A Grain of Sand

"I will multiply you as the stars in heaven and as the sand upon the shore." - Genesis 22:17

"I can see the master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." - Dylan, Every Grain of Sand (on Shot of Love)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Extinguishing the Burning Bush, or: Spiritual v. Religious

Ah, Boulder - the land of the "spiritual not religious." I hear it all the time; I'm actually sympathetic to the idea when I hear people use it as a self-descriptor and explanation for why they are not engaged in Jewish life. But it bugs me.

Rabbi Scott Perlo has an article on HuffPo about the tension. For him, spiritual is the immediate, direct experience of God. Religion, on the other hand

incorporates generations of learning and has grown wise and thoughtful. Religion is patient in a measure that spans lifetimes, and knows the depth of things. Its foundations are hesed -- care and tzedek -- justice. It has plumbed both our mortality and our divinity, and speaks to us of our greatness and our smallness in the same breath. Religion helps us understand life.

Religion ... smothers spontaneity and individuality. It struggles to see people as different from one another (a relatively recent psychological discovery, as an aside). It does not thrill with its quickness, for it is not quick, and prefers rhythm over syncopation, harmony over innovation.

Yes, BUT. "Religion" is a collection of memories/texts/experiences/discourses/traditions/memories that tries to describe spiritual experiences. Religion is, in part, spirituality in the past.

Whether it is Moses at the burning bush, the four who entered the PaRDeS, or the ecstatic expressions of Chasidic insight, Jewish "religion" is made up of what we now call "spiritual" experience. So why is that so often lost?

So why is the fire of the burning bush so often stamped out in our synagogues? We need to keep the fires burning....

1 comment:

  1. I have found that experiencing the Jewish Religion, Practices, can actually give way to great comfort, insight and understanding not only on a daily basis though in times of stress provide a source of center and strength...not to mention the deeper sense of spirit that continues to develop...an understanding and deeper connection to our history, past and traditions... to ourselves...