Wednesday, June 13, 2012

That's Funny, You Really Are Profound

Whenever you search for categories like non-dual Judaism, Sylvia Boorstein’s That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish, keeps coming up.  For years I steered clear of the book, thinking that the gag title would treat the subject irreverently, or at least, be the outward marker of an inwardly frivolously book about the conjunction of Buddhism and Judaism. 

The truth is very different, of course.  Boorstein has a gentle, kind narrative voice.  She is a Buddhist, after all, and her compassion shines through in her voice.  She takes her subject seriously and calmly.  For Boorstein, Buddhist practices led her back to Judaism.  This odd premise worked well for her.  She began to see Judaism as a discipline, much as the practice of Buddhism is a discipline, and was able to renew her Jewish life.  

For many, the interconnection with Judaism and other religions is far more problematic.  There are Messianic Jews who believe Jesus was the Messiah, but still follow Jewish law.  Jews usually condemn this fusion religion, while maintaining a neutral stance about Buddhism. Christianity was long a foe of Judaism, and old antagonisms die hard.  Buddhism appears to be more neutral to many Jews.  But there is still a tension between Buddhism, Buddhist practice, and Judaism.  This is explored in Boorstein's book, but is not the central concern. Buddhism and Judaism work for Boorstein.  In this book she explains how.

For a book that outlines the problems of being Jewish and Buddhist, read Tatz’s Letters to a Buddhist Jew, where challenges of being Buddhist and Jewish are detailed in abundance. 

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