p. 31).
"Converts, in this view, make a contribution because of their experience in other worlds. We are carriers of light, not supplicants to be suffered. All the effort to teach us, and answer our questions....is holy work" (p. 68)....more
An amazing find. Several hundred pages worth of original stories--no story is like another. Some of the best character development and skillful descriAn amazing find. Several hundred pages worth of original stories--no story is like another. Some of the best character development and skillful descriptive detail I've ever read. I'm sorry I didn't save more of this book for the Thanksgiving holiday when I'll be out of town, but I simply can't stop reading....more
Finished this last weekend. Wiesenthal's story of his encounter with a dying Nazi while a prisoner in a concentration camp is accompanied by over sixtFinished this last weekend. Wiesenthal's story of his encounter with a dying Nazi while a prisoner in a concentration camp is accompanied by over sixty responses in short essay form from people including Alan L. Berger, the Dalai Lama, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Primo Levi, Martin E. Marty, Albert Speer, Joseph Telushkin, and Desmond Tutu (these are the ones I recognized). The breadth and diversity of the responses prompted me to reflect more deeply than I ever had previously on the issues raised by attempted genocide--the particular genocide of the European Holocaust as well as the genocides in places like Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and the Sudan. What is forgiveness, and what merits it? Who is authorized to forgive? Are there crimes that are ultimately so heinous as to be completely unforgivable?
I knew very little about Jews from Arab countries like Iraq and ethnic and cultural diversity among Jews in Israel prior to reading this book--and I'dI knew very little about Jews from Arab countries like Iraq and ethnic and cultural diversity among Jews in Israel prior to reading this book--and I'd previously taken a class on Modern Judaism. It really enriched and complicated my understanding of Israel's founding and Palestinian-Israeli tensions. ...more
Probably my first formal introduction to Judaism. I read this in seventh grade.
Bought for 25-cents from the withdrawn section at the library.
A favoriProbably my first formal introduction to Judaism. I read this in seventh grade.
Bought for 25-cents from the withdrawn section at the library.
A favorite quote:
“Religious people tend to encounter, among those who are not, a cemented certainty that belief in God is a crutch for the weak and the fearful. It would be just as silly to assert that disbelief in God is a crutch for the immoral and the ill-read.....Now the belief in God may turn out at the last trump to be a mistake. Meantime, let us be quite clear, it is not merely the comfort of the simple--though it is that too, much to its glory--it is a formidable intellectual position with which most of the first-class minds of the human race, century in and century out, have concurred, each in his own way.....We live in a time when non-belief is in fashion; it has been for about one hundred years. Hence the regular pulsing of rationalist books from popular book clubs and paperback publishers. But this popularity of one point of view should be enough to make any serious man suspicious. Sheep are sheep, whether they are all leaping over the fence or all huddling in the fold.....It is becoming all too clear that--speaking of crutches--Freud can be a crutch, Marx can be a crutch, rationalism can be a crutch, and atheism can be two canes and a pair of iron braces. We none of us have all the answers, nor are we likely to have. But in the country of the halt, the man who is surest he has no limp may be the worst-crippled." -- Herman Wouk, from This Is My God: The Jewish Way of Life...more
A whimsical, satisfying collection of short stories for children and adults alike. Many are set in Poland and Russia, but some are set in the Holy LanA whimsical, satisfying collection of short stories for children and adults alike. Many are set in Poland and Russia, but some are set in the Holy Land. Richly steeped in Jewish culture and mythology, and yet no more exclusively for Jewish children than the Brothers Grimm are exclusively for German children. Favorites are difficult to pick, but the stories I particularly liked included "A Tale of Three Wishes," "Menaseh's Dream," and "Topiel and Tekla."
The fifth door led to a large hall. It was filled with the characters in the stories his parents had told him at bedtime...They were all there: David the warrior and the Ethiopian princess whom David saved from captivity; the highwayman Bandurek, who robbed the rich and fed the poor; Velikan the giant, who had one eye in the center of his forehead and who carried a fir tree as a staff in his right hand and a snake in his left; the midget Pitzeles, whose beard dragged on the ground and who was jester to the fearsome King Merodach; and the two-headed wizard Malkizedek, who by witchcraft spirited innocent girls into the desert of Sodom and Gomorrah...
..."Where am I?" Menaseh asked. "You are in a castle that has many names. We like to call it the place where nothing is lost."
First used as a textbook in a religious studies class on Jewish history after 70CE. I'm revisiting this in bits and pieces for its broad survey of JewFirst used as a textbook in a religious studies class on Jewish history after 70CE. I'm revisiting this in bits and pieces for its broad survey of Jewish history....more