Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This is a complete tangent, but something I was pondering while driving this morning.

The local Jewish newspaper, The Jewish Advocate, has an "Ask the Rebbitzin" column (Rebbitzin is the yiddish name for the Rabbi's Wife; in some communities, she serves an important teaching role).

Anyway, this past week, there was a question about being both Jewish and Buddhist.

The Rebbitzin's answer was straight-forward. "You cannot be both. Plain and simple."

Well, yes. I do agree. However, what she neglected to mention is how you can admire specific ideas from another religion. How the words used to express a concept in one religion might make that concept clearer to you than the words used in your own.

I have always been interested in religion, of all types. Learning about other religions has helped my own understanding and appreciation of Judaism.

True story: back in my 20s, I had a co-worker who was a deeply religious Catholic. She was a dear girl, and a good friend. One day in late December, she was driving me home, and telling me about her plans for the upcoming Dec. 25 holiday. The she asked about my own plans for Hanukah.

I explained that Hanukah wasn't all that big a holiday, and told her a bit about the low-key stuff my family had done that year.

"Oh. So when do you celebrate The Birth?"

I had to do a double-take. "What?"

"You know. When do you celebrate The Birth?"

"Uh. We don't. That's one of the major differences..."

While I was stunned by the simplicity of the question, I actually felt really sorry for my friend. Sorry because she did not know enough about her OWN religion to appreciate just what made it special. Sorry because her world-view was so narrow, she could not comprehend something Different.

So, to The Rebbitizin, I say, yes, I agree that you cannot be both. But when someone claims to be both, perhaps exploring WHY they say that might be more useful. What elements of Buddhism attract this person, and what are the similar elements in Judaism that they might just not know?


datri said...

Discussion reminds me of the book Life of Pi.