Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


Have We Become a Nation of Spiritual Narcissists?

Noah is the biblical hero who builds an ark, saves the animal kingdom and helps rebuild the world after a great flood. In spite of his heroism, he is not without fault.

Consider his seeming lack of concern with anyone outside of his own family. Why did he not ask God to consider saving others or warm them of the upcoming flood?

Noah may be the first exemplar of a trend I’ve noticed more and more. It is a faith concerned primarily with oneself.

When God Becomes Ourselves

Alan Lurie calls it “narcissistic spirituality.” Today it happens when religious practice becomes an exercise in self-indulgence.

He gives the personal example of a time he walked into a synagogue and passed a man deep in meditation. Eyes closed, the man breathed in and out, soaking in the Rabbi’s call to “become the Sabbath peace.”

Lurie accidently stepped on his toe. The man opened his eyes and snarled, “Hey, watch it, buddy.”

Does that strike you as a gesture of peace? When we religion becomes focused on the self, it loses its connection with God. We begin to ask what God can do for us, rather than what we can do for the world.

Ask Not What God Can Do for You

Authentic faith begins when we ask not what God can do for us, but how we can do God’s work here on earth. We find that faith when we look for God not only in ourselves, but in the deeds and needs of others.

Consider this beautiful story told by the Nobel Prize winning author Jorge Luis Borges. Entitled The Approach to Al-Matussim, it is a fantasy written in the 1930s.

The narrator has become an outcast among the lower classes of India. In his dealings with the poor, he begins to see traces of kindnesses and tenderness that seem out of place. They are light intruding into the darkness.

He imagines that they must be a reflection of someone else–of a perfect person–from whom “this clarity, this brightness, emanates.” He calls that person al-matusim. He becomes a detective, searching for this mysterious presence by following its reflections in others.

How Do We Find God? 

That is how we, too,  can find God. We discover God’s presence not in ourselves, but in the hands of hearts of others. We experience God in the faces of those who visit us when we are ill; who comfort us when we have experienced a tragic; who challenge us when we are complacent; who love us when we find it hard to love ourselves.

“God does not live in one place,” a great Rabbi taught. “God dwells wherever we let Him in.



Previous Posts

Does Religion Cause War?
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end. This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just

posted 12:36:26pm Aug. 17, 2014 | read full post »

The Healing Power of Laughter: The Jewish Genius of Robin Williams
In Jewish tradition we have a special greeting for a genius. Upon meeting such a person, we say, Blessed are You, Eternal God, Source of Life, who has given from His wisdom to flesh and blood.  Had I ever met Robin Williams, I would surely have said it. Williams was a singular genius. He brought

posted 2:26:21pm Aug. 12, 2014 | read full post »

God Never Gives Up Hope: A Prayer for Israel
 I remember my first visit to Israel in 1994. The Oslo Accords had just been signed. Hope reigned. My group was greeted warmly in the Arab market in Jerusalem. The opposite feelings prevail today. We witness bombings, indiscriminate hatred, vitriol. Dozens of my friends who are there now share w

posted 10:19:40pm Jul. 13, 2014 | read full post »

The Secret to Happiness? Let Life Surprise You
I remember sitting one day with my  three-year-old daughter. She had a book in her and was turning the pages and telling the story. This was her regular habit. She could not yet read the words, but she could tell the story based on the pictures. I had one ear listening to her voice and the ot

posted 4:23:22pm Jul. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Do Christians Need to Learn More About Judaism? A Rabbi Responds to the Pope
In the 1970s Alex Haley wrote the best-seller Roots. He sought to find the roots of his life as an African-American. Where did he come from? What experiences shaped who he was?   We all ask these questions. We seek not only geographic roots and ethnic roots. We look for spiritual roots. Where

posted 9:50:26pm Jul. 06, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.