Friday, March 31, 2017

Spirituality Is...

Written by  Rabbi Jan Dodi

I attended a bar mitzvah this week. The young man spoke about his life journey. Coming from an interfaith home, he considered himself agnostic, later he recognized a spiritual awareness, and ended up becoming religious. This was an incredible journey and insight from a 13-year-old. It made me wonder. Could I have labeled myself as religious or spiritual or perhaps both at 13?


Spirituality for me is knowing that there is something much greater than myself, a hope and longing that I am not alone. It is a rainbow, a flower, a cloud, a birth, and even a death. Religion, on the other hand, is based on a spiritual existence that is rooted in a theology, whether Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Wiccan, or other organized faiths.

I was raised in a Jewish home, but it was a “social” Judaism, not religious. We celebrated the holidays, but the reason for them was definitely missing. Lucky for me, I was able to find a path that brought religion and spirituality into my own life.

For many, raised in a religious home, holidays bring up all kinds of memories. If you are one of the lucky ones, the memories are good, filled with joy. Memories of Easter or Passover – maybe a beautiful church service, an Easter egg hunt, and a big dinner with lots of family or a family or community Seder (the Passover dinner complete with the story of from slavery to freedom) and searching for the afikomen.

Or, maybe you are from the generation where your parents wanted you to discover your spirituality without any of their preconceived notions. For some, having no foundation can either lead to a period of discovery or longing. There are so many paths available – yoga, meditation, religion – so many doors to open and explore. May I suggest that you start with friends. Talk to them about their experiences, where they feel fulfilled, where they feel welcomed, and see if that offers you the same feelings.

Maybe you have been searching for a way to celebrate your birth religion. This can be easy. You can find a religious home closely connected to your upbringing and join in their celebrations.

Unfortunately, for many we were turned away from churches or synagogues because of who we love. This leaves to hurting. Now what? Religion can give us so much. Grounded in a spiritual practice, we know a strength that we can fall back on when times become difficult. When this is endangered with homophobia, we can be shaken to our very roots. Many just turn away from any formal religion. They give up.

I would suggest that instead of giving up you try again. Many religions have come around to understanding that we, the LGBTQ community, should be welcome in their doors. They have gone to the effort to become “welcoming” congregations. I suggest you start there. You will find a listing of religious organizations on page 19 of this issue. And of course, you are welcome to send me an email.

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