My Personal Cantor

I'll have a double helping of upbeat spirituality – hold the dogma!

On the heels of my blog about “What do we want from Hebrew Schools”, it becomes evident that our view today on religion, as a whole, has experienced a tremendous shift.

USAToday’s recently published article tells us that Americans lean more towards the upbeat, positive aspects of faith, while moving farther and farther away from dogmatic practices with hard core rules and restrictions. We are more prone to look to our religious traditions and rituals at time of lifecycle events, but in our every day lives, we want to receive the positive messages and encouragement faith offers.

So what does this say about our society, in terms of G-d? How do we define G-d? If we reject the rules and structure – will faith continue to exist? And – if all that – is – what is faith? Do we turn our faith into ourselves, becoming completely self-accountable? The question kind of scared me.

I do what I do to serve those who have already decided on moving away from dogma, and embracing feel-good spirituality. Sometimes I, myself, find that I really subscribe to that theory as well. We say – well, I don’t have to observe Shabbat, and…It’s ok to bend this rule, and that…It’s ok to get married “just before” sundown on Shabbat, to accommodate the caterer, etc. But- what power do we give G-d, then? I don’t feel any less connected to G-d than I ever did, in fact, in my quest for spirituality, I have grown closer.

To me, the answer is in living strong in principals, rather than rules. I go out of my way to do the right thing to and for people, to observe the golden rule, to care for the earth, caring for the sick, giving to the poor, those are things that bring me closer to G-d, because I know they’re the right things to do. I’m no less Godly, I just don’t worry about the details, in favor of the bigger things.

I’ve seen clergy – well respected, highly highly highly dogmatic, and staunch in their public ritual observance who are -pardon the expression – complete jerks – sinners, even. Are they more Godly than me? What about the Catholic priests who commit heinous acts against children – they followed the dogmatic rules, but didn’t live a life of G-d in their hearts.

What’s wrong with wanting the spiritual, upbeat message? We get the negative ones daily. You’ll get cancer, you’ll lose money, you’ll do this or that, and it’s usually bad. No wonder our society wants to gravitate to things that make us feel good while we’re here on earth – we don’t get much of it from anywhere else!

I’ll take my double dose of spirituality. I believe it is what makes me smile when I’m in your presence, to let you know you have brightened my day. I believe that being happy because I woke up this morning makes G-d feel good about me. Please forgive that I didn’t light my Shabbat candles right at sundown, or that I took my child to the movies on Saturday – at least I spent time with them, let them know their Mom loves them, and I know that makes G-d feel good about me too.

We all deserve to feel good, and we can do it with G-d in our minds and our hearts, even if we don’t follow all the rules..

1 thought on “I'll have a double helping of upbeat spirituality – hold the dogma!”

  1. Dear Debbi,

    (Reposted, as you requested…)

    After reading your post “I’ll have a double helping of upbeat spirituality – hold the dogma!…”

    I just had to comment.

    Society has evolved into a race that pits science against faith. Anything not explainable with a mathematics formula is cast off, or held in suspicion.

    Do you honestly believe that society actually spends any measurable amount of time “longing” for positive messages and faith driven encouragement? I’m living in a part of the country that is far distant to yours, I suspect. I doubt that people (in the majority) think about faith much, EXCEPT for during periods of lifecycle events.

    And, I think that G_d has taken a backseat to science, politics, and world struggle. The most common thing that people ask me, when they figure out that I’m a Jew, is “Why would your G-d allow all this suffering and woe?”

    Faith falters, when fear overwhelms it.

    It seems that your path (from what little I’ve observed) runs in a parallel to traditional views, except you seem to add a more “personal touch,” possibly even “maternal” touch to it.

    Aren’t “rules” supposed to act as a constant reminder of our commitment to G_d? Likened perhaps, to a parent looking over our shoulders, encouraging us by reminding us that devotion is a struggle best maintained?

    I know that you’re a good person. But the question is: “Are you a G_dly person?” Only your demonstration of faith will display that to those who hold you accountable. (Can you hear my Rabbi smacking me on the back of the head, right about now? LOL! )

    Isn’t the lack of attention to “detail,” the beginning of faithlessness? At least to the “untrained” eye? As Jews, we are held to so much scrutiny, already…

    Everybody has seen clergy “fall.” It’s sensational, controversial, and “media friendly.” But that happens across the “faith” spectrum. But, I’m really disappointed that you used that tired old example of Priests who molest children. Other clergy, from other faiths do it as well. They are… only human. They are despicable “human acts,” not religiously motivated ones. You could just have easily used psychiatrists who molest patients, or cops who rape, or even teachers who abuse… It’s such a disservice to those who have devoted their lives to faith-driven service, to be associated to those too weak to hold the faith highly enough. I’ve known many Priests who I number among the finest men on earth, who have been friends to Jew, and Israel as well.

    I think the problem with “wanting the “upbeat” message,” is that sometimes the actual message gets lost in the translation. If it gets too “feel good,” it’s too easy to ignore, or discount when times get hard. I think that faith is supposed to be difficult, and thought provoking. Otherwise, would it be worth anything at all? It’s supposed to be so important, that you’re willing to pay the ultimate price for it. After all, in most faiths, that’s exactly what you are pledging to do, by holding it so dear to your heart.

    We have cancer living in our house, we’re broke, and we’re scared every day. I hate to admit it, but I cry daily. The stress is often unbearable. This coming from a guy who couldn’t cry when his own family was murdered by Palestinians. In the years that have passed, I have learned to cry. It’s an anguish I wouldn’t wish on my enemies. And, I’m weak enough to admit that I have them. But our faith carries us through, and it’s the following of the rules, that keeps us close to the fabric of that faith that shields us.

    So please, take that double dose of spirituality, but do it with the remembrance that it got there by having rules in place that helped hold the building up. And Debbi, please smile. I’ve seen your smile, it’s the kind that lights up rooms. Any glimmer of hope and warmth, is a step in the right direction.

    We do all deserve to feel good, but the example we set for our children while we do it, will help them build the foundation of their own faith. But please… Squeeze a “rule” in there from time to time and then… explain it to those who don’t understand…

    With affection,



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