How many times during the day—if ever—do the following three words pass your lips? “I don’t know.” My answer to that question is “Not enough.”
A founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is also one of today’s leading thinkers on the spiritual stages of aging. Writer Kim Rosen spoke with the 88-year-old Zalman about how we can learn to approach the final years of life—for ourselves and our loved ones—with a sense of peace.
What do you mean by the December years?
There’s an underground spiritual movement in the United States that has grown so quietly over the last few decades that you may not even know you’re part of it.
To find out if you’re part of this secret network, just answer the following question: “Are you currently involved in a small group that meets regularly and provides support and caring for those who participate in it?” If you answered “yes,” congratulations. You are part of the small group movement. More than 40 percent of Americans belong to such small groups, reports Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow. Do you?
My best friend and I are intrigued by enlightenment but can’t define it. What is enlightenment?
Rabbi Rami: For me enlightenment is the act or art of embracing what is as it is, accepting that it is what it is because at that moment it cannot be other than it is, and then engaging justly and compassionately with what is. Nothing to be intrigued about, just lived.
If God is infinite, God is everything.
If God is everything, God is also ego.
If God is also ego, why should we kill the ego?
My friend Pauline was trying Zentangles—doodling exercises that promise to pull your concentration into drawing in a way that frees the rest of your mind to come up with creative ideas. Since I’d been stuck in a creative block for months, I decided to follow her lead.
As I waited for my workbook to show up, I thought about how creative longtime practitioners of Buddhism tend to be.
Why does it sometimes seem that people with the most money can be the least generous and most fearful about losing money?
Author and translator Camille Helminski speaks on Sufism, Rumi, love, and the divine.
Exploring group devotion in India's Kumbh Mela pilgrimage.
We must teach our children about religion for three reasons. First, human beings are intrinsically religious: for thousands of years we have inquired into the meaning of life, often expressing our thoughts in the form of religious myth, ritual, and theology. Teaching our children about religion helps cultivate the art of existential inquiry: learning to ask and answer the core questions of life: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? and Why?
Second, human beings often use religion to justify warring against one another. Teaching our children about the human origins of religion helps them to resist religiously sanctioned violence.
Third, our children live in a world where working constructively with one’s neighbors requires an understanding of our neighbors’ religion. Teaching our children about religion helps them to build more stable and loving communities.
My email flooded with questions from readers this weekend regarding the shootings in Portland, Oregon and Newtown, Conneticut. As always, I offer answers not to close a conversation, but to broaden one. Here are some of the questions, and my answers:
"My third grader asks why God didn’t prevent the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings. Our pastor told us what to say to our son, and the answers satisfy him, but not me. Why didn’t God spare these people? Why is there evil?"
This may be difficult to hear, but your questions are the shadow side of your theology. Because you imagine a God who could stop the killings, you wonder why he didn’t. Because you imagine a God who is all–good, you wonder why there’s evil. Imagine differently. In Isaiah 45:7, God says, “I fashion light and create darkness; I make peace and create evil.” God contains all opposites, and creation actualizes them. Reality is what reality is because God is who God is: the source of all things, evil as well as good.
"Can you help me find Bible passages explaining these killings?"
Don’t search the Bible to explain what happened; search it for wisdom that helps you respond well to what happened. Start with Job 2:9—“Shouldn’t we accept the bad as well as the good from God?” Job realizes the “yin–yang” nature of God and creation, and teaches radical acceptance: facing the truth of what is as the first step toward positively engaging with what is. Without the distraction of “why,” we are free to grieve more fully. The healing is in the grieving, not the explaining.