152: PASSOVER Can Rabbi Harvey Tame the Wild West and Graphic Novels, too?

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     I
f you’re a Baby Boomer, you’ll recall the autumn evening in 1972 when a new kind of hero strode into the Wild West that we thought we knew so well after a thousand cowboy movies and TV series.

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    This new hero was a Shaolin monk of Chinese-American ancestry, played by David Carradine in a brand-new TV series called, “Kung Fu.” He was a man filled with ancient spiritual wisdom, an often misunderstood man of peace — and a stark contrast to the fast-shooting cowboys who had populated our childhood.
    Of course, truth be told, most of us watched “Kung Fu,” not really for the spiritual wisdom, although many of us still remember little Kwai Chang Caine’s teacher calling him “Grasshopper” during scenes from his early training in China.
    Truth be told, what we really waited for so eagerly in that series was the moment when Caine had had enough — and with flying feet and fists blurring across the TV screen, he’d kick some serious bad-guy butt!

Now, a black-suited, black-bearded, black-hatted rabbi, named Harvey, is attempting the same feat as Caine — through a series of graphic novels.
    He’s been successful enough that his second volume is hitting stores right now — and his creator already is planning more. In the world of comics and graphic novels, simply getting past a debut issue and publishing a sequel is an enormous accomplishment.
    Quite simply, people have fallen in love with this character, because New York-based writer and artist Steve Sheinkin is taking Rabbi Harvey even further than Caine dared to tread.
    Rabbi Harvey is taming the Wild West without lethal force — in fact, without gunfire or martial arts of any kind. Rabbi Harvey is taming the Wild West with centuries of Jewish folk wisdom.
    The tales in these paperback books are an absolute delight as he turns around the lives of even the most ruthless killers!

    In recent years, I’ve talked a number of times with Sheinkin from his home base in Brooklyn. At 39, Sheinkin may have the perfect eclectic background to create something so innovative. He grew up in a home steeped in Judaism — and full of thick books of Jewish folk tales — but he didn’t grow up as an obsessive fan of comic books or Westerns.
    When I telephoned him to prepare this story, he told me that he came to Westerns and comics almost backwards — through “Star Wars” and other films that sprang from the roots of pulp fiction and Hollywood cliff hangers. In other words, he wasn’t a die-hard fan of any particular genre and was free to mix and match elements he enjoyed.
    “When I was a kid,” he told me, “everything was all about ‘Star Wars.’ I wasn’t the right age to have seen the original Clint Eastwood movies. For me, I came to all of this as an adult. When I got older, for example, I got into John Ford movies and John Wayne Westerns, especially. I love ‘Rio Bravo’ and I used that the most for visual references as I designed scenes for Rabbi Harvey.”

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    While we were talking, Steve emailed me a digital photo he took while watching “Rio Bravo” one day. He liked the look of John Wayne standing bravely in front of the sheriff’s office.
    Then he told me to open his new book, “Rabbi Harvey Rides Again,” to page 18 where the drawing shown at the top of today’s story appears.
    “You’ll see my image of Harvey uses this same idea: leaning on a beam in front of a run-down office,” Steve explained.
    However, Harvey isn’t John Wayne by a long shot. Unlike “the Duke,” Harvey never shoots back. It’s part of his ultra-cool stance as a lawman. Oh, there are bad guys roaming the hills all around Harvey’s town, but Harvey never so much as oils and loads a gun for battle.
    Instead, he oils and loads his wits.
    Among other stratagems, Harvey stages contests called “Stump the Rabbi.” In the new book, he does this at the equivalent of the county fair. The narrator explains, “If he couldn’t answer your question, you won your choice of fresh fruit pie.”
    It’s this constant training, apparently, that keeps Harvey ready to pull off the truly big feats of rabbinic wisdom — like figuring out how to separate the killer Big Milt from his firearms with Big Milt’s willing participation in this clever approach to disarmament. I won’t spoil the tale by revealing Harvey’s trickery — but it’s a tribute to Jewish folklore.
    Sheinkin even provides an appendix of “Story Sources,” if readers really get hooked on this kind of tale and want to learn more.

Rabbi_harvey_with_abigail

   

Now, if you happen to be a fan of Rabbi Harvey comics already, the big news in “Rabbi Harvey Rides Again” is the introduction of Abigail, a tough, clever pioneer woman (pictured above as Harvey stammers to make small talk on a winter’s day).

    I asked Steve where he came up with such a delightful new character.
    Abigail isn’t a beautiful school teacher or a madame at the local saloon. She’s a pioneer who dresses practically and acts practically — although in one terrific tale in the new book, she manages to bake some pastries that wind up proving to be nearly lethal. I won’t spoil that chapter by saying more, except that I enjoyed the way Sheinkin apparently ended the pastries story in one section of the book, wrapping it up in a satisfying way. Yet, he actually managed to hide the real punchline of the pastry story later in the book.
    That’s good writing.

Rabbi_harvey_rides_again_cover
    “So where did Abigail come from?” I asked him.
    “I really was responding to readers’ comments, especially from Rachel my wife who said Harvey was lonely. I said, ‘Well, of course! That’s the archetype of the superhero and the Western hero — walking off into the sunset alone. It’s almost cliche, but that’s how it’s done. You can’t make these attachments because you have to focus on the sacrifices you’re making for your work.'”
    Rachel didn’t buy that argument. And Steve was smart to listen to his wife.
    “I finally decided that this could be interesting, if I created a character who was intellectually challenging enough for Harvey,” Steve said. “Abigail comes up three times in the book, but I know she’ll be a main character in the third book.”
    I asked, “Is marriage on the horizon for Rabbi Harvey?”
    But, Steve declined to answer. “I really don’t know yet. I want to hear more from readers.”

    So, at this point, it’s important to explain: To visit Steve Sheinkin’s home online, go to www.rabbiharvey.com, where you can read sample stories — and send a note to Steve with your ideas. That’s a photo of Steve (below at left) reading Rabbi Harvey to his daughter.
    His publisher is Jewish Lights, which you might want to explore for other books on Judaism.
    ALSO, you can click on the cover of his book (shown at right here) to jump to our reviews of his books — and you can order copies via Amazon, if you wish.

Steve_sheinkin_reads_to_his_daughte
    But there’s still one very important question — a Passover question really — worth contemplating for just a moment longer.
    If Rabbi Harvey is taking a shot at taming, not only the Wild West, but graphic novels themselves — where did this rather audacious notion arise?
    Steve said, “It’s right there in Jewish folklore.
    “These stories come from places and cultures where Jews were a minority — and a very weak minority at that,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter where these stories came from — violence wasn’t a great option for the people.
    “Historically, there were some revolts here and there, but they turned out badly for the Jews. And, for the most part, the Jews had to rely on their wits. Judaism, at its core, isn’t pacifist. There are many times when Jews have fought successfully. But, what I realized from reading these old stories is that the rabbis often realized that they were outnumbered 1,000 to 1 — and so the future of the people often depended on the person who could outwit, rather than outfight, their adversaries.”

    HERE AT READTHESPIRIT, we’ve been covering developments in spiritually themed comics, graphic novels and manga. If you’ve missed our earlier coverage, here’s a good place to “read more” about faith and comics — a recent story about the period after World War II when some Americans began burning comic books.

    TELL US WHAT YOU THINK, PLEASE. Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of this story. Or, you can email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:


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151: PASSOVER Lessons of Love, Humility and Thankfulness

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Today’s story might have been headlined:

A Row of Candles, the Pope’s Feet — and a Wise Rabbi.

     But I called it, “Lessons of Love, Humility and Thankfulness,” because those are three of the major themes of Passover. And I have to thank, once again, my friend Dr. Joe Lewis — a scholar who has published a pioneering series of multi-lingual Jewish guidebooks that invite people who don’t know Hebrew to fully participate in Jewish rituals.

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    Before Passover began, I spent a couple of hours as a guest in the Lewis kitchen, talking over holiday themes.
    “It’s simple,” Joe said to me at one point. “During Passover we talk about two questions: What does it mean to be Jewish? And, what does it mean to be free?”
    As Joe talked about his life, his work and his family’s holiday preparations, though, I watched his wife Bobbie make Charoset, the fruit-and-nut mixture for the Seder that is supposed to resemble mortar used by slaves in ancient Egypt. At the same time she was preparing this traditional food for the holiday — for my benefit Joe began to sing various versions of the traditional Passover song, “Dayenu,” which means “It would have been enough.”
    This song is such a hallmark of the holiday that NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion” hosted a live performance of the song in the show broadcast over this past weekend.

    If we stop to think about the themes embodied in this song — well, the three themes in our headline come through loud and clear.
    The song is rapidly and happily rattled off during the Seder. In Joe’s guidebooks, he has written English-language lyrics that can be sung just as rapidly along with traditional Jewish melodies. But, whatever the language, the message is the same: Singers humbly acknowledge, “It would have been enough!” They describe various miracles and gifts that God provided for the Israelites and they acknowledge each one would have been enough.
    And yet — Well, there was more and more and more that God did for them.
    So, today, here are mini-stories on these three themes:

LOVE — and a Row of Candles.

    This one’s easy. It’s a universal religious theme: Love one another!
    I saw love flowing among the members of Joe’s family and it flows in my family, too. The 40 candles at the top of today’s story mark the 40th birthday — today — of my younger brother John Crumm, a Planner for Macomb County in Michigan, but also a creative supporter of some behind-the-scenes ReadTheSpirit projects that will unfold over the coming year.
    So, I’m breaking into our normal coverage for this moment of personal privilege — to express love and best wishes to my brother on his 40th birthday!

Then, HUMILITY — and The Pope’s Feet.

    One of the first emails to hit my “Inbox” Monday morning (just yesterday) was a 4-word note from a longtime friend, Terry Gallagher, Director of Public Relations at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
    The four words were:
    “they got the feet”

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    He was referring to the front page of the New York Times on Monday, which included the papal feet.
    Here’s the story behind the feet:
    In my more than 20 years with the Detroit Free Press, one of the professionals I was honored to count as a colleague was Tony Spina, a giant among newspaper photojournalists in the U.S. Among Tony’s specialties was papal photography. And, in 1987, when John Paul II toured North America, Tony flew along with the press corps in the hopes of adding to his already considerable record of papal accomplishments.
    Covering that tour was exhausting — long hours of commuting between the many cities hosting the pope’s entourage. We got little sleep as we tried to stake out positions for news coverage, then race to file news stories for our home newspapers and wires. But, truth be told: Tony taught us youngsters a few things about persistence.
    Over and over again, he spent hours staking out positions long before the pope was scheduled to arrive at a site. Most of us were weary by the time the pope touched down in San Antonio, Texas, but Tony was chasing elusive papal images — and left the newsroom before dawn in San Antonio to stake out a position near the Alamo.
    Much later that day, he arrived back in the makeshift newsroom — set up in a hotel ballroom — slapped a photo onto the table in front of our staff and declared: “That’s tomorrow’s photo!”
    We were puzzled. The photo showed John Paul II, but not much detail of the Alamo — and little visual connection with the crowd of Catholics.
    At length, Tony realized that we were clueless concerning his visual achievement. He closed his eyes, shook his head and pointed at the photo: “I got his feet! Nobody gets the pope’s feet!”
    Indeed, he had. There was John Paul II in the midst of overwhelming crowds, stepping down — and revealing his papal feet. In Tony’s mind, this captured the full image of the man. More than the low-angle images of a triumphant, heroic leader — this was a man who had — well, feet. It was part of capturing both the power — and the humility — of a pope to show his feet.
    And Tony was right. It’s tough to capture a pope’s feet.
    From the moment Benedict touched down in the U.S., my friend Terry Gallagher — who also knew Tony in his prime — would send me a daily Email, based on the news media he had glimpsed.
    Day after day, Terry’s emails were only 2 words:
    “no feet”
    Then, in the end, Chang W. Lee of the Times captured — the feet.

    It was a perfect final image for a papal tour in which Benedict did his best to offer public acts of humility over some of the church’s failings — even as he tried to chart a future course.
    Bravo to Mr. Lee and the editors of the Times for running “the feet,” as we say in newspapers, “above the fold.”

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Finally, THANKFULNESS — Remembering a Wise Rabbi.

    For Passover, we asked another good friend of ReadTheSpirit — the longtime church consultant Dr. Alfred Bamsey — to write an appreciation of a wise rabbi who taught Al a lot about being a better church consultant. This final, personal note of appreciation is a small sign of how much the world’s 2 billion Christians owe — and can learn, if we listen — from our Jewish brothers and sisters.
    Here are Al’s words about Rabbi Edwin Friedman, who taught many Christian clergy a groundbreaking new way to envision relationships within their congregations:

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    “Nobody ever liked my father.” That’s how Shira Friedman Bogart begins her foreword to a new publication of essays by her father, Rabbi Edwin Friedman. She immediately explains her unusual outburst. “He had such a polarizing effect that people either adored and revered him or were appalled by his often maverick theories.”
    I don’t know much about those who were appalled by Rabbi Edwin Friedman’s theories but I, a United Methodist pastor, felt like I had found an amazing and supremely helpful guide through the thickets and roadblocks to effective Christian ministry within a congregation when I first read Friedman’s now famous book, “Generation to Generation.” Because of my powerful positive response to his writing I joined his twice yearly, post–graduate seminar and for two years listened to him spin his responses and his theories that thrilled and challenged his audience of pastors from many denominations all across America.
    I’ll never forget my first visit to his teaching site, a two-story house on the outskirts of Washington D.C. I flew into what is now called Reagan Airport. Then I walked to a Metro station rode for over a half hour, disembarked at the appropriate station, then walked several more blocks to my destination.
    When I entered the house there were several others milling about the first-floor learning area.  Friedman walked by me as I entered, said “Hello” in passing and disappeared up into the second floor.
    When we started, he stood in front of the fireplace and began talking about his ideas with hardly an introduction. The 20 or so of us who had gathered sat in what once was the living room and dining room of the house and listened intently, mostly because Friedman talked in ways that were not common for most of us in attendance. He used the language of Family Systems that aligned biological
language with human relations and saw everything in nature
connected with everything else in ways that few thinkers shared.
    Thus began a journey in our minds that would change the way we operated as pastors in our parishes and as spouses and parents in our families. 

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    He was the most influential theologian and ecclesiologist I encountered in my last 15 years of active clergy ministry. Friedman’s translation of Family Systems thinking from the seminal work of Dr. Murray Bowen brought clarity and insight to some of the most troubling aspects of life in a Christian parish.
    Concepts of “differentiation” “triangles” “fusion” “cutoff” “paradox” “objectivity” and many others have become embedded in my reflections about all of life. When I first learned them, they propelled me into a period of immense productivity and meaning as the result of my encounters — firsthand and through reading — with Friedman’s thinking.
    Consequently, you can imagine my great joy when I recently discovered that Friedman’s magnum opus, “A Failure of Nerve,” had been published by Seabury Press. And then a friend passed me a copy of a new compilation of Friedman’s essays called “The Myth of the Shiksa.” Both books have refueled my mind and challenged me with the originality and comprehensiveness of Friedman’s contributions not only to my life but to hundreds and maybe thousands of Christian pastors.

    I write this paean during Passover to offer my thanksgiving as a Christian for a Rabbi who has had immense positive impact on a whole generation of Christian pastors. His “Generation to Generation” is must reading in many seminaries. His thought has become the basis for many writers seeking to help church leaders understand why they and their people act the way they do and how leaders can adopt more helpful ways to lead people in their quest for meaning and hope. Bowen’s theories, as adapted by Rabbi Friedman, are not easy to comprehend and are even more difficult to practice.
    But the challenge is worth one’s investment of time and energy. Rabbi Friedman has offered a generation of synagogue and church leaders a fulfilling pathway to humane and effective lives.

    Dr. Bamsey is an occasional contributor to ReadTheSpirit. Earlier, we published Dr. Bamsey’s list of top books for religious leaders. You’ll find links on that page to reviews of the individual books, links to our Amazon-related bookstore — and links to more articles by Dr. Bamsey.

    TELL US WHAT YOU THINK, PLEASE. Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of our story — or email directly to ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:


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150: PASSOVER, the Holocaust, the Pope and the Challenge of Discerning Evil

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    Something shocked me as I watched a preview of the one-hour documentary, “Nazi Scrapbooks from Hell,” which will air on the day after Passover, jointly sponsored by the National Geographic Channel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).
    This program, debuting from 9 to 10 p.m. on April 27, is the first chance we have to look inside the now-infamous photo album from 1944 that made headlines around the world last year. That’s when archivists at the USHMM knew enough about the scrapbook, produced by Auschwitz SS officer Karl Höcker, to go public with news of the album’s contents. These pages contain 116 extremely rare snapshots of Höcker and the rest of the Auschwitz death-camp staff enjoying themselves in their off hours. In this case, that means, relaxing after an exhausting shift of murdering an average of 8,000 Jewish men, women and children per day.

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    What’s so shocking, now that we get to see the full range of images in this scrapbook, are not horrific scenes of torture, starvation
and piles of human remains that we’ve all seen so many times before. They’re missing from this scrapbook.
    Rather, what’s so shocking is the realization that, often, it’s impossible to tell from a person’s exterior what extreme evil is lurking inside.
    What we’re glimpsing here is confirmation of Hannah Arendt’s landmark book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.” That book was based on Arendt’s coverage of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichman’s trial in Israel, stories that Arendt filed for the New Yorker magazine in the early 1960s.
    In the book based on those articles, Arendt’s central conclusion was that Eichmann should not be dismissed as a monster. He showed no signs of mental illness. In fact, he
was a typical bureaucrat in an imperial system that morally justified
his role in organizing the Final Solution as if it were merely a noble
example of patriotic work by a loyal civil servant.

    The USHMM staff, aided by other historians and scholars, make the same point in the new documentary concerning these snapshots saved by Höcker.
    Without any other background, if someone handed you this photo album of fun times in the ’40s, you easily might mistake these cheery men and women for beloved family friends. You’d see them playing with dogs, enjoying picnics, lighting Christmas trees, singing to accordion tunes and picking bowls of fresh blueberries.
    Except, if you looked a little more closely, you would spot some SS uniforms.
    Look a little closer — and you might spot Dr. Josef Mengele, the infamous medical torturer, as one of Höcker’s grinning friends.

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    Perhaps this should not have shocked me. I’ve been a journalist for more than 30 years and, in those decades, I’ve been involved in reporting on many deeply disturbing news stories, including the decades-long pattern of abuse of thousands of children by  hundreds of Catholic priests. (But more on that sad chapter of history in a moment.)

    After previewing the new hour-long documentary, I needed to know more about this scrapbook. I’ve reported on the USHMM over the years and, once again, the museum staff was helpful.
    They connected me via telephone with Rebecca Erbelding, 26, a curator who you’ll meet in the documentary, sharing some of her reactions to Höcker and the scrapbooks. She was the USHMM staffer who first received an unexpected contact from a former, WWII-era, U.S. counter-intelligence officer who decided late in his life to donate this strange album to the museum.
    Immediately after WWII, this officer was part of the U.S. team that investigated Nazi war crimes — and he discovered this album left behind in an apartment abandoned by a fleeing officer. He kept the album a secret for many years, but finally decided it belonged in the museum collection.
    When Rebecca began to flip through the album with colleagues — she was stunned. No one had ever seen such photographs of the Auschwitz staff at leisure.

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    “It’s jarring to see them playing with dogs and lighting Christmas trees — because we know exactly what was going on in their world,” Rebecca told me. “Looking at this album for the first time, we don’t move closer to explaining the most important question of the Holocaust: How could this happen? This seems to take us farther away from an answer. These people don’t look like monsters. They look normal. It looks like someone’s vacation album — the kind of thing that you or I might have taken during a year abroad with friends.”
    At first, the most disturbing photos for the USHMM staff, Rebecca said, were the images of Nazis with their pets and Christmas decorations. “But, when we finally went public with the album, a lot of the media paid attention to a section of the scrapbook in which Höcker went blueberry picking with young women who worked at the camp.
    “This was in the summer of 1944, when Auschwitz was killing people at full capacity. That’s when Höcker went blueberry picking with these good-looking young women in their late teens and early 20s who were obviously enjoying themselves in the photos.
    “We went back and learned a lot more about these girls. When we looked more closely into their story, these photos became even more frightening because we realized that these young woman actively bought into what they were doing. They were called ‘helferinnen‘ and worked as communications specialists and secretaries and teletypists in the camp. They were considered part of the SS and they had to apply for these positions. We looked in their files, which are preserved in the National Archives — and you can still read the biographical essays they wrote for their applications as they pleaded for posting at Auschwitz.
    “They would write things like, ‘Please send me. I would love to be of service to the Reich,’ and they would request a position there,” Rebecca said. “They worked in the camp office; they weren’t camp guards. But one of the basic parts of their job would be conveying to Berlin what happened each day. We have the template of the communications they would send to Berlin after a transport would come in. They’d report that this-numbered transport came in and there were this many women, this many men and this many children — and it very specifically says: ‘This many were selected to be gassed.’
    “So, these women enjoying the blueberries with Höcker may not have been dropping pellets of poison gas into the gas chambers, but they knew what was going on day by day — and still they wanted to be a part of this society that had formed at Auschwitz.”

    There’s a lot more that unfolds in the hour-long film. For example, Höcker — who now is dead himself of natural causes — for many years denied full culpability for the death toll at Auschwitz. The mystery of Höcker’s role at the camp is analyzed scientifically in the course of this new documentary. Experts use his own album as evidence — and the outcome is something right out of “CSI.”
    You’ll be intrigued by that mysterious segment of the film.
    But the timeless challenge here — the Passover theme within this story — is the challenge of discerning the evil that may be lurking beneath otherwise beautiful, cheery exteriors. Freeing people from the evil powers of this world is all about discernment, a theme that runs throughout the timeless Exodus story.

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    On Friday, before Passover started on Saturday night, I spent a couple of hours in a Jewish neighborhood in the home of Dr. Joe Lewis, a professor of English, an expert in Jewish traditions and a modern pioneer in publishing books that help people who aren’t fluent in Hebrew enjoy ancient Jewish traditions.
    Visit Dr. Lewis’ site www.Singlishps.net to learn more about that important part of his life’s work.
    But, while I sat with him at his kitchen table and various Lewis family members prepared for the holiday, I described the upcoming Holocaust documentary.
    “They picked blueberries? Blueberries?” Lewis said, shaking his head. “Actually, we have a neighbor who grew up in the town that eventually became Auschwitz and she said they used to enjoy going out to pick blueberries. There were good blueberries there.”
    He paused, then said at length, “People can do such awful things to each other. I’m teaching a class right now about the aftermath of the Holocaust, and we’re looking at the question: How do we understand what happened? What was the meaning of this? These are very difficult questions — and they make the Holocaust such an important thing to study.
    “We cannot say simply that this was a matter of insanity. Primo Levi addresses this issue and talks about this complex system of violence that evolved over time.
    “Somehow these people were able to separate their work from the other parts of their life. They were able to disconnect true values that faith teaches us from the work that they were doing. Somehow, they were able to go work for a day, killing thousands of Jews, and then at night? At night, perhaps it was time to go to church for the holidays.”
    Lewis said, “This is a documentary that I definitely want to see. I’d like to show it to my class and ask them what they think about these issues.”

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    And here’s where Pope Benedict XVI comes into the story — in relation to his unexpected and quite elaborate efforts during his American visit to address the evil committed by some of his priests against thousands of children over many years.
    The pontiff’s remarks in recent days were criticized by some survivors of this abuse, who said his words were too few and too late — but, by and large, his pastoral attention to this issue was welcomed by many Catholics, including many survivors.
    I am NOT for a moment trying to equate the abuse of children within the Catholic church to the enormity of the Holocaust — and, to be clear, the National Geographic documentary focuses entirely on Auschwitz, period. However, issues raised in the documentary haunted me.
    I realized that in both criminal cases — a small minority of priests abusing their power to prey upon children — and officers within the vast bureaucracy of these death camps — the problem of discerning evil was a core issue.
    I did realize in a deeper way this past week one truth that we as journalists may not have appreciated sufficiently in covering the Catholic abuse crisis. It’s this: As journalists, we tended to regard bishops as evil if these bishops dragged their feet in removing abusive priests, when accusations finally came to light — or if they believed these accused priests’ professions of innocence and transfered them to new posts.
    We tended to view these bishops like corrupt politicians — as bad leaders who enabled evil doers to escape justice. And, some bishops were, indeed, bad men. Some bishops had overwhelming evidence of evil presented to them and swept it under the carpet.
    But —

    But, I have a new appreciation for how difficult it must have been for these bishops to see clearly when they were confronted with reports of great evil committed by priests who they had known for years as professional friends. They had eaten meals with these priests, studied with them, gone on retreats with them — stood around admiring holiday decorations with them. They knew only the Höcker-album version of these priests’ lives.
    To this day, Detroit’s retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who was himself abused as a child and who is a nationally respected advocate for men and women recovering from childhood abuse, refuses to publicly name the priest who abused him. That priest now is dead, Gumbleton has said, and he does not want to mar the man’s memory.
    The Höcker-album versions of people’s lives may be so beautiful and so warmly remembered that it seems almost impossible that evil could be a part of these people’s lives, as well.
    The most important thing the pontiff has been doing in recent days is making an effort from his supreme position in the church to drive home — again and again, day after day — that there is no room for evil against young people within his church. He is chipping away at anyone within his church’s mid-level leadership who still may be caught up in the Höcker-album vision of the church’s past in this regard.

    Dr. Lewis raised the question: Is the new, hour-long, National Geographic film about Auschwitz appropriate for use with high-school students?
    I’m responding here with an emphatic: Yes.
    Again, let me be crystal clear: I am not for one moment equating abuse within the Catholic church to the enormity of the Holocaust. However, both historical eras raise this important issue of discerning evil within people’s lives. The issue remains urgent in our world today.

    See the film, which explores Auschwitz from perspectives we haven’t glimpsed before. And tell us what you think.

    Want to explore this subject further?
    The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum offers an in-depth Web page on the Auschwitz photo album. Within that USHMM page, if you click on the link to “Explore the Album,” a screen pops up that lets you flip through dozens of images from the scrapbook. (The four black-and-white images that appear with today’s story are from the Höcker album and we are showing them to you here simply as examples from this documentary, illustrating some of the scenes you’ll see when you tune in April 27.)

    Please, tell us what you think. Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of today’s story. Or, you can email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

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149: PASSOVER: The Return of Houdini — a True Superman of “Self-Liberation”

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Before there was Superman, created by a couple of Jewish guys in the 1930s as a modern, pulp-fiction Sampson in brightly colored tights and cape — there was a real Jewish Superman. And, right now, he’s springing back to life in a way that would have made Harry Houdini grin!

Now, for the first time in the lives of American Baby Boomers, we can see Houdini’s entire, surviving legacy on film. This new triple-DVD set just released by Kino International becomes a remarkable Passover story, because all of us are searching right now for the spiritual energy to overcome the powers of bondage in our world, aren’t we?

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    The story starts this way …
    Once upon a time, there was a little 4-year-old Jewish immigrant named Erich Weiss — who, even when he reached adulthood, stood 5-foot-5. At the height of his powers, dressed immaculately in suit and tie with the air of a college professor or perhaps a famous doctor — Houdini loved to stage public displays of his powers in the busy streets just outside major newspaper offices.
    Given his size, he routinely sought out police officers for these public spectacles who would tower over him as they roughly grabbed him and literally threw him into straight jackets or chains or — in some cases after chaining his body — into deep, cold water.
    Seeing this little, noble form with his wise, highly cultured face set off by his perfectly knotted ties — it was quite a jolt to watch these big bruisers encircle him. They would actually toss him to and fro as they pulled the restraints as tightly as possible around his body.
    This all contributed to the awesome wonder of Houdini’s escapes.
    Yes, it’s true: Houdini also was famous as a magician and everyone knew that his theatrical shows were illusions.
    But it was his amazing physical accomplishments on land, in the air and under water — real, life-and-death threats to the man himself — that made him world famous.
    These feats were achieved by his sheer force of will, physical training, personal charisma and a clever understanding of the psychology of his foes.

    What a Passover story, hmmm?

    If you’re familiar with Houdini at all, you probably think of the sideshow image that appears at right of a nearly naked muscular man in chains — a freakish sight.
    Frequently, his origins also were misunderstood because his stage name and dark wavy hair gave the impression of Italian origins.
    In fact, Erich Weiss (whose family name originally was Weisz) was the son of Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss, a German-speaking rabbi from Hungary who moved to Appleton, Wisconsin. Everything seemed  wonderful as Rabbi Weiss was named the first full-time rabbi for about a dozen Jewish families. Appleton was a fairly diverse town for the Midwest in that era. Pride in also having a local college campus in Appleton gave citizens a feeling of cosmopolitan cooperation.
    Erich himself was born in Budapest in 1874 and traveled to Wisconsin with the rest of of the rabbi’s family in 1878, after the rabbi had spent a year or two in the U.S., settling into his new congregational role.

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    However, the family soon encountered a powerful social force that was to fuel the complete reshaping of Erich’s life, according to a number of his biographers.
    That force? Erich grew up in an America in which immigrants desperately wanted to wipe away their roots in their pursuit of the American mainstream.
    This desire to assimilate became a source of great pain for the Weiss family and led to the failure of Erich’s father in the eyes of his Appleton congregation. Within just a few years, these Wisconsin families decided that this rabbi wasn’t going to become the kind of American-style leader they had envisioned. The rabbi was too mired in European Jewish ways. Still a boy, Erich watched as these families fired his father — touching off a dismal, downward spiral for the family. Eventually, the impoverished rabbi wound up moving to New York City, where he died an agonizing death from cancer in 1892.

    While Erich loved his parents, he was attracted from childhood to the mainstream of American celebrity, which at that time involved circuses and traveling stage shows.
    By the time of his father’s death, he already had run away from home once or twice and was cutting himself off from his heritage with a stage name that honored a pioneering magician whose last name was Houdin. He picked the first name Harry partly because his nickname for years had been “Ehrie,” which sounded a lot like Harry. Coupled with Houdini, the stage name had a powerful alliterative ring.

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    In fact, the name was the least of Houdini’s transformations.
    His life became a pursuit of personal transformation. He was a talented athlete who won honors as a swimmer. He became an early aviator and holds the unusual record for making the first, successful, powered flight in the skies above Australia.
    One of the amazing clips in the new DVD set is footage of Houdini staging an extremely dangerous feat in which he slid down a rope in mid air from one airplane to another with the wind whipping the cord around as he struggled to survive.
    In the best Houdini film in this DVD collection, the silent film “Terror Island,” the opening titles explained to viewers in 1920: “It is of interest to know that Houdini, world-famous for his exploits as self-liberator, actually performed the amazing feats here pictured.”

    “Self-liberator.”
    Reading those words in a film produced nearly a century ago makes one realizes what a huge sensation Houdini would have been today. Somehow, he managed to link his own spiritual yearnings with his physical and professional passions and summed it all up in an eerily 21st-Century phrase:
    Self-liberator.

    This is the point at which the Houdini film footage can get downright haunting.
    Even in the short Kino trailer at the end of today’s story, you can glimpse a few seconds of the kinds of crowds that swarmed the streets for Houdini’s public escapes.
    After you’ve watched the clip with your eyes glued on Houdini himself, watch again and look at the faces in the crowd. On the DVD set, the crowd scenes are much longer and clearer. Looking into these faces in clip after clip on the DVDs, you’ll find expressions of awe and bemusement — but you’ll also find people leering at this strange sight, clearly hoping to witness Houdini’s death.
    Thinking about those grainy black-and-white images of crowds, drawn by the bizarre spectacle of a possible death by hanging, one one has to think of other freakish images of American crowds. We may even think of the crowds that showed up to watch lynchings. We may think of crowds that showed up in Europe during the rise — or even during the fall — of Fascism.

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    And, at the center of it all? There’s this little man, looking very much like a vulnerable professor, who manages to escape whatever is threatening his life.
    Reflecting on Houdini’s life as a Jewish immigrant, then watching scenes of bizarre restraints and life-threatening tortures in his films, one has to think of later scenes — terrible scenes of crowds caught up in a far greater evil than anything Houdini, who died in 1926, could have envisioned.
    And yet, here was a man who — even if he hid his heritage from the world — was determined to prove that humans have the power to defy all odds by sheer force of will and training.

    There was so much that Houdini couldn’t see.
    His films follow silent-era conventions for cliff hangers, particularly the sad choice of using exotic-looking minorities as the most convenient sources of stock villains. There are Asian and South Sea island villains in these films, for instance, that make us wince today.
    But what Houdini saw quite clearly was the mythic persona of what we later would call the superhero. In one film, he becomes a famous crime fighter and viewers are told that his transformation was fueled by the tragic death of his father at the hands of criminals.
    One title tells us that this hero’s life was shaped by “memories of a father’s fate and, with them, a fierce longing for vengeance.”
    Think about it.
    With a slight variation, that’s the story of Batman’s origin years later.
    On another level, that’s the story of young Erich Weiss’ transformation into Houdini.

    And what did Houdini proclaim was the proper mission for heroes?
    In “Terror Island,” the best of these films, he not only plays a hero of supreme physical abilities — but he’s also a visionary scientist who invents a submarine and other high-tech gear to recover a cache of lost diamonds in the South Pacific. When a friend asks him what has sparked such extreme creative passion, Houdini points out of his office window at orphaned children in the busy streets below.
    “I would use every dollar to brighten the lives of little waifs — like those two out there,” he says.
    He means it, too, because long after the high adventure is over, after he has recovered the diamonds and won the love of the true-hearted girl — the film closes with this loving couple hosting an elaborate summer camp for scores of orphans.

    This is truly a haunting Passover story — with as much pain as triumph.
    Finally getting a chance to see the collected cinematic works of Houdini this spring is likely to make many of us contemplate Passover themes in fresh ways this year.

    Want to see Houdini in action?
    First, you can click on the cover of the DVD set above to jump to our review and you can order a copy via Amazon right from our site, if you wish.
    Also, you also can click on the video screen below to see the Kino trailer for the new DVD collection. If there’s no screen visible in your version of this story, then visit YouTube to see the Kino trailer of Harry Houdini’s films.

    WANT TO EXPLORE THE SPIRITUAL SIDE OF SUPERHEROES FURTHER?
    We continue to cover news about spiritual themes in comic books and graphic novels. Here’s our latest major story about the rebirth of the comic genre.

    TELL US WHAT YOU THINK. What are you reflecting on during Passover this year? What are you planning for Earth Day? What do you think about our Harry Houdini story today?

    Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of this story. Or, you can directly Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm.

    OR, click on the “Digg” link below and add a very brief “digg” comment — even a phrase — to this story’s listing on Digg-It, which will tell even more folks worldwide that it’s worth reading:


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Dinah Berland: Passover prayer crosses 150 Years and circles the globe

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We have several spiritual gifts for you today.

If you’re preparing for Passover, here’s a prayer that crosses 150 years and has circled the globe to reach you. It was part of Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women — the first complete prayer book for Jewish women ever published and, before the Holocaust, a huge influence in households across Europe.
American poet Dinah Berland (at right) has found her own life deeply intertwined with Fanny’s life. She has adapted Fanny’s prayers for a modern, English-speaking audience and is allowing us to reproduce this particular prayer today. (Links to read more about Dinah, the prayer book and this unfolding global story appear below.)

In a profound way, poetry is sacred.
It’s the form in which much of the world’s scriptures are voiced and endure to this day.
Fanny’s — and now Dinah’s — contribution to that ongoing transmission of spiritual truth weaves important communities into our legacy of faith and poetry. In lines like these, the lives of nearly forgotten women are woven into our fabric, the lives of eastern European communities that now are extinct spring to life in these lines — and, all of us are just a bit richer by having paused in these inspirational waters to let prayers that once were part of millions of lives — live among us once again.


Here, then, is Dinah’s adaptation of Fanny’s Prayer On the First Days of Passover:

Dear God, the festival of Passover has come —
The joyful feast memorializing the days of jubilee,
When you redeemed our ancestors
From inhuman oppression and carried them
With an outstretched hand
Into the beautiful land of liberty,
From the dark dwellings of error and false belief
Into the sunny realms of knowledge and the pure,
Gladdening faith in you and your divine word.

With deep emotion and joy, we celebrate this holiday,
Which reminds us of that happy time
When you chose Israel for your inheritance,
Elected her from all nations,
Wedded her to you as a bridegroom weds his bride
And bound her to you with the ties of grace and love —
The time when your people, in return, clung to you,
As a youthful bride to the heart of her beloved,
As a child to its mother’s breast —
When they followed you, full of love and faithfulness
Into a strange, unknown land,
Followed you into a vast desert wilderness.

A long space of time has since passed,
And the heart of your people has often changed,
But your love has always remained the same.
You have been a help and refuge
To our ancestors from eternity,
A shield and a help to their children after them
Throughout all generations.
You are our guide, our protector, our guardian.
As you have been in all times.
We have passed through more than one Egypt.
Hatred and prejudice have set
A heavy yoke around our necks,
But through the darkness of misery and oppression
A ray of your grace has continually shone above us
And has at last brought a morning of redemption
In which our human dignity is recognized
And we live free and undisturbed
Under the protection of mild and just laws.
Oh, may you, O God, continue to be with us.
As in the days when you burst the chains
In which we sighed, and with an awful hand
Broke the yoke of bondage and tyranny,
So may you deliver and redeem our souls
That they may rise above all attacks
From within or without.
As you hurled the many idols and gods of Egypt
From their altars, so may your boundless mercy
Release us from the idols that attract us today,
And let every cell and organ of our bodies be filled
With your incomparable, exalted and glorious being.
May we be thoroughly infused by faithfulness and love,
By unconditional, unwaivering confidence
And boundless attachment to you.
You are the shield and savior of every human being
As well as of whole nations.
You comfort them
In the midst of trouble and suffering.

Amen.

Dinah closes her Preface to Fanny’s prayer book with a plea:
“May this book of prayers, which has survived for so long and through so much upheaval, continue to endure to bring comfort, healing, and renewal of spirit to all who use it.”

To that, we join in saying: Amen.
WANT TO EXPLORE THIS STORY FURTHER?
FIRST, here are some links to our coverage of poet Dinah Berland’s globally significant work in recovering the long-lost gifts of Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers.
Here’s are very first story on how Fanny’s book, adapted by Dinah, caught our attention.
Here’s David’s Conversation With Dinah about her work with Fanny’s book.
Then, we included Dinah in a story about writers’ “voices” — around the time she debuted her new Web site.
Finally, we also wrote about a ReadTheSpirit reader who felt a personal connection to Dinah’s and Fanny’s work.

 

147: PASSOVER Conversation With “The Adventure Rabbi” on Roots of Our Faith

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    This is Corona Arch in Moab, Utah, where The Adventure Rabbi Jamie Korngold and 186 of her closest friends will gather for the first Seder of Passover on Saturday evening.

    Does this sound a little crazy?
    Well, think about this for a moment: What kind of a landscape do you envision was the spiritual home of the earliest stories in the Bible thousands of years ago?
    That’s what this brilliant new voice in Judaism, whose first book debuts just in time both for Passover and Earth Day this year, is trying to say to Jewish people — and to non-Jews as well — about the need to step outdoors to recapture the true roots of our faith.
    Her story is a perfect transition from our Earth Day coverage Monday and Tuesday this week — into a special ReadTheSpirit observance of Passover.
    Passover formally begins after sunset on Saturday, but families already are preparing for this ancient festival. We’ve got a marvelous, diverse array of voices, stories, multimedia, prayers and news for you stretching all the way through Passover next week.
    Please — stay with us even if you’re not Jewish — because we think you’ll be amazed by some of these stories and inspired by others.

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    FIRST — before we talk with The Adventure Rabbi: If you enjoyed the Monday and Tuesday Earth Day reflections of Sister Mary McCann, a member of the pioneering Catholic religious order of IHM Sisters, we’ve got two more gems for you today!
    Click here to read her “Glimpse of Geese“.
    Click here to enjoy an inspiring “Meadow Moment“.
    Both of these pieces may reshape your reflections as you prepare for Earth Day this week.

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THEN —

WELCOME to Passover at ReadTheSpirit!

    DAVID: Rabbi, many of our non-Jewish readers may not be aware of this — but the Passover Seder is more than traditional readings, prayers and songs. It’s also an occasion when households talk about oppression and the need for liberation in our world today. So, what will your Seder guests talk about this year as they gather around your table?
    JAMIE: Well, I’ve got to explain about my Seder, because you don’t understand how we do it out here.
    DAVID: You’ve got guests coming, right?
    JAMIE: I’ve got 186 guests coming! We had to cut it off at that. We’ve got a waiting list, too, and we had to cut off the waiting list, because it’s clear that we don’t have enough room. We’re full. We’ll have 186 people coming with me to Moab, Utah.
    We’re going to hike a mile and a half over red rock up to what’s called the Corona Arch, this huge stone span. We’ll be seated underneath the arch. We have two guitar players and a mandolin player. We’ll read the actual Exodus story from our backpack Torah.
    What’s the discussion going to be like?
    My goal is to help people see that the spiritual experience they hope to have — is right there inside of them already.
    DAVID: Explain that a little more, because you write about related themes in your book. What do you mean when you say: What you’re looking for is right inside of you?

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    (And, as with all of our ReadTheSpirit articles, you can click on the book cover to jump to our review of Rabbi Korngold’s book — and you can even order a copy from Amazon, if you wish.)

    JAMIE: Think about the way we check our Email every day. Think about how, at the end of the day, we may have worked really hard at clearing out the Email In-box — and we want to move on and do something else. But we keep checking the Email — as if we’re hoping that something better is going to come along and drop into our In-boxes.
    It’s as though we overlook all the stuff that fills our lives right now — hoping for something better on the horizon.
    What I ask at my Seder is: What do you feel like right now?
    You don’t have to go off to an ashram somewhere in India before you answer that question. Your spiritual experience is right inside of you. What we have to do is carve out a time of peacefulness so we can experience what’s right there already.
    DAVID: You’re saying there’s danger in becoming junkies for the next new thing. It’s sort of a Dorothy realization in “The Wizard of Oz.”
    I’ve got to tell you that, in your book, I was impressed that — yes, of course, you talk about scriptures and the great sages like Maimonides, but you made room for some wisdom from “The Wizard of Oz,” too.
    JAMIE: The lesson that the characters learned after their adventure in Oz was that the things they were hoping for were really inside of them all the time. That’s an important lesson.
    We need to go deeper into who we already are.

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     DAVID: But obviously you’re not telling people to sit at home. You’re becoming famous as The Adventure Rabbi through your Web site and now this book. There are people who travel a long way out to Boulder, Colorado, just to hike with you or ski with you on one of your outdoor experiences. You want people to get outside, right?
    JAMIE: Yes, we need to make some space in our lives.
    Think about this: Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and Moses was up on that mountain for 40 days and Elijah goes out like this, too. These weren’t weekend trips. They needed 40 days to decompress, to be fully present where they were until they met God.
    Our lives are profoundly more busy than their lives were — and we don’t have nearly the connection to God that they had — so one weekend trip isn’t likely to get us anywhere near where we need to be. We need to begin making space in our lives for this kind of reflection.

    DAVID: I like the chapter in your book in which you actually say to readers, “Stop trying so hard!” There are a lot of books out there about becoming spiritual warriors and turning our religious lives into daily disciplines of religious fitness, until —
    JAMIE: — until we’ve tried so hard to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish things that we’re exhausted. People need to slow down.
    DAVID: But I’ve got to challenge you on that: You’re saying this to readers? You? You’re the rabbi who describes, in this book, trying to complete a 100-mile marathon run that nearly killed you.
    I don’t even want to let some of my friends in Michigan who are addicted to long-distance running read that section of your book, because it would be like giving them crack cocaine — to read about this high-altitude challenge you took on, running 100 miles. I can see running junkies just drawn to that idea like moths to a flame.
    JAMIE: Well, I don’t recommend it. I write about that experience to point out how warped it was.
    DAVID: In the book, you write about how, on this particular extreme race, you’d been running for more than 27 hours, your lungs were filling with fluid and, despite all that — despite all that, you were mentally calculating how you could keep running the final six miles of the race and, even if you did collapse, there was a chance they could revive you.
    You write, “How did this come to be normal? Why do I and people like me feel the need to push the limits to such abnormal extremes?” You call it a “warped state of mind.” I think it’s one of the fascinating points you make — that you’re all about high adventure and you’re all about reconnecting with the natural world — but you’re really talking about not pushing our lives to extremes.
    JAMIE: That’s it. Running like that almost killed me.
    I’m telling people: You don’t have to make every single day count. You don’t.
    There was one person who thought they had found a typo when I wrote: Stop getting the most out of every day.
    It’s really exhausting trying to get the most out of every day. It’s what our culture tells us to do over and over again — but it’s one of many little sayings we hear every day that actually aren’t too healthy for us.
    I’m trying to tell people that we need space in our lives, that we’re not going to make ourselves perfect, that we don’t need to try to accomplish, accomplish, accomplish all the time — and it’s right there in our tradition and its right there in the natural environment.

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    DAVID: Well, as a person who’s the first to admit my own flaws, your message feels like the lifting of a huge weight. You write about how Moses was a deeply flawed person, yet God chose him for some very important work. If so, maybe there’s hope for the rest of us poor, flawed folks.
    JAMIE: What I’m trying to do in this book is to use both the Bible and the natural environment as role models. Moses wasn’t perfect. Just as there are no perfect people in the Bible, if we go out into nature, we find there’s nothing perfect in nature. Nature is not trying to be perfect.
    Nature’s not even in balance. There are lots of imbalances in nature.
    DAVID: Some of your most challenging passages in the book zero in on this point.
    You write, “Our culture’s pursuit of perfectionism is one of the major stumbling blocks between us and contentment. We divorce our mates, fire our rabbis or ministers, and change our children’s schools, all in search of something better, which we are sure is right around the corner. Yet somehow it never is. Each new situation brings its own disappointments.
    “It’s almost as if we believe that we are entitled to perfect lives. If we could just get it right, then perfect jobs, perfect homes and perfect partners would be within our reach.
    “How did we come to even think that perfection was a possible goal? Perhaps it began with our ability to have dominion over the earth.”
    Thats where you connect the dots most powerfully, I think.
    There is a direct relationship here, you’re arguing, between our desire to control everything, our over-stressed lives — and the way we’ve been treating the natural world.
    I liked what you gave us in the Afterword of the book: the 20 Commandments of Conscious Consumption.

    JAMIE: To me, that last chapter was really the most important one. The editors said it should be an Afterword, because it seems different form the rest of the book. And I agreed to that, but here’s how I see it: In the rest of the book, what I’m saying about the wilderness, the outdoors, is that it holds these spiritual portals for us.
    I tried to make this book appeal to Jews and Christians because I think the issues I’m dealing with in this book really are from our shared tradition. My thesis is that religion began in the wilderness for a reason: There are certain spiritual realizations we just get better when we make some space for ourselves there. When we stay inside, we lose track of those portals.
    So, if the outdoors holds these spiritual portals, then we have to protect the wilderness. We have to take care of it. That last chapter is the Al Gore chapter — all about the things we have to do — and we’re talking about our spiritual and moral mandate to do that.
    This is really something the evangelical community has gotten on board with, too, and I’m glad we’re seeing that because, for so long, the Bible was misquoted and misused. A lot of people who read those words about God telling us we have dominion over the Earth and should subdue it — a lot of people used that as an excuse to use up the Earth.
    I think, ultimately, the planet’s not ours. If you want to be a literalist about the beginning of the Bible, then it’s God’s planet and we should take care of it.

    DAVID: I love the prayer at the very end of your book.
    You write, “May we have the wisdom, the tenacity, and the fortitude to help God’s garden endure. In the words of the Psalmist:
    “How many are the things You have made, O Lord;
    You have made them all with wisdom;
    the earth is full of Your creations …
    May the glory of the Lord endure forever.”

    (And so ends these highlights from our Conversation With the Adventure Rabbi.)

    Want to read more about her — perhaps check out her 20 Commandments? She’s got the Commandments and lots more material on her Web site for The Adventure Rabbi and this new book.
    Want to see her in action? Click on the Video Screen below to watch a TV report on Rabbi Korngold, produced by a local news crew. If no video screen is visible in your version of this story, then visit YouTube directly to watch the video on Rabbi Korngold.

    Want to know more about Corona Arch and this stunningly beautiful area of Utah?
    The U.S. Department of the Interior maintains a nuts-and-bolts site about this region.
    But my personal favorite, searching the Internet for a site that captures the grandeur of the region, is Utah Red Rocks, a beautiful site built by hiker and photographer Robert Riberia.

    PLEASE, Tell us what you think! What are you planning for Earth Day or for Passover this year? Where are you focusing your prayers? Your preparations? What memories can you share? Do you have tips for other readers?
    Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of our story. Or, you can email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

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