I’m currently reading two books on Judaism. Simultaneously, which makes for some very interesting juxtapositions, especially considering what I’m reading.
The first book I picked up was One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them. This book is a series of e-mail letters between Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch and Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Reinman, attempting to explain their own religious world views and convince the other of its importance and legitimacy in Jewish thought.
It’s been a very interesting book so far, though I find myself once again in the middle (and often somewhat more on the Orthodox side of “middle” on many halachic issues). On the other hand, I left off just before they began talking about the role of women in Judaism.
The other book, recommended by a good friend, is Magic of the Ordinary: Recovering the Shamanic in Judaism by Rabbi Gershon Winkler, a “former” Ultra-Orthodox rabbi. In this book, Rabbi Winkler delves back into the Jewish practices common in the Torah and more specifically, frequently referred to in the Talmud. It’s an intriguing mix of modern Judaism, Kabbalah, and Talmudic mysticism.
My favorite section so far has to do with acknowledging – and seeking – the Source of All Blessing in everything from the subtle “pull” toward a stone that catches our eye (and attributing the vibrational energy in that stone to the Creator of all) to the food we eat. [And I suspect the energy of those who work in the plants that process our food – espcially meat – is also absorbed by the animals who become our food, and eventually absorbed by our bodies.]
On page 39, he writes, “It is therefore not enough to recite a blessing over a pizza as a way of thanking G-d. It is also important to hear in every bite of the pizza a divine ‘Hello,’ the Creator reaching out to the Creation.”
So the first book is confirming my stand somewhere in the middle. And the second book is taking me in an entirely different direction – neither right nor left, but perhaps both inward and outward.
They seem appropriate choices for this immediate post-Shavuot time, when the memory of accepting the Torah is still fresh, and the divine invitation to join the Covenant echoes endlessly from Sinai, making that choice not something we do once, or even annually on Shavuot, but every moment, with every breath praising HaKadosh Baruch Hu.