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Is There a Male Spirituality?


When my husband and I talk about spirituality, he just doesn’t get it—yet I think he’s a spiritual person. Is there such a thing as male spirituality?

Rabbi Rami: Yes and no. Spirituality is about practice, a disciplined effort to effect an alchemical transformation of our leaden egos into the gold of spirit. This effort requires study, meditation, chanting, prayer, bodywork, and a reclaiming of our psychological shadow. How men do these things may differ from how women do them, but the necessity of doing them is common to us all. If you want more insight into the male soul, read The Hidden Spirituality of Men by Matthew Fox, and From Wild Man to Wise Man by Richard Rohr.

I’m a Jew, and I want my six-year-old daughter to know that she’s a Jew, but just what does that mean? I can’t find two Jews who agree!
That is what it means to be a Jew: “Two Jews. Three opinions.” Jews are an ancient global family, and like all families we have lots of differing opinions about issues that matter to us, including how we define ourselves. Israeli novelist Amos Oz calls Judaism a civilization of argument and doubt. Jews question everything, and we relish a good argument. We even argue with God! This is why we are called Yisrael (Israel), “Godwrestlers.” For me, being a Jew means belonging to a 4,000–year–old family that started with Abraham and Sarah. It means being an heir to a 3,000–year–old literary tradition that began with the Bible. It means having access to teachings and traditions reminding us that all life is sacred, and it means devoting myself to worldly justice and compassion in order to be a blessing to all the families of the earth, human and otherwise (Genesis 12:3).

When people talk about God the Father can they escape the influence of their actual fathers?
If you base your idea of God on an idealized or demonized image of your dad, then I imagine your experience with the latter will impact your understanding of the former. The real issue, however, is to free yourself from such thinking and to seek God outside the frame of childhood experience. If you identify God as Father, your notions of father will come into play. But if, as I do, you understand God as the Source and Substance of all reality, the One out of whom we come, in whom we live, and to whom we return at death, then there is no need to link God with Dad, Mom, or your personal history.

Why is God so eager to kill infidels and heretics?
God doesn’t kill, believers do. God is about compassion and justice; religion is about power and control. When the powerful want something they often put their desires in the mouth of God. When God asks you to do something you wouldn’t do without God commanding it, chances are it isn’t God asking at all.

Why are there so many religions?
For the same reason there are so many brands of soda: different people have different tastes. Religions are like soft drink brands competing over market share, with one major difference: while the makers of Coke never support the murder of Pepsi drinkers or imagine them suffering in hell for their choice of soda, the makers of religions often do.

I’m considering returning to Christianity, but which branch should I choose?
Jesus taught us to love. Choose the path that makes you the most loving, open, welcoming, and just; and whose members embrace the world with open minds, hearts, and arms.

To send a question to Rabbi Rami, email [email protected].

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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