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lundi 2 décembre 2013


Thoughts on Spirituality
I have thought about it for long.

One thing I can tell you what it is not:  Rituals and Dogma like you mentioned in your email of organized religion. I am sure Christianity, Islam were Spiritually embedded religions once upon a time, but it must all have changed when the Crusaders sacked byzantine cities and Arabs and Moslems sacked Europe in return in 1430. I think it is good to separate Religion and State, one of the fundamental problems facing the modernization of Islam, according to Bernard Lewis.

Hatuey was a rebel Taino leader in Baracoa, Cuba.
He was captured by the Spanish and was being prepared for "quartered", that is four horses are tied to his four limbs and then driven in different directions, tearing the body apart

The priest came and said, if you convert to Christianity now, you would go to Heaven
Hatuey thought for a moment and asked: is that where you Spaniards go to when you die?
Yes of course, the priest said with glee.

If that is the place where you people go to, Hatuey famously declared, I would rather go to Hell!

Even though I am grateful for the Hassidim for keeping our scriptures alive (mainly because the 90 per cent of the secular Jews don't, unless you are listening to a rabbi like Mitch) and understand their difficult lives. Once in a flight from Miami to New York, a Hassid sat next to me who wanted to convince me that the earth is only 5765 years old and nothing existed before HShem created it!   End of the story…

What is spirituality?  Why do we say so and so is spiritual?  Why do we say such and such place is spiritual?

We are connected
To our families
By birth and marriage 
And through them to a distant part
Most of us cannot recall or remember our ancestors just past a couple of generations, or know their history for perhaps ten generations,
Then it is only history and hope we were part of that history.

Then, there is our identification
Or cultural identity
We are the luckiest of all people living in the westernized world in that we have a strong cultural identity which although based on a religion has very little to do with it in that as Rabbi Mitch puts it, the religion itself is evolving and not just based on what was written millennia ago in our holy books as there are constant commentaries in every generation.

This cultural identity gives us a connection that to a non-Jew is very difficult to understand. In Cuba even professors of religion are enigmatic why and how the Jews can be Jewish without being religious.
I remember, I was still a teenager, when I first attended my international meeting of Jewish Students in Milan Italy

There were blond Jews from Sweden
A hook nosed tall Jew from Finland, caricature of course, from Turkuu
A beautiful, lithesome Norwegian girl (with whom I fell madly in love with)
And most memorably, Franco Levi from Milan

I said to myself
I know John Levi who was then the rabbi of the liberal synagogue in Melbourne
William Levy
But I have never heard of Franco Levi

And I still remember a story young Franco Levi who said to me
My transistor radio always spoke in Italian to me, but when I went to Germany I was so surprised it began to speak in German!
All of us laughed!
I just goggled his name
Franco Levi Milan and just what I found?
Franco Levi si candida a rappresentare l'Associazione Radicali Senza Fissa Dimora nel comitato nazionale di Radicali Italiani - 

Some of us never give up, right? And I sincerely hope it is the same Franco Levi, Congratulations, Franco!

Then something occurred to me, on that day after I said Hello to Jose Goldstein from Costa Rica, there is a connection here, which is beyond all natural and physical phenomenon!
It is that connection that I term Spirituality.

So the central anchor for any spirituality I might have (I am always dubious of people who claim to be spiritual) is deeply rooted in Jewish Spirituality. Luckily enough I began working away from the non-spiritual world of Medical Practice in the west to the American Indians (and starved for a few years because of that!) and soon a connection to a general mythical Spiritual world emerged. That the spiritual world is the same for all of us regardless of our religion or culture and that we need a particularized form of connection to that spiritual world, in our cases is our Jewish connection, not the religion or rituals but our sense of being part of the universe. (remember, when we pray melech haolam, haolam here is not this earth but this universe!)

At the level of the spiritual world, one begins to see the immense similarity between all the faiths and belief systems of the world: Yogic Philosophy, Philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurty, Buddhism and of course the American Indian Philosophy.

And using idioms of particular expressions, they say very many things that are similar
Just let me talk about one saying

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

So far I have encountered this in Yogic Teachings, Buddhist Teachings and American Indian teachings.

And as is evident in your case, it is also true among the Jewish People.
We grew up knowing and thinking of the immense wisdom available to us at any time among our people, however small in number we may be, and still had only a flirting inclination to delve into it. How can we begin to understand The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides, which is usually given as a Bar Mitzvah Gift? Or Kabbalah apart from its superficialities? So we resign ourselves to the pleasant aspect of Jewish spirituality, which is mainly our solidarity with Israel and our identification, a very strong one, with our people.
And then, without realizing a teacher appears, from an unknown quarter and unexpectedly.
I had learned the Jewish rituals and some prayers in Melbourne, Australia but the spiritual aspects did not arrive until I was a regular guest at the home of Dr Joel and Mrs. Irena Glaser in Coconut Grove in Miami! Irena had become such a fount of knowledge (or is it font of knowledge, both derived from the world fountain) and more importantly through her conduct had become our teacher, instructing us without castigating us but with tenderness and thoughtfulness. 
Perhaps that is why when people ask me what are the things you are grateful for in your life, I can answer without much delay, in this particular order
I am a Jew
I am an Australian because of what Australia gave me at a critical juncture in my life
I am associated with American Indians
Cuba is in my heart

All of the above has one thing in common: relationships. One of the more important phrases American Indians say is: Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.
And to me, that would summarize the essence of Spirituality in the modern world.