The Fad That Would Not Pass
The spirituality craze indulges only the self and fails to help improve the world
10/28/2004 07:08:41 PM
It's a sad fact that no organized faith system is capable of adequately adressing the spirtual longing of all of its people. To address the flock as a group who should all seek enlightenment by the same prescribed path would be fine, if only we were not individuals. This is not to say that any particular doctrine cannot guide any number of people toward a more enlightened, meaningful life, but it's a misstep to assume that the same methods will work equally well for all. This is likely why so many have turned away from traditional religion; our individuality as humans demands that our faith and spirituality be highly personal in order to be meaningful. Many churches half-recognize this by teaching us to seek out "a personal relationship with God," but fall short in the practice of handing the same map to all. With the utmost respect to Rabbi Hertzberg, I propose that one must first address the needs of the individual before attempting to prescribe a path for spiritual growth.
11/18/2001 04:54:02 PM
If Judaism as an organized faith system is not adequately addressing the spiritual longing of its people then doesn't it behoove us, as Jews, to figure out why that is? You bet this fad hasn't faded away. IT'S NOT GOING TO! Sprituality is a basic human longing. It is a need for meaning and connection with that which is greater than ourselves. I agree with the rabbi that in THEORY, through Torah and its commentaries, Judaism is equipped with the materials for allowing Jews to find such connection and meaning. But the fact that so many Jews have chosen to look elsewhere (and sometimes everywhere) seems to me to be evidence that something has gone awry IN PRACTICE. Many Jews aren't getting what they need, pure and simple. Is this not a major wake-up alarm to which Judaism had better listen?
11/29/2000 05:00:49 AM
Call it whatever you want...spiritual fad, like hippies? Well, I kind of considered myself a hippie in college 74-78, perhaps; but, at the same time I didn't really know if I believed in G-d or not. I never felt I could make a difference. I never thought about the rest of the world or the big picture. I was raised a conservative jew and even passed hebrew school but it was never meaningful to me. Now, after some pretty unpleasant experiences occuring in the past 3-4 years, I have awoken to what it all means to me. This new age spiritualism IS about me but as I relate to all others. Almost suddenly I care about so many different things and wish I could go back to the hippie theme of peace and love...global awareness...love all as we love ourselves. This is what spiritualism means to me..big picture. Hey, Even if I am in a minority of jewish people who believe in cremation, I just may have to veer off course a bit, in order to live as a Jew and as a spiritual human being. Ya know?
11/08/2000 09:59:39 AM
If you need an example of a dabbler, consider Madonna. She tries on and sheds "Ways" like snake skins as she constantly re-invents her image for mass consumption. She speaks one thing, but watch her videos to get a handle on what she wants us to know about her, what she really thinks is important.
11/08/2000 09:49:51 AM
Both Hertzberg and Kamenetz have some truth to speak. I agree that too many of my generation dabble in spiritual matters, leaving a Supreme Being out of it and are merely looking for self-gratification. We did try to leave the materialism of our WWII era parents behind, only to be misled into thinking things such as drug abuse, promiscuity and superstition could feed our souls. No wonder so many "sold out", became Yuppies and chose materialism once again. Yes, Buddhism is ancient, venerable and true, but how many of us hold-over hippies really understand or truly follow the Eight Fold Noble Path? How many even know what that is?
10/30/2000 05:50:48 PM
No, it is absolutely not. How else are people to experience a real spirituality instead of empty dogma?
08/02/2000 08:22:17 PM
Werent Jesus, Buddha, Guru Nanak (Founder of Sikhism) and many other great spiritual masters were all on a search for personal spiritual quests.
06/20/2000 08:47:07 AM
Both miss the nature of the problem by a mile. The problem isn't spiritual faddishness that has always been with us and always will be Jesus refered to such as second seeds in tha parable of the seeds and the sower. It is why in the Old days one was required to demonstrate steadfastness and soundness of doctrine before one was permitted to teach in a church. The problem is that modern man has assumed that all spiritualities are more or less equal. Torquemada was spiritual and tortured people the Hashashin were very spiritual and murders for hire, the thuggees were also extremely spiritual and so evil that they strangled their victims lest a drop of their blood cause a blade of grass to grow and it doesn't end there. Remember Jim Jones and Guiana, the Heaven's Gate Cult and this last group in Africa? Anyone who thinks all spiritualities equal is either intectual lazy or lacking in discernment.
06/13/2000 10:31:10 PM
Hertzberg is right about the spirituality fad, but he is guilty of promoting it. Notoriously, he doesn't believe in God. He presided at the Bar Mitzvah of a friend of mine who subsequently converted to Catholicism, on the grounds that Judaism had no spiritual content. If the Rabbi rejects Jewish spirituality, who can blame the congregation for looking for it elsewhere? Hertzberg is milking a he-goat while Kamenetz holds a sieve. They deserve each other.
06/13/2000 12:46:57 AM
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06/13/2000 12:46:40 AM
Please go to www.Yahweh.com ,The House of Yahweh,Yahweh's prophesied work in these the last days.HURRY!
06/13/2000 12:28:49 AM
Why should personal spirituality and traditional religion be separate from the Heavenly Father who's name is YAHWEH? His 613 perfect Laws of Peace, if kept would lead a person to personal internal peace and if kept globally would lead to global peace.
06/09/2000 02:33:17 PM
(Addendum to last post -- see below) Is it useful, or valid? Well, it has its place. But it's not religion, and it's not a substitute for religion. "Spirituality" says "What is the meaning of all this?" Religion says, to greater or lesser degrees, "*This* is the meaning of all this." Why ask for meaning if you don't really want an answer? Real answers are hard to deal with; they are demanding, they are unyielding, they are complex, and they are blunt. "I am the Lord your God; thou shalt not have other gods before Me." They are also deep in ways that quests for "meaning" and "personal fulfillment" can never be. Why? Because they are first about following after God, and second about doing God's work in the world. That is the root of meaning, and the source of all real fulfillment. But it comes from looking to obey God, not to be fulfilled.
06/09/2000 02:30:22 PM
Contrary to recovCath ("recovering Catholic," I assume), "follow after God and help perfect the world" is some very strong, and very apt, guidance. What the rabbi is saying, though he might have said it more tactfully, is another variation of one of the great "spiritual" truths. No one finds God (or the Absolute, if you prefer). Rather, we are found -- grace, enlightenment, come as gift. "Seeking" is about building an internal disposition, a habit of soul, that is amenable to being found and cooperating with being found. And the wisdom of the ages (at least in the monotheisms) is clear about the path: it of course requires knowledge of self, but no less does it require obedience, service, self-abnegation. The spiritual quest, since it never admits a normative truth about God or His revelation, is self-centered, since even when it concerns itself with what is beyond the self, it does so on the self's terms.
06/09/2000 01:08:25 PM
The Rabbi is right on because the door is narrow. It is very comforting to close our eyes & blindly choose to believe that as long as we are seeking - all is well. Sorry but God is an awesome and jealous God. Absolute Truth exists and is independent of our self centered selves. We can start a new "ism" group or cult by just using our imagination a little, does that make it right? Tradition and thousands of years of existence of a cult or pagan activity does not make it truth, we can continue doing the wrong thing for many years, refusing to be educated and refusing to receive God's gift and way of salvation, His Son - MY Lord Jesus Christ.
06/09/2000 12:00:05 PM
While it is a bit disturbing that the Rabbi seems to equate the Dalai Lama with New Age spirituality and "strange stuff", I cannot agree with those who think Spirituality and Religion are opposed. What happens is that most people are so overwhelmingly rationalistic that they think they have to compare the literal words of different religions to see who is "right", or "truer". Judaism doesn't think it's the best. It thinks it's the best for Jews. That may or may not be right. Religious traditions are a support system within which we can find "spirituality" (whatever that means). I have to agree with the Rabbi that we need to be careful of self-appointed experts who are endemic in much of the "new religion".
06/09/2000 09:33:02 AM
A personal spiritual quest does not have to be faddish, but it is so "American" to get caught up in exotic trappings and mistake them for the essence of spirituality. For me, the essence of spirituality is now I live every minute of my every day life. I have to smile at people talking on their cell phones while tail-gating the driver ahead of them, perhaps en route to their meditiation class, where they can learn to "be here now" "present in the moment" "focussed." If they would concentrate on being calm and present and doing one thing at a time--whatever they are doing--they might discover that "spirituality" starts at home, so to speak. As the rabbi says, a "mitzvah" is making life more bearable for others--if this was our guide in our moment-to-moment behaviors, we wouldn't need to go to India to discover inner peace.
03/12/2000 05:20:09 PM
For traditional religion to have anything of a personal meaning to a person, there often HAS to be a 'personal spiritual quest'. In fact it wasn't till I 'left' traditional religion, (or should I say church), that the Spirituality of Scripture even started to have any meaning for me. That G-d is not just some 'god' of a certain culture/people. Which is why I can not understand how people of any culture can think G-d is limited to their beliefs. How can the G-d of creation be limited?
03/09/2000 09:53:32 AM
The way I read it, the Rabbi is simply saying: ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God. You can call God "Truth" or "Allah", but the basic precepts of most religions are the same: they call for submission to a higher power, regular practice, and service to others.
03/08/2000 03:10:36 PM
I believe that the issue is not where we turn for our spiritual sustenance. It could be traditional religion, eastern religions, paganism, new age, whatever. The issue is what we do once we find it. Do we make it our way of life, or do we just "dabble" and flit among various spiritual fads, never really committing to any of them?
03/07/2000 08:18:14 PM
The problem is that our consciousness has outgrown our religion. This is a frightening place to be in, because we no longer have the comfort of certainty. We are cut loose; we are in midair. This is not a good time to waffle. The only place we CAN seek the truth now is within. We cannot rely on the opinions of others. This doesn't invalidate religious teachings. On the contrary, they are screaming to be validated (not parroted)in our inmost lives. Which would you rather do, restrain yourself from searching for the truth out of allegiance to an earthly organization, or wildly explore the world of God in all of its varieties? Why be afraid to look at something from different angles? If you're looking for God, you WILL find God. Oh, yes.
03/07/2000 06:53:05 PM
Rabbi Hertzberg's words represent exactly what has driven me away from organized religion (Judaism, to be precise). Each religion believes that ITS is the only, the 'right' way to honor the universe, to serve others, to connect with eternity. How self-serving is that?! Yes, spirit and religion are polar opposites. I have long believed that the purpose of spirit is to connect us to each other and to the universe; the purpose of religion is to perpetuate itself. Forgive my crass generalization, but what drove me away was this: 'how are we going to pay for these salaries and this huge building if everyone goes their own individual, spiritual path?' We are all the same. Only our external, physical, earthbound practices divide us. And the harder people like Rabbi Hertzberg insist that Labels (with Capital Letters) are not only necessary but more important than the individual growth that leads to universal awareness and connection, the more vigorously I will resist and encourage resistance.
03/07/2000 06:19:19 PM
I agree with Hertzberg in this respect: Spirituality without commitment, effort, and sacrifice is self-indulgent and empty. Glenfinnan is right. Seeking is one thing; finding, and the hard work of PRACTICING, is quite another.
03/07/2000 03:48:03 PM
There is no such thing as an impersonal spiritual quest. It seems to me they are attacking the feminist religion without saying that they are attacking it. Men, attacking women's religion by saying women, the traditional servers are not as religious because we serve our own needs, instead of theirs. They see our service as their due. I see that the cause of justice is better served when women determine their own morals. I see women serving the male chavinist churches as a form of insanity. I'll keep my energy for the Goddess, and you can hold your breath until I decide I want to rejoin the cult of the patriarchy.
03/07/2000 12:15:22 PM
Rabbi Hertzberg is partly right, it seems to me. I don't think that there is anything wrong with spiritual seeking, but modern spirituality seems to have an aversion to spiritual finding. G.K. Chesterton once said that an open mind is like an open mouth: sooner or later, it needs to come down on something solid. To become truly spiritual, one needs to embrace the depth of one's traditions, and to submit to its disciplines. Too many modern spiritual questers want to take a little bit of Tantra, a little bit of Kabbalah, a little bit of Shamanism, in a kind of spiritual Mambo No. 5. Rabbi Hertzberg is calling for a committed marriage.
03/07/2000 11:44:34 AM
The point, that you clearly missed, is that to help oneself, you must help others. Today's "spiritual" quest is a selfish quest.
03/07/2000 08:30:32 AM
In response I would quote rabbi Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?" I think the first question responds poignantly to the rabbis criticisms of the "self-indulgence" of modern spirituality. I think the rabbi confuses "self-indulgence and selfishness" with acting in self-interest. Everyone has to act in self-interest sometimes. As Hillel points out, life is about balance. It is about balancing self-interest with altruism. The rabbi apparently comes from a very traditionalist perspective at one end of a spectrum and blasts everything not at his end as if it were at the other end of the spectrum. He is right in the sense that some modern spirituality seems to be rather vacuous and self-indulgent. However, he is wrong in portraying all modern spirituality in that light. Like so many who are stuck in worlds of black and white he fails to realize that most people live in a world of shades of gray.
03/07/2000 08:29:55 AM
Bravo to Rodger Kamenetz. He says it all. It is folly to lump self indulgence with the word spirituality. There is self indulgence in all sects and religions. True spirituality practices the Golden Rule and Lovingkindness and a spiritual person feels the sorrow when we fall short of those ideals.
03/07/2000 12:50:50 AM
Huston Smith, author of The World's Religions, said in regards to the current spirituality movement, "It's not the altered states but the altered traits that are important." A large percentage of spiritual seekers are striving to improve themselves inwardly by replacing hatred with love, cynicism with hope, apathy with conscious living. Many great things have come out of the New Age Movement, such as self-responsibility and the abandonment of victim consciousness, the open-minded search for truth and the rejection of blind obedience, a renewed faith in the human spirit and the move away from the belief in a vengeful God. There are lots of things in this world worthy of criticism--these are not among them. Every movement has its shortcomings? Why rush to tear down a good thing? This is not what is needed at this time in our history.
03/06/2000 09:03:20 PM
Well rabbi, if I were to listen to what you say, than that would mean that for someone who has only known of the christian religious tradition, would be 'self-indulgent' in looking into the Jewish aspect of spirituality? Does this make me nothing more than a seeker after the 'hungry i'?
03/03/2000 02:08:10 PM
You go, rabbi! I'm a Baptist who's as tired as you are of the self-indulgent pablum being peddled as "spirituality." True religion is about caring for widows and orphans and keeping one's soul unspoiled by the world. It's not about warm, cuddly feelings about a nice-guy God who leaves us alone to spend our Sunday mornings sipping lattes and reading the Times. You can't be a Christian or a Jew by yourself. You have to be part of the world around you, in it but not of it. But you can be "spiritual" without having to do a blessed thing but feel good about yourself. What a lame excuse for real, red-blooded faith.
03/02/2000 06:59:56 PM
What does it mean to be "self-indulgent" and is that a bad word? Everything we do, think, or feel is self-indulgent. The only way to the upliftment of the human race is through personal spiritual quest. We can't have a spiritual quest unless it is PERSONAL.
03/02/2000 03:56:41 PM
Is it self-indulgent to embark on a personal spiritual quest? On the surface, of course it is. Anything "personal" is an indulgence of self by definition--that much should be a given. The real question is whether or not a personal spiritual quest is a valid, sincere, and appropriate form of religious expression. I suspect the answer to that question is much more problematic.
03/02/2000 12:11:59 PM
What a derisive insulting tone! Well in his tone then... Imagine all those years of teaching and research wasted by the learned professor! How can anyone continue to entertain the notion that there is one set of human needs and one way to serve them? Calling sincere seekers evil and irreverent!? Sheer nonsense. Of course rabbis do try to bully the young people who are running away from the synagogues. Stay here, evil lurks outside, they say. But it's not working. Judaism's Hertzbergs have developed little of any consequence to enhance the religion - to serve the seekers. This kind of snide criticism drives me away. And I have studied the entire Talmud as an Orthodox Yeshiva student and rabbi. How I wish I could recover the naive Hertzbergian outlook that all is served by performing a few mitzvahs and we need seek nothing else. Alas, it simply is not so!
02/29/2000 01:21:33 PM
Why not do both? Any path worth its salt includes service to others as a primary component. Even Jesus said the equivalent of what the Rabbi is saying in his essay: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Anything less is self indulgence. It seems obvious, but I'll say: esoteric exercises without the grounding of service to others doesn't seem to me to lead anywhere.
02/29/2000 01:15:38 PM
It's important not to misunderstand the Rabbi's point: he is not saying that Judaism is the sole way of filling the hole in one's soul. What he *is* saying is that people are substituting the conspicuous consumption of the past with the self-congratulatory "I'm so spiritual" affectation that the masses find so trendy. He is saying that people are adulterating spirituality by using it as a crutch for their emotional problems instead of absorbing it as their faith. Trading one addiction for another, so to speak. He's also commenting on how today's "spirituality" is self-focussed, just as yesterday's possession-craze was-- enhancing the ego and nothing else. He's saying that we must be balanced and integrate the rest of the world into our spirituality.
02/29/2000 10:41:46 AM
I was also disappointed in the rabbi's cold dismissal of seekers. Not everyone in the world can be a jew and follow jewish law to find happiness. Everyone has a different path and it is childish to assume that one way is the right way for everyone.
02/28/2000 03:07:42 PM
I was very disappointed in the rabbi's essay. He criticizes seekers but in fact offers no guidance except to "follow after God and help perfect the world." Maybe it's because of spiritual leaders like him that so many people are still searching.