Recently I’ve been reading “The Jew in the Lotus” (amongst other books). It’s about a Jewish envoy to Tibet to visit and discuss religion and the challenges of keeping it alive with the Dalai Lama. It’s a fascinating read into the reasons why so many Jews gravitate to Buddhism for spiritual enlightenment. That’s a blog post all of its own. One day. I just wanted to focus on one point I read there that resounded very much with me and with our visions for this school that we are starting.
In Judaism there is a concept of purity and impurity. Impurity is generally anything connected with death, as death is the antithesis of G-d who is the source and the epitome of life. So if one comes into contact with a dead person (or even enters a cemetery), he is “impure”. Which is fine, for the most part. Unless one wants to go into the Holy Temple or bring a sacrifice, etc.
Except for the Kohein, the priest. They are not allowed to become impure, even when not serving. And they must go to pretty intense lengths to stay far away from that.
Well, as Rodger Kamentz says (the author of this book), Zalman Schachter shared something he heard from Shlomo Carlebach. The holy master, Rabbi Mordechai Joseph, also known as the Ishbitzer Rebbe, explained it as follows:
“When one sees a corpse you can’t help but be angry at G-d. “Why did he have to make it this way? That that’s the door you have to go through? It’s terrible!” Now the Kohen is supposed to be the gentle teacher of people, so if he is angry with G-d, he’ll have a real hard time talking about G-d because what will show will be anger."
Now Shlomo's explanation: "Ever since the holocaust we are all like priests who have become contaminated by death. It’s hard for people who are looking for a loving, living G-d to find him among angry voices. They go to people who at this point don’t have any anger about G-d.”
If we want to teach about a loving G-d, then love the living G-d, and live the loving G-d.
Recently I was in New York for my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. It was on Lag Ba’omer, the Jewish holiday commemorating the passing of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a sage mostly known for hiding in a cave for 13 years and writing the most important book on Kabbalah (which is the basis for Chassidus).
Every year in Crown Heights, as per the Rebbe's initiative, they have a children’s parade (though when it falls on Sunday they have the “real one”) to strengthen the excitement about the Torah and Mitzvos (commandments).
I once went as a child. I tried out for the marching band and was utterly rejected. Still hurts. Maybe next time...