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Roadside Assistance in the Holy Land


Art by Andrea D’Aquino

We asked Rami Shapiro to journey with 30 fellow seekers to this ancient flashpoint of world religions. Our question for the Rabbi was: “What does mature spirituality look like?”

Grammar aside, “spirituality” is a verb: a progressive stripping away of the conditioning that blinds you to the truest fact of your existence: you are a happening of God, YHVH (Exodus 3:15, from the Hebrew verb “to be”), the Happening happening as all happening. You are God the way a wave is the ocean. Because spirituality is progressive, I prefer to speak of a maturing rather than a mature spirituality. Spirituality isn’t fixed but fluid, not a final “aha” but a recurring “wow.” In the Hebrew Bible this maturing spirituality is called Lech Lecha: YHVH said to Abram and Sarai, “Lech lecha: take leave of your country, your clan, and your parents to journey to the land I will show you. . . .” (Genesis 12:1) Lech lecha literally means “walk (lech) to yourself (lecha)”—suggesting that this seemingly outer journey is in fact an inner one. The early rabbis agree and noted that if this were an outer journey you would first leave your parents, then your clan, and lastly your country rather than the other way around. The order Torah uses is based not on geography but psychology: It is easier to fr …

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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