Five Things Rabbis Know
October 1, 2017 § Leave a comment
- There is more to this world than meets the eye.
It is possible, of course, to have an empiricist view of the world, in which the only things that are possible are the things that can be seen and measured. But when one spends enough time in this unique space, helping families and individuals make the transition from one kind of life-stage to the next, one starts to become aware of how much energy there is that goes unseen but is indeed felt.
In my own experience, I am most aware of this reality when in the presence of the dying. In the last stages of the process, a dying person appears to be able to negotiate both realms at once: they speak to persons living and dead, often in the same conversation. It can be difficult to watch, but it also seems somehow holy. Wave it off as projection if you wish, but there is certainly more here than meets the eye.
- Faith is not a constant thing.
Life can be wounding when you least expect it: an unforeseen tragedy, an unforgivable betrayal, or an unwelcome diagnosis can waylay the best of us. Even rabbis experience doubt.
Nonetheless, having worked with people across the spectrum of practice and belief, I can tell you this: those times when you feel the least religious are also the ones when you need religion most.
In other words, if you find that you cannot connect to God, then at least connect to the community.
- It is likely that your understanding of God will change as you grow older.
A child’s understanding of God usually involves a bearded king on a throne, based on a literalist reading of the metaphors in the prayer book. But the intention of those prayers is to address that which is grander than all images and greater than all ideas.
- The Bible is wilder and grander than you remember.
It is also much earthier than you would expect. Many thoughtful and intelligent people find themselves turned off from the Biblical text on account of its most vocal representatives – the people who are willing to selectively quote from its harsher moments without internalizing the message that we should not oppress others, especially the weakest among us.
- Forgiveness is possible.
For most people, the source of their greatest regret is one of those moments when they have lacked the courage to do what is right. Usually, they could not bear to admit to themselves the full truth of the matter and papered over their guilty conscience with small lies: it didn’t matter. It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t that bad. No one knew. The consequences that flow from that kind of mistake are what hurt most, sometimes excruciatingly so.
Nonetheless, there is such thing as forgiveness, real forgiveness. It feels like pure sunshine on your up-turned face. It is what allows us to heal and grow.