Observations from the Threshold 1

[I am in Praha/Prague (Praha means “threshold” in Czech) in the Czech Republic. The next few posts are some random observations.]

Today I learned I am too radical for some countries. I took this as a compliment.

To be radical is to return to the root of things. For me the root of religion is story: a bold (albeit often denied) and imaginal act of resistance in the face of life’s chaos and transience (tohu va vohu, and hevel havalim as the Hebrew books of Bereshit/Genesis and Koheleth/Ecclesiastes put it respectively). We tell stories to makes sense of life, to make meaning out of our experience, and carve purpose out the bare rock of existence. If the stories are compelling enough, we deny they are stories at all and pretend—insist—that they are true. So true, in fact, that we are willing to die for them; so true that we are willing to kill for them. Or, more accurately: we are willing to die for our story because we are convinced it is true; we are willing to murder for our story because we fear that another’s story is more true.

In any case I am not willing to die or kill for any story. If these are my only choice is to die or kill, I resist by telling another story and thereby inventing new choices.

So today I learned that my radicalism is keeping me from being invited to some interfaith gatherings in some countries. They want a rabbi who is will to die and perhaps even kill for his story. (In such places rabbis are always and only men.)

I am no less a Jew for my celebration of story. I live my story no less authentically than others who claim their story is history. I simply refuse to deny that it is a story. Worse (in their minds) I revel in it.

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