Rabbi Rami on being authentic, spirituality vs. religion, and aliens.
Q: I have a dear friend who is always urging me to find my authentic self. How do I do that?
Rabbi Rami: The self is a never-ending flow of sensation: physical, emotional, and intellectual, none more authentic than another. Being authentic isn’t a state of being but a trait of behavior. Different religions and philosophical systems articulate this trait in different ways, but the core is always the same: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another” (Talmud, tractate Shabbat 31a). This is the only authentic self you need. You don’t find it. You live it.
Q: Our son came home from college over the holidays and announced he was a born-again Christian. We are Jews, and he insists we convert lest God burn us in hell. What can I say to him about this?
Rabbi Rami: If he were my son, I’d ask him if he loves me regardless of my religion. If he says he does, I’d ask him why he is choosing to worship a God whose capacity to love is less than his own. This might open a conversation that would soften his views if not change his faith. If he says he doesn’t love me, I’d stop paying his college tuiti …
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. In the print version of our magazine, he has an advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addressing reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art. Rabbi Rami hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.”