I have the greatest privilege of being associated with Native cultures of many continents.. thus satisfying my curiosity and desire to travel and the chance to help them with my medical expertise. these notes are from those travels. I am a professor at the University of Havana
lundi 2 décembre 2013
SPIRITUALITY: LETTER TO A JEWISH FRIEND IN MIAMI
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
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
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
What is spirituality? Why do we
say so and so is spiritual? Why do we say such and such place is
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.
(TOMB OF THE YEMENITE KABBALIST NEHEMIAH MOTTA IN COCHIN, INDIA)
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
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
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
I said to myself
I know John Levi who was then the rabbi
of the liberal synagogue in Melbourne
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
All of us laughed!
I just goggled his name
Franco Levi Milan and just what I
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
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
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.
YOU ARE SPIRITUAL IF YOU HAVE TIME FOR
WHICH INCLUDES THE
IMPORTANT QUESTION: WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU?