Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Growth and Depth During the High Holidays: Rabbi Alan Lew

Rabbi Alan Lew, z”l was a pulpit rabbi (conservative) and a long time practitioner of mediation.  For a decade before he became a rabbi, he practiced Zen type mediation.

His other two works, One God Clapping, and Be Still and Get Going, reflect this ongoing commitment to being halakically Jewish and also practicing mediation techniques that are inspirited by Buddhist tradition.

This work, This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared is his most Jewish in the sense that he takes the specific content, practices, ideas and liturgy of the time period from Tisha b'Av and  Sukkoth and provides a conceptual framework that allows for growth and depth to the High Holiday experience.

The book in informed by his eastern religious background, but not dominated by it.  When Rabbi Lew expresses that this world is but a fleeting thing, a narrow bridge with darkness on either side, he simply expresses very well-known rabbinical dicta about existence.  

Our existence IS fleeting.  Our time is short.  Rabbi Lew reminds us that waking up to the reality of our transitory nature can make us see reality and ourselves for what it/we truly are; it can help us to see what is important in this little crack of light between the two zones of darkness that is our life.

Sadly, Rabbi Lew passed away in 2009.  Reading this book with that in mind places the work in an almost prophetic light; several times Rabbi Lew expresses how close he feels to death based on his experience as a pulpit rabbi.  He realized, watching so many people die, that death awaits us at at anytime.  Sadly, he was right.  But he left us some deeply intelligent and humane works as a legacy.

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