Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christiansby Lawrence Kushner
A window into the Jewish soul—written especially for Christians.
"I invite you to explore with me some of the rich and varied expressions of the Jewish spiritual imagination. It is a tradition that may at times, for Christians, feel strangely familiar and will, for Christians and Jews, always challenge you to see yourself and your
A window into the Jewish soul—written especially for Christians.
"I invite you to explore with me some of the rich and varied expressions of the Jewish spiritual imagination. It is a tradition that may at times, for Christians, feel strangely familiar and will, for Christians and Jews, always challenge you to see yourself and your world through a new lens."
—from the Introduction
Jewish spirituality is an approach to life that encourages us to become aware of God's presence and purpose, even in unlikely places. “This world and everything in it is a manifestation of God’s presence,” says Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. “Our challenge and goal is to find it and then act in such a way as to help others find it too.”
In this special book, Kushner guides Christians through the rich wisdom of Jewish spirituality. He tailors his unique style to address Christians’ questions, and, in doing so, opens new windows on their own faith.
Jewish Spirituality is a window into the Jewish soul that people of all faiths can understand and enjoy. From the Talmud and Torah, to “repentence” (teshuva) and “repairing the world” (tikkun olam), Kushner shows all of us how we can use the fundamentals of Jewish spirituality to enrich our own lives.
"Kushner has taught me more about God and my own Christianity than any other teacher I have known."
Rev. Robert G. Trache, rector, Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill
“Eminently readable … his ministry transcends all faiths while deeply rooted in his own.”
Peter Gomes, Pusey Minister, the Memorial Church, Harvard University
“We have another Buber here, a Heschel … Kushner expresses the truly profound with joy, lightness and humor.”
Father M. Basil Pennington, OCSO, abbot, the Trappist Monastery of the Holy Spirit
“Rabbi Lawrence Kushner has a rare gift: He has unusual insight and the unusual ability to make them clear to others. His contribution to contemporary spirituality in the best of the Jewish tradition nurtures the soul in all of us. I read his work to understand my own roots better.”
Joan D. Chittister, author, The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman's Life and other books
Read an Excerpt
WHEN THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL crossed through the Red Sea, they witnessed what some say was the greatest miracle that ever happened. On that day they saw a sight more awesome than all the visions of the prophets combined. The sea split and the waters stood like great walls, while Israel escaped to freedom on the distant shore. Awesome. But not for everyone.
According to ancient rabbinic legend, two people, Reuven and Shimon, hurried along among the crowd crossing through the sea. But they never once looked up. They noticed only that the ground beneath their feet was still a little muddylike a beach at low tide.
"This is terrible!" said Reuven. "There's mud all over the place!"
"Disgusting!" said Shimon. "I'm in muck up to my ankles!"
"You know what?" replied Reuven. "When we were slaves in Egypt, we had to make our bricks out of mud, just like this!"
"Yeah," said Shimon. "There's no difference between being a slave in Egypt and being free here."
And so it went, Reuven and Shimon whining and complaining all the way across the bottom of the sea. For them there was no miracle, only mud. Their eyes were closed. Even though they walked right through it, they might as well have been asleep (Midrash Exodus Rabba 24.1).
People see only what they're looking for and what they understand, notnecessarily what lies in front of them. For example, if you see a television set, you know what it is and how it works. But imagine someone who has never seen a television. To such a person it would only be a strange and useless box. Imagine being in a video store, filled with movies and stories and music, and not even knowing it. How sad when something is right before your eyes, but you are asleep to it. It's like that with our world, too.
Something like this once happened to Jacob. He dreamed of a ladder joining heaven and earth. Angels were climbing up and down on it, and God appeared and spoke to Jacob. When he awoke the next morning, he was shaken and said to himself, "Surely God was in this very place all along, and I didn't even know it!" (Genesis 28:16).
The medieval French commentator Rabbi Shelomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (after the initials of his name), explained that Jacob meant: "If I had known God would be here, then I wouldn't have gone to sleep!"
Jewish spirituality invites us to wake up and open our eyes to the myriad beautiful, mysterious, and holy things happening all around us every day. Many of them are like little miracles: when we wake up and see the morning light, when we taste food and are nourished, when we learn from others and grow wise, when we embrace people we love and receive their affection in return, when we help those around us and feel good. All these and more are there for us every day. But we must open our eyes to see them; otherwise we only wind up being like Reuven and Shimon, only able to see mud.
Suppose, right now, your eyes are closed. How do you wake up?
Excerpted from JEWISH SPIRITUALITY by LAWRENCE KUSHNER. Copyright © 2001 by Lawrence Kushner. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Lawrence Kushner, author, lecturer and spiritual leader, is regarded as one of the most creative religious thinkers and writers in America. A commentator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, he has focused us on spiritual renewal with wisdom and humor. Through his books and lectures, people of every faith and background have found inspiration and new strength for spiritual search and growth. It has been said that some spiritual leaders blend religion and psychology to help us walk better on the ground, but Lawrence Kushner draws on the wisdom of the mystics to help us dance better on the ceiling.
Kushner's acclaimed books include I’m God; You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego; Honey from the Rock: An Easy Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; and In God’s Hands, an inspiring fable for children, with Gary Schmidt (all Jewish Lights).
Kushner served as rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury, Massachusetts, for almost thirty years; he is currently the Emanu-El scholar at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and an adjunct faculty member at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is fascinated by graphic design and computers (designing most of his Jewish Lights books). He enjoys Mozart, hanging around sailboats, and making his granddaughters giggle.
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