Your questions on God, grief, and living—answered.
I believe we all worship the same God, but when I go to a Jewish synagogue or Hindu temple, I can’t recognize the God I worship in church. Why might this be?
Rabbi Rami: Religions worship the god of their own creation. That’s why the Christian god has a son while the Jewish and Muslim gods are childless, and why the Jewish god revealed the Torah and not the Holy Qur’an or the Bhagavad Gita. God (with a capital “G”) has nothing to do with religion. God (with a capital “G”) is the infinite Aliveness manifesting all reality. You don’t worship God; you awaken in, with, and as God.
I am Jewish by birth but follow no religion, yet my spiritual advisor wants me to connect with my Jewish roots, which for me were not juicy at all. So, please share with me the Jewish spiritual techniques you use.
With all due respect to your spiritual advisor, why in the world would you spend time in a system that isn’t “juicy at all”? The aim of spiritual practice is to undermine attachment to all systems and to prime the pump of awakening that is, in the end, a matter of grace rather than grit. If you are curious about Judaism or drawn to Jewish practice, seek out a local rabbi who can help you. My concern isn’t with helping you connect with your Jewish roots, but in helping you realize the nondual Reality of which you and all life are a part.
I’m fat. I’m in my mid-70s. I diet constantly and weigh myself twice a day. When can we old fat people stop obsessing over our weight?
Since obsessions are outside our willful control, my guess is never. What you can do is give away your scale, stop dieting, and face and free yourself from the unhealthy aspects of your life that trigger your obsession with food. If you would like to do this in a supportive community, attend OA meetings in person or online. To be clear, OA isn’t about weight or being fat, it’s about ceasing to use food to compensate for the sorrows in your life and freeing yourself from unhealthy relationships with food that can lead to compulsive overeating or compulsive undereating.
I always thought that my beliefs would strengthen in old age. Yet as I approach death, I find I believe less and less. What’s happening to me?
The closer you get to death the clearer your understanding of life becomes. Ideas that seemed so essential no longer resonate, and the beliefs that used to define you fade away as you no longer feel the need to be defined. Dying is a great cleansing: wiping away the distortions of belief and allowing you to see the simple Truth that, as we say in Yiddish, alles iz Gott: All is God. God is beyond belief and soon you will be as well.
I have a friend who constantly criticizes Israel, supports efforts to dismantle it, and who sees Jews as the foremost danger to humanity. She insists she isn’t an antisemite. But is she?
It isn’t antisemitic to criticize Jews, Judaism, or the Jewish State. It is antisemitic to criticize only Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish State, to deny the history and legitimacy of the Jewish people and the Jewish state, to imagine that Jews are at the root of all humanity’s problems, and to wish the destruction of the Jews and the Jewish State as a solution to these problems. So, yes, she is an antisemite.
I’m a Southern Baptist. I’ve been told that women like me who charge some of our pastors with sexual abuse are in league with Satan. This is nonsense, and I’m thinking of leaving my church. Should I?
Linking women who challenge authority to Satan is an old Christian trope, but the evil you observe isn’t limited to just one religion. When worship of institutions replaces seeking Truth, when excusing leaders replaces respecting laity, when wielding power replaces sharing love, religion—any religion—becomes evil. The world suffers from many religions whose piety masks their addiction to patriarchy, power, and control. These religions depend on your money for their survival; stop funding them. If that doesn’t help, leave.
I am very comfortable with my religious beliefs. There is nothing anyone can say that would make me believe differently. Doesn’t that prove that my beliefs are true?
Being comfortable with your beliefs only proves that what you believe confirms your biases. Truth is some-thing else. Truth challenges biases. As Jesus taught, “Keep on seeking until you find. And when you find you will be troubled” (Gospel of Thomas, 2). Why troubled? Because the Truth you find shatters the biases you hold.
My 25-year-old son died in a car accident. The pain I feel over losing him is consuming me. How can I move on?
Everyone grieves in their own way, and I won’t presume to prescribe a balm for your suffering, or even to support the idea of moving beyond it. Instead let me suggest that what you love cannot be lost. Try this thought experiment: Look at a photograph of your son when he was first born, and then a photo when he was seven, and then another when he was 14, and then one more when he was 21.
Given that almost all the cells of our body are replaced every seven years, each of these photographs is of a different boy. What you loved and continue to love isn’t the changing form of your son but his divine essence. This essence is the essence of all things and cannot die. Rather than mourn the form, realize the essence you both share. In this realization, you will find that your son isn’t lost at all. This may not decrease your sadness, but it will make room for joy.
How important is it to label ourselves Jew, Christian, Muslim, or even spiritual?
Your truest Self is free from labels. The Self is pure awareness without boundaries of any kind. Once you know you are free from all labels, you can wear any label you want without falling into the trap of identifying with it.
My dog will outlive me. I have no one to whom to leave her when I die, and I can’t imagine putting her in the pound. I’m thinking of having her put to sleep and burying her with me. What do you think?
What if your dog were to die before you? Would you have yourself put to sleep and buried with her? Your responsibility to your dog is to provide her with the best life possible whether or not you are part of it. I suggest you seek advice from an animal chaplain. If you can’t find one locally, contact Sarah Bowen, our resident animal chaplain at Spirituality & Health.