Meditations to guide your journey through springtime
I sent along my Passover/Easter meditations and greetings last week to give you all time to consider these immense springtime liberation/salvation holidays. If you read this column before Passover and Easter I am including a spiritual meditation to help you go a bit deeper than brisket and ham in your spiritual journey through springtime.
-- For Passover: The story of the Exodus from Egypt requires us, according to rabbinic interpretation, to view ourselves, in our place and time right now, to see ourselves as having personally left Egypt, "Because of what the Lord did for me when I left Egypt." In Hebrew, Egypt is "Mizraim," and it comes from a root word "meitzar," which means "constriction, or a narrow place, or a slot canyon through high rocks." Egypt is the symbol of restriction and fear, of limitation and powerlessness. So try on this question: "In my life right now, what is my Egypt?"
-- For Easter: Easter offers Christians the hope of salvation from sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are not all guilty of all sins, so try this question: "In my life right now, what sin am I committing from which I most need Jesus' atoning death?"
May this springtime bring you out of Egypt and into a place where nothing is pressing in against you if you are Jewish, and may this season wash away your sins in the blood of Christ if you are a Christian. And if you are neither, may this springtime bring you a deep sense of renewal after a bleak winter and may the lush promise of spring fill your soul with hope and wonder.
Q: Recently, you responded to a question from someone named "E" from Bethpage, N.Y. The question was if you were raised in a Christian religion from birth, would you in later life convert to Judaism because you felt that Judaism had the correct answers for your religious beliefs. You did NOT directly answer his/her question in the column. Why not? You left all your regular readers "hanging." Would you convert to Judaism or not? -- From D on Long Island, N.Y.
A: I mostly get criticized for questions I do answer, so it is refreshing to be criticized for a question I did not answer. As in all things I follow Albert Einstein whenever possible. Einstein was once asked if he was proud to be born Jewish. He answered, "No. Because being born Jewish did not give me the opportunity to choose to be Jewish." I would like to believe that I would have chosen to be Jewish like Einstein, however, there is a piece of me that believes that whatever faith I was born into and taught to love and respect by my family, I would have embraced. My late God Squad partner Fr. Tom Hartman and I were firm believers in the idea that there are many ways up the same mountain to God. My faith of Judaism teaches that belief explicitly, "The righteous of all nations shall inherit a share in the World To Come." Christianity has that belief but it is also mixed in with, "The only way to the father is through me." (John 14:6)
I know that there are many sincere climbers up the same mountain to God who change paths during their ascent. I know that conversion to another faith is possible and I bear no ill will against those who discover that they can come to God more easily through a faith that is different from their family's. The problematic issue for me is evangelization, which is the effort to forcefully solicit converts. This can lead to the view that there is something spiritually deficient in the faith of one's past. I choose to view conversion as a discovery; that what seemed at first to be a song sung by strangers was in fact a song intended to be sung by you. The Dalai Lama wrote a forward to one of our books in which he took up the question of why there are many religions in the world and not just one, "There are many religions for the same reason that there are many kinds of food. Some people eat bread and some eat rice. The main thing is to eat what grows best where you live." Judaism is simply the faith that grows best where I live. I hope that answers the question.
Tommy was often asked if he wanted me to convert to Catholicism. He always answered the same way, "Definitely not! Marc complains too much."
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)(c) 2019 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.