Here All Along | Reflections & Notes

Sarah Hurwitz. Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life–in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There). Spiegel & Grau, 2019. (307 pages)


I began this book intrigued. In reading, I grew to like it. I finished the book, and loved where it took me. This is neither a sermon nor a polemic. Here All Along is a gentle woo, a calling to all of us into something meaningful, an interrogation of a more beautiful world that could be, if we choose to build it.

I’m not Jewish. But as someone who is attempting to live a life that conforms to the ethics and way of a first-century Jew, the explication of Jewish thought in this book deeply resonates with me. It is not just compatible with Christianity, but it is in concert with the heart and soul of that early Jewish sect, The Way. I feel that the vast majority of the secular population misses out on brilliant insights into the human condition that religions such as Judaism offer simply because of their affiliation with scientifically dubious metaphysical claims. But one should not mistake those aspects of a religion for the fundamental essence of what that religion is attempting to do in the world (which, unfortunately, many religious people do). In many ways, the metaphysical constructs are merely the scaffolding upon which anthropological ethics are built and sustained. Regardless of that more esoteric explanation, Hurwitz’s book is a brilliant articulation of how to navigate that tension well. It charts the pathway for how to drink from the deep well of wisdom without falling in, quenching our spiritual and existential thirsts.

I remember growing up in chapel services hearing stories of people performing “good deeds,” making sacrifices for the good of others whether that is time, money, or service. In my Christian upbringing, these actions, though never described with this term, were deemed “heroic,” as if accomplishing a virtue was somehow superhuman and a sign of a “good” Christian. A wiser philosophy would see that there should be no surprise, no heroics, and no superhumanness in performing “mitzvot,” (good deeds). In Judaism, virtues are not attained. Virtues are the result of one’s characteristic identity. As I heard one rabbi once say, “Turning on the light in a dark place isn’t heroic. It just makes sense.” This is one of the most important principles in Hurwitz’s explication of Judaism that is worth highlighting, and should challenge all people of every religion. For my clan, turning on the light (“being the light”) is “mere sense” as a follower of Jesus.

One of the most significant propositions in the book, Rabbi Benay Lappe’s “crash theory,” resonates deeply with me in an era of religious “deconstruction” that has captivated the hearts and souls of Christians, especially Evangelicals. While their journey is still one of emerging complexity–the kind that sociologists themselves will be deconstructing still for some time–it is strikingly distinct from what Lappe proposes, an option to which Hurwitz inclines and gently encourages us toward. When the master story by which you’ve been living “crashes,” that is, doesn’t make sense anymore in light of a new tragedy or scientific development, “Don’t deny the crash, but don’t wholesale reject the master story either. Take the crash and use it to reexamine the master story–to figure out what works and what doesn’t–and then rewrite the master story accordingly.” (p.234) This, in my humble opinion, is the most beautiful and redemptive journey we can all take as this world hurls through the universe. It is in essence what Hurwitz does in her book, what Jesus did in the first century, and what many people of religious identity are doing in the 21st century.

To that end, I commend this read to you, Jewish or not, as a brilliant first leap towards rewriting this, and your, beautiful story.

(H/T to Daniel Chan, for sending me the article Religion for Adults Means Embracing Complexity in the Wall Street Journal (September 27, 2019) that introduced me to Sarah Hurwitz.)


Why Bother with Judaism?

So I understand why many people have an instinct to run as far as possible from organized religion, or just don’t believe it’s worth their time. But I think we can at least agree that lots of people actually do want what religion is supposed to offer–they’re just looking for it elsewhere. (xxi)

…I’m hesitant about an approach to spirituality where, instead of picking one religion and putting in the time and effort to engage deeply with it, we learn just a little bit about many traditions and then decide to do this thing from one tradition, and that thing from another, because each of these things speaks to us in some way–because each feels like it’s “so me”–and we don’t have to deal with the other parts of those belief systems that are “so not me.” (xxii)

| When we do this, we’re embracing the aspects of these traditions that reinforce our current preferences and beliefs and ignoring those that don’t. In other words–and I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh–we’re reifying, maybe even deifying, ourselves, focusing on the self-discovery, self-affirmation, and self-expression parts of religion (the “comfort the afflicted” parts) and neglecting the self-discipline, self-sacrifice, and self-transcendence parts (the “afflict the comfortable” parts). (xxii)


In the Beginning and In the Image: The Torah

This story is not a simple morality tale, it is a provocation, an invitation to a conversation–or maybe a debate. … Summarizing Auerbach’s conclusions, novelist Dara Horn notes that when it comes to the Hebrew Bible, “merely to read for the plain meaning of the text is to engage in an interpretive act.” (11)

This text, I realized, is not meant to be read for plot, it’s meant to be (11) interpreted for meaning. … The Torah leaves it to us to figure all of this out. It demands not just obedience, but responsibility. (12)

Simply by reading this text, I was implicated in it. It was like an ancient Rorschach test: What did I see? How did I fill in its gaps? What did that say about me? How have Jews understood the Torah over the years? What does that say about us as a people? (12)

So I still think it’s fair to ask: Is this 2,500-year-old text, which many of us believe was written by human beings about events that may or may not have happened four thousand years ago, still a sound basis for a religion that any of us should practice today? (14)

| My answer to this question is a resounding yes. But to get there, I had to learn a little about the time and place from which the Torah emerged and then sort through its ancient language to discover its core animating ideas. Only then did I move on to the outright appreciation and love phase, realizing just how radical, wise, and important the Torah is–not just in its own time, but in ours as well. (14)

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg argues that this idea [“God created man in His† image,…] is shorthand for three fundamental truths, which he deems the “three inalienable dignities”:

[†Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg notes, “The pronoun for God is God.”]

  1. We are each of infinite worth–no one is expendable, and we cannot quantify the value of any human life. (15)
  2. We are all fundamentally equal–no human being is any more important than any other human being. (16)
  3. We are each totally unique–there is no one else like us, and no one is interchangeable with anybody else. (16)

Christine Hayes points out, God often appears to be playing catch-up, constantly adjusting to the decisions humans make. “Humans,” she notes, “are going to be a force to be reckoned with. They’re unpredictable to the very god who created them.” (18)

The king grants a covenant to someone whom he respects, and whose services and assistance he needs and may not be able to obtain without his agreement. … In other words, the covenant is a relationship that recognizes the weaker party’s voluntary contribution to the king’s order–and the king’s need of such help. – Yoram Hazony, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

This demand for universal access to the Divine teachings seems to be a polemic against other ancient cultures in which only a small circle of priests had access to sacred knowledge. (19)

This God doesn’t just order people around and reward and punish them. This God gathers them together and asks for their help. And in the Divine mind, all Israelites are equally responsible for answering that call, each expected to learn the terms of the covenant and do their part to honor it. (20)

Not only, it seems, are we expected to act as if we are in the Image of God, we’re expected to treat other people as if they are in the Divine image as well. In fact, the covenant is where God seems to operationalize the In-the-Image idea, translating it into a series of laws that dictate our obligations to others, particularly those who are vulnerable. (20)

…the Torah seems to understand how quickly former victims can become indifferent to current ones, or even become oppressors themselves. (23)

Chosenness should never be understood as a declaration of Jewish superiority or a statement that Jews have a monopoly on religious truth. Quite the contrary. Judaism asserts that there is one God who loves and cares for all of humanity, and while Jews have a particular relationship with that God, we recognize that others also have their own relationships with the Divine. Jews do not feel the need to convert people to Judaism because we do not think that others need to act and believe like we do to be saved or morally acceptable. (25)

[via: I would go one step further, that it’s not about the Israelites in the first place (as the focal point), but rather about God, God’s character, and חסד]

The Torah strikes me as an unavoidably political document–a passionate protest against the old hierarchies and abuses of power. (26)

The Torah is best read not as a book of scientific truths, but as a book of moral truths. (27)

From the very beginning, we’ve been interpreting Judaism: challenging it, wrestling with it, and reimagining and retranslating it for the times in which we live. This ongoing process has been the key to Jewish survival and success for thousands of years, and it is the subject to which we will now turn. (28)

The Process of Judaism: QUestioning, Debating, and Interpreting

…from the moment the Torah was canonized, we were already arguing about what it meant. And since then, we have interpreted and reinterpreted it, continually breathing new life into it–and allowing it to breathe new life into us–in each new era. (31)

This was not argument for the sake of argument, or to “win,” but rather what is known as “argument for the sake of heaven,” where the goal is to arrive at a richer, deeper understanding of the text. (35)

Judaism is based upon a minimum of revelation and a maximum of interpretation. – Abraham Joshua Heschel

God makes unenforceable laws simply so that scholars can analyze why they are unenforceable! – Adam Kirsch

It is in no way an overstatement to say that with the interpretive process they developed, the Rabbis rescued Judaism in one of its darkest moments and ensured its continuation for the next two millennia. Thanks to the Rabbis, Rosen notes, “Jews became the people of the book and not the people of the Temple or the land,” all now bound together by the same foundational interpretive text and process. (40)

| Judaism thus became entirely portable–through space and time. Now that it was no longer so closely tied to a particular structure, Judaism could be fully practiced anywhere in the world. And as times changed, Judaism could adapt. (40)

Throughout history, in communities across the globe, we have continued to reinterpret what Judaism is and reimagine what it could be. (45)

This is something I love about Judaism: When Temples fall, we don’t just stand around trying to make sacrifices at the ruins. We retranslate our tradition to create something more enduring. (47)

…the anthropocentric nature of revelation–its intended audience is human beings–requires that it be bounded in a particular place and time and speak the language of the human beings of that culture and era, with all their moral and psychological imperfections. – Rabbi Donniel Hartman

Revelation thus cannot be viewed as “a pure expression of God’s will,” but rather “as an expression of God’s will filtered through the mindset and mores of its intended audience.” (48)

Theirs [the Rabbis] was a system that made a virtue of ambivalence and built uncertainty into bedrock assertions of faith. No wonder fundamentalists and fascists have hated it so. – Jonathan Rosen

Questioning, debating, and interpreting aren’t merely tolerated in Judaism–this is Judaism, and this process is the key not just to our survival, but to our success as well. The same, I think can be said of America. Generation after generation, Jews and Americans have shaped our founding texts and stories–and they have shaped us–and ultimately their purpose is not to provide eternal and unchanging answers, but rather to spur us to ask the right questions. (50)

[via: Jesus, too.]

Freeing God from “His” Human-Shaped Cage in the Sky

I had been approaching the question of God backward. I had been starting with theology rather than experience. (60)

I would suggest that science is, at least in part, informed worship. – Carl Sagan, The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

While there are few things Jews agree on, there seems to be consensus that we cannot fully understand or adequately describe God. (62)

For convenience, I’m going to use the words “God” and “the Divine” in this book, but please know that I’m talking about something I believe is indescribable in human language. (60)

Other than monotheism, there is no universally accepted Jewish creed or article of faith defining the Divine. (63)

[via: Jesus, too.]

The point is not to comprehend the internal nature of God but to understand and eventually to imitate the qualities which flow from it. – Kenneth Seeskin

…God responds, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” meaning “I will be what I will be,” or as Rabbi Jonathan Kligler translates it, “I am becoming that which I am becoming,” which he renders “Life Unfolding.” God is not being, but rather the process of being. (68)

If every moment, every object, and every being is the Divine before us, we bring a freshness and openness to our experience, ready to find God in every moment. – Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels

God is the force that transforms the acorn into the oak tree, a bad baseball player into a good one, and an immoral person into a moral one. – Rabbi Elliot Dorff

Every particular Thou is a glimpse through to the eternal Thou. – Martin Buber

Instead of seeing God as a noun/subject whom we must affirm–a “God-as-person” conception–we focus on affirming the attributes, or predicates, of God as Jewish tradition understands them. So instead of saying that “God is just, merciful and good,” we declare that “justice, mercy and goodness are godly.” (73)

We aren’t human beings, so much as human becomings. God is persistently, tirelessly luring creation toward its optimal expression–greater love, greater justice, greater engagement. – Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

…what appears to the mind as Being, appears to the heart as God. – Rabbi Jay Michaelson

If to believe in God means to be able to talk about him in the third person, then I do not believe in God. If to believe in him means to be able to talk to him, then I believe in God. – Martin Buber

…the only theological requirement for Judaism is, as Michaelson puts it (citing a teacher of his), “one God or fewer.” (78)

But I also wanted to be careful about categorizing a belief in God as “not rational,” as if that makes it baseless or meaningless. There’s nothing particularly rational about being in love with someone. You don’t get there by doing a numerical assessment of their strengths and weaknesses. There is something mysterious and ineffable about love, but I still believe it exists. (82)

| I once confided to a teacher of mine, Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, that while my belief in the Divine felt true, it also felt ridiculous, and I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile that tension. He responded: “Maybe you’re asking the wrong question. Maybe the question isn’t whether believing in God is ridiculous or not. Maybe you should ask yourself: When I run this belief in God on my operating system, what happens? (82) Am I more loving? More honest and courageous? More true to myself and present in my life?” (83)

A Jew dare not live witha bsolute certainty, not only because certainty is the hallmark of the fanatic and Judaism abhors fanaticism, but also because doubt is good for the human soul. – Rabbi Emanuel Rackman

Mitzvot and the Spirituality of Doing

Better that they [the Jews] abandon Me, but follow My laws. -[God]

A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than leap of faith…We do not have faith in deeds; we attain faith through deeds. – Abraham Joshua Heschel

Taken together, the mitzvot form what is known as the “halakha,” meaning “the way” or “the path”–the overall body of Jewish law–or as Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson describes it, “the systematic effort of the rabbis to translate the Torah into action.” (89)

| By performing the mitzvot, Jewish tradition tells us, we uphold our end of the Divine-human partnership and return the Divine sparks to their source–and we usher in a better era for humankind. In other words, performing a mitzvah is actually considered a spiritual act–this is how we connect to the Divine. In fact, while the Hebrew word “mitzvah” is translated as “commandment,” it is related to a word in Aramaic* that means “connection.” (89)

…in Judaism, spirituality generally isn’t something we seek out separately from the activities of everyday life. Rather, it is within these activities that spirituality is found. (89)

In practice, the mitzvot don’t break down so cleanly between ethical and ritual. (94)


Becoming a Great Person: Self-Restraint and Self-Transcendence

Anyone who humiliates another in public, it is as though he were spilling blood.

While American law forbids us from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, it does little to stop us from being cruel, selfish, and gossipy. We can do a whole lot of tale bearing and mind stealing within the letter of state and federal laws. (103)

I do want to highlight two ethical themes that seem to weave their way through Jewish law:

Self-restraint: “Do whatever feels good” is not a Jewish approach. Rather, Jewish law puts a great many limits on how we satisfy our appetites for things like power, money, sex, and food.

Self-transcendence: Judaism is passionately concerned with how we treat others. Do we take their needs and feelings into account? Do we notice their suffering? Do we respond? (105)

So as Rabbi Harold Kishner notes, rather than suppressing our desires (like the folks who imprisoned the yetzer hara), or mindlessly indulging them, we can sanctify our desires with the mitzvot–elevating them and ensuring they’re in the service of something beyond mere bodily satisfaction. (107)

When we want to succeed in our careers, we’ll jump through all kinds of hoops, slogging through advanced degrees and running ourselves ragged to please our bosses. And we’ll happily heed advice from a personal trainer, nutritionist, or career coach. (108)

| But for some reason, the idea of submitting to any kind of regimen to improve our character seems like a serious infringement on our personal freedom, and we balk at following guidelines on how to be a great person that have [sic] been shaped by countless thoughtful people over thousands of years. (108)

Rabbi Donniel Hartman refers to this core Jewish ethic of self-transcendence as the “ethic of non-indifference,…to see the needs of others and to implicate oneself as part of the solution.” (109)

This is what the ethic of non-indifference is about–the belief that we are each other’s keepers, implicated in some way in each other’s suffering, obligated to not just stand idly by, but do our part to help. And I want to focus on two Jewish ways of embodying this ethic in our daily lives: “tzedakah” and “ḥesed.” (110)

The poor are not random people with whom we have nothing in common–they are our brothers and sisters. (113)

And Judaism is concerned not just with the amount of tzedakah we give to them, but with how we give it, insisting that we do so in a way that respects the recipient’s dignity. (113)

Interestingly, there appears to be little concern about fraud or free-loading. (114)

Jewish law demands greater self-discipline and sensitivity to the needs of others than I would summon if left to my own devices–and it demands far greater discipline and sensitivity than our secular laws and cultural norms. As Hillel urges us (and please forgive the gendered language): “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” When those around you have given in to their worst impulses, we’re told, do not follow their lead. Resist the easy cruelty of indifference. Retain your humanity even when everyone else has lost theirs. (122)

And while the paths of self-restraint and self-transcendence are often more challenging, I like myself better when I walk in those ways. (122)

Prayer and More: Finding the Primal in Jewish Spiritual Practice

The problem is that our ancient faiths have become oververbalized and underexperienced. We talk too much and feel too little. – Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

…a commonly held view in Judaism is that we pray not so much to please or change God, but to change ourselves–not because God needs our prayers, but because we do. (126)

…the point of spiritual practice “is not to feel good, but to feel, period.” [Rabbi Jay Michaelson] (129)

When you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. – Anne Lamott

So as we begin reciting the Amidah, the biblical echo of its preamble informs us that we should commit to confronting the most difficult truths about ourselves. (135)

First, you cannot read the siddur literally like a textbook designed to relay facts to you. (137)

…my second piece of advice is to avoid getting hung up on the concepts of God the liturgy suggests, and instead focus on the experience of God it evokes and the human experience it reflects. (138)

…my third piece of advice is that if you’re particularly struck by a word, phrase, or line from a prayer, then just stay with it for a while. (139)

A man tells his rabbi, “I’ve been through the Talmud three times.” The rabbi responds, “How much of the Talmud has been through you?” (140)

…my final piece of advice: to bring some vulnerability to your communal prayer experience. (140)

The idea is that if everything is a manifestation of the Divine, then being radically present in each moment, attuned to yourself and everything around you, is a way of being close to God. (146)

When I pray I talk to God. When I study, God talks to me. – Rabbi Lous Finkelstein

…Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk…asks why the Shema prayer states that God’s commandments to us should be “on your heart” rather than “in your heart.” His answer: Often, our hearts simply aren’t open, but if we place these words on our hearts, then the moment our hearts do open, the words can fall in. (149)

GIving Shabbat a Chance

I now understand that this is what people who take Shabbat seriously are doing each week: Like God, they’re seeking to make the world whole. (152)

Like God in the Torah, we have to create Shabbat. (160)

We sanctify time. (161)

It now makes perfect sense to me that the Rabbis connected Shabbat to the Israelites’ creation of the Tabernacle for God. Like the Israelites, we are lovingly, painstakingly creating the most beautiful, durable space possible for the sacred in our midst. (161)

First, Shabbat can help us stop being such control freaks and just let go for a change. (162)

Second, Shabbat can help us fight consumerism, materialism, and workaholism. (163)

Third, Shabbat can be a mini-holiday that injects joy into our lives each week. (164)

Fourth, Shabbat can help us connect with ourselves. (164)

God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful only once we stop creating it and start remembering why it was worth creating in the first place. – Vilna Gaon

Fifth, Shabbat can help us connect with others. (166)

Sixth, Shabbat offers a vision of the world as it should be, inspiring us to improve the world as it is. (168)

Jewish Holidays and the Power of a Well-Placed Banana


A Ritual to Reflect on the Refugee Crisis during the Passover Seder

The world was awakened and shattered by the images of a little boy whose body lay lifeless amidst the gentle surf of a Turkish beach this past summer. Another nameless victim amongst thousands in the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII. But this little boy, like every little boy,  had a name. His name was Aylan Kurdi (age 3), he drowned along with his older brother, Galip (age 5), and their mother, Rihan, on their own exodus to freedom’s distant shore.

Aylan and Galip’s father, Abdullah, survived the harrowing journey – though how does a parent survive the death of their children? In teaching the world about his sons, he shared that they both loved bananas, a luxury in their native war-torn Syria. Every day after work, Abdullah, like mothers and fathers everywhere, would bring home a banana for his sons to share, a sweet little treat, a sign of his enduring love for them.

Tonight we place a banana on our seder table and tell this story to remind us of Aylan, Galip and children everywhere who are caught up in this modern day exodus. May they be guarded and protected along their journey to safety, shielded by the love of their parents, watched over by God full of mercy and compassion.

Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, Temple Sholom Vancouver, British Columbia

It’s not so (177) much about ensuring that we know the story, but that we feel it–that we’re left with a visceral, lingering sense of how it feels to be on the wrong end of oppressive power. (178)

The Torah repeatedly instructs us to tell our children about the Exodus, to embed this story firmly at the core of their Jewish identity, teaching them that no matter how economically secure we may become, no matter how close to the inner circles of power we may get, our ancient plight as strangers and slaves must still form the basis of our moral orientation today. (180)

| But I think we also need to remind our children that even in conditions of crushing oppression, some of the Israelites resisted, and there were righteous people who helped them. That too is our story. That too is part of who we are and who we must we [sic]aspire to be. (180)


It is unfortunate that Shavuot isn’t better known, because this holiday marks the moment when we operationalized the lessons of the Exodus, translating them into a set of laws by which we committed to live. (181)

Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt. – Michael Walzer

We assist refugees today not because they are Jewish, but because we are Jewish – CEO of HIAS

cf. This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared by Alan Lew

According to Jewish tradition, you cannot receive Divine forgiveness for something you did to another person until you have sought to make amends with that person. (187)

[via: Matthew 5:23-24; 6:14-15]

…the worst thing you can do to a poetic metaphor is to take it literally. – Rabbi Harold Kushner


Every community–whether it’s a congregation, school, or workplace–has a moral atmosphere, and that atmosphere influences how we act. (197)

We win no Divine points for self-flagellation, but rather for doing the work of teshuvah. (198)

| Doing teshuvah is not so much about beating yourself up over what you’ve done in the past, but about changing yourself so that you act differently in the future. (198)

Jewish tradition has it that Moses returned with these new tablets on Yom Kippur. And the Talmud claims that the Israelites saved the broken pieces of the old tablets, placing them alongside the new ones in the Ark at the heart of the Tabernacle, and carrying those shards with them on their journey through the desert. (199)

We try our best to live by those new tablets, but we still carry our broken parts around with us to remind us not of who we are, but of who (199) we aren’t–of who we do not wish to be. (200)


On Sukkot, we ask ourselves: If this is true–if we’re just fragile, mortal beings hurtling to our deaths–how are we supposed to live? (200)

Life Cycle Rituals (Well, Mainly Just Death)


According to Jewish tradition, when someone has died, we have two sacred responsibilities–honoring the deceased and caring for the mourners left behind–and Judaism has developed a number of rituals to help us fulfill these obligations. (209)

When a person enters the world his hands are clenched as though to say ‘The whole world is mine, I shall inherit it’; but when he takes leave of it his hands are spread open as though to say ‘I have inherited nothing from the world.’


Kriah is supposed to be socially outrageous and primal. Mourners are not raising awareness for a cause, they are expressing the sense that their world has been torn apart. Kriah is Judaism’s way of providing mourners a controlled outlet for the almost feral despair they may be feeling–the impulse to just shred everything around them. (212)

| The point here isn’t to try to protect mourners from what is happening, but to help them confront it. (213)


Shiva is for one thing only, and that is exploring the emotional catalog of grief: sorrow, emptiness, regret, relief, guilt, anger, shame, self-pity, remorse. – Anita Diamant


With the Kaddish, perhaps we are acknowledging that God is grieved and diminished by the loss of our loved one, just as we are, and we’re praying for God to be restored, once again magnified and sancti-(219)fied. Understood this way, the Kaddish implies that we and God are mourning together. 9220)

Grief is the price we pay for love – Queen Elizabeth

But our grief, while hopefully more manageable, does not magically disappear at this point. It will always be with us in some form. Even once the fabric of our life has been sewn back together, the tear is still there. (221)

At its best, remembering can be a lifesaving–and life-giving–kind of activity. (221)

While flowers may be a good metaphor for the brevity of life, stones seem better suited to the permanence of memory. Stones do not die. – David Wolpe

…each time we access a memory, our brains actually alter it in some way. (226)

We will recognize them because they will be clothed and cloaked in the good deeds we do in their name. – [Hasidic text]

I look at rituals not as closure–I don’t think the word closure goes with death–I look at them as punctuation. – Dr. Donna Schuurman

What we do know, and what Judaism affirms, is that, as it says in the biblical Song of Songs, “Love is strong as death.” We never stop loving those we’ve lost, and in some way they are always with us. But our focus is on this world, this life. That is what Judaism tells us: To choose life so that we may live. (231)

(Though Also, Hopefully, a Beginning) Again, Why Bother with Judaism?

It’s a quintessential Jewish act: seeking, grappling. If you’re reaching, it’s because you believe there’s something to grab hold of. – Abby Pogrebin

But I also wrote this book because I believe that through our individual seeking and grappling, we don’t just discover, but collectively help create, (232) the kind of Judaism that is worth grabbing hold of. (233)

Like it or not, Judaism tends to be in the image of the Jews who most actively participate in this conversation; its contours are shaped by responses to their yearnings, questions, and demands. Each of us has the power to vote with our voices and our feet for the kind of Judaism we wish to experience. But that requires us to show up–to classes, services, and gatherings of all kinds–and to do some learning, questioning, and wrestling. To undertake this effort, we must first decide that there is something worth showing up for–something in which we’re willing to invest our time, trust, and hope. (233)

| That is the paradox at the heart of this book: To create the kind of Judaism that is worth choosing, we need to start by choosing Judaism. (233)

Rabbi Benay Lappe…offers a useful framework, which she calls the “crash theory.” (233)

| Lappe argues that each of us has a master story about our life that explains who we are and what we’re meant to be doing in the world. But inevitably, that master story crashes: Circumstances change, we change, and the old story no longer makes sense. (234)

When your master story crashes, Lappe explains, you have three options:

| Option One: Deny the crash and cling to the master story. (234)

Option Two: Accept the crash, totally reject the old master story, and create an entirely new master story. (234)

Option Three: Don’t deny the crash, but don’t wholesale reject the master story either. Take the crash and use it to reexamine the master story–to figure out what works and what doesn’t–and then rewrite the master story accordingly. (234)

…religions, including Judaism, also have master stories that crash… (235)

I also worry that efforts like these don’t always address a more fundamental problem, one that is not particularly sexy and is tremendously difficult to solve: lack of basic Jewish literacy. (241)

…the defining challenge we face, one that looms over every effort we make to translate Judaism for Jews today. (241)

…Jews who survived the Holocaust and came to America went on to have more children than Jews who were not survivors. (254)

It has chosen me and I have chosen it back. – Blu Greenberg

It took me a long time to love Judaism enough to choose it back. But I’m glad I did. And if you are Jewish–or seek to become so–I hope that you will come to love and choose Judaism too. (254)

About VIA


  1. HAT

    Marvelous! Thanks for the recommendation!!

  2. Pingback: Religion for Adults Means Embracing Complexity – In Conversation

  3. Pingback: The Patterning Instinct | Reflections & Notes | vialogue

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