On Praying At Romemu
Fri, 05/17/2013

I feel compelled to respond to Robbie Gringras’ article on his Friday
night experience at Romemu (“Shabbat Service Here Highlights Israel-Diaspora Gap,” Opinion, May 10).
Gringras complains that the sermon at Romemu was too individual in focus, 
that it was “a message for a people without a communal identity” and
“ever-so-slightly Christian.

” I can only imagine an educated Jew like
Gringras must have read the work of the chasidic masters, who turn the
national conflicts of the Torah into psychological dilemmas and who see the
wanderings of the Israelites as representative of movements within the human
soul. Are the chasidic masters, in whose tradition Romemu’s Rabbi David Ingber teaches, “ever-so-slightly Christian”? Since when is the Maggid of Mezritch or
the Kotzker Rebbe less “Jewish” than David Ben Gurion?

The Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav engaged in meditative prayer
throughout their lives, not to mention ecstatic dancing. How then can
Gringras assert that for Jews who are engaging in these practices, 
“religious ritual isn’t on the map”? He probably
also wouldn’t recognize the mystics of Safed who went out to greet the
Sabbath queen on the road and dance for her. Perhaps he would also find
their devotion “only half-spontaneous.”

Gringras somehow seems to feel that by spending time on universal themes,
Rabbi Ingber and Romemu are shirking their collective responsibilities, their
calling as a people. Yet it is precisely when we forget that we are
individuals on one planet, connected by God’s presence, that we fail in our
collective responsibilities. Romemu is a place where I am called to practice
my highest ethical ideals, and where I receive spiritual tools to do exactly
that. I cannot think of a better way to make me a better member of the
Jewish people.

If Gringras truly wants to address the “doubt, fear and fury” of
Israelis, he and they may find they have to start with exactly the soul-work
that Romemu offers.


 

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