Friends II: Judaism Isn’t About Spirituality

I’ve waited too long to recommend “The Brisket King,” an essay by my friend Andrew Gow on Jews who dismiss Judaism and go looking for “spirituality”:

We go shopping, literally, for new ‘spiritual’ experiences, as though one could isolate and purchase ‘spirituality’ via retreats, healing sessions, etc. – as a commodity. New Age, Wicca and Buddhism are major alternative destinations for disaffected middle-class Jews, followed by Christianity-though ‘secularism’ is admittedly the default destination for the vast majority, with assimilation coming close behind, probably in the generation following those who see themselves only as ‘secular’ or ‘cultural’ Jews.

As Andrew succinctly explains, the whole idea of spirituality as a category separate from action is alien to Judaism:

If we imagine body and soul as separable (except in death, which leads to we-know-not-what), we are caught in a trap not of our own devising: we are caught looking for something Judaism does not provide or cater to, at least not in isolation: ‘spirituality’. Rather, Judaism provides integrated whole-body exercise of the ‘spiritual’ *capacity*. Kavanah (roughly, devotion, but that’s a weak word for it; focused intention is as good) does not happen merely in the head. It is attained by disciplined, regular, learned activities that require body and mind to act together.

Read the whole essay here.

3 thoughts on “Friends II: Judaism Isn’t About Spirituality”

  1. First, congrats for your blog. It’s my first time around, and it looks rather promising.
    “It is attained by disciplined, regular, learned activities that require body and mind to act together”
    Not necessarily. While this could be the orthodoxes’ interpretation of Judaism, one might argue that Judaism, the way it initially was, is merely a ‘spiritual experience’ with a couple of sacred rituals and a bundle of social laws.

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