I’m back from a four-week leg of the tour. It was the longest one I’ll be going on, and by far the most expensive and grueling one, too, so I figure this means I reached the apogee of my road experience.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as encouraged and discouraged at the same time. The encouragement comes from meeting hundreds of people who have been thinking just the way I have about religion, yet thought they were the only ones. Or, in many cases, they just hadn’t articulated their feelings and positions before, and I was able to do it for them.
I’m also delighted by how many people are buying my book for family members – as a way of beginning to communicate their own perspectives on Judaism. There’s enough hard evidence of Judaism as a path of inquiry (and as a path entirely less ethnocentric and nationalistic than what most Americans get from organized Jewish life, today) to arm the so-called ‘unaffiliated Jew’ with enough fodder to participate in a meaningful discussion.
The best part has been meeting young rabbinical students, who resonate most completely with what I’m saying. Some of them are even interested in aspects of my work and thought that I didn’t explicitly refer to in Nothing Sacred, such as chaos magic, consciousness, and autonomy. If these young people are any indication of what’s coming to the pulpit, we have nothing to fear for the future of the Jewish faith. (‘We,’ meaning those of us who don’t fear such things, I suppose…)
Most discouraging, so far, have been a few of the outlandishly negative reviews. I wouldn’t mind at all if people who angrily reviewed the book actually read the book – but the two I’ve read seem to be commenting on a different book, entirely. They think I hate God, am some sort of closet atheist, or am desperate to work out a personal hatred of Jews.
I looked closely at the words and – in some cases, past work – of these reviewers, though, and came to realize that these are their own personal obsessions. People who think an “open source” Jewish tradition will kill God are the same people who, deep down, constantly question whether God really exists (me thinks the lady doth protest to much…). Those who see the end of Israel in any honest discussion about Judaism have Zionism at the heart of their own conflict. The notion of an open, honest discussion about Judaism serves a Roschach test, bringing up whatever it is we’re attached to, or conflicted about (same thing).
A great rabbi – the head of education at University of Judaism, wrote an extremely encouraging letter to me in which he said that “Hey, when you get that sort of response from the organized Jewish world, consider yourself a success! There is a ton of paranoia out there about the ‘end of Judaism.'”
Indeed, if I weren’t getting this response then it would mean what I’m saying isn’t true. Know what I mean?
Still, I’m just a guy who writes books and hopes to open people’s heads a bit, and – as a flawed human with real feelings – angry, unfounded rhetoric against me bums me out, especially when I’m on the road on my own dime. So I’m going to be insulating myself a bit from the more intensely personal attacks, and hanging out with those who share a love for the exchange of ideas – not just those who agree with me, by any means, but those who think there’s room for actually thinking out loud about what parts of Judaism work for us, without fear of murdering God or leading to the deaths of innocent Israelis.
See you out there.