It’s a gray overcast humid day here in Detroit. On my iTunes, the Gipsy Kings, “Volare.” I first heard them in a passenger van careening around mountain roads in the north of Israel in 1995, a journalist sent on a singles mission to write articles about the homeland.
It was a magical December when I found myself dancing atop a Tel Aviv bar on Christmas Eve and tying my jacket around my waist as a makeshift skirt to observe the modesty mandate as I shuffled past Meah Shearim, Jerusalem’s most religious enclave.
Carting full bags of purchases, my tour guide led me to a cafe where two men strummed guitars and sang in an unfamiliar tongue. The hot dogs we ordered were kosher by default as Arab Muslims won’t consume pork.
Today I probably couldn’t stroll down those same streets. Or if I did, perhaps I would have to hide my Jewish identity.
We are a complex web, this world. Last night, I stayed on the phone until late with a friend who insisted that Orthodoxy is the true way of observing Judaism. She mounted a fascinating and convincing argument – but I fought back with equal zeal.
Why can’t we find God’s majesty in the strum of a guitar or the clear breath of a mountainside hike? Why is it only in a synagogue, I asked her, that a community becomes real?
Of course that’s not how I believe but I respect the right of others to lean in that direction.
So then I found the Adventure Rabbi. A woman in Colorado who hosts hikes and musical retreats for Jewish holidays. Because she found a void: so many Jews not connecting to the traditional modes of observance who just wanted a way to enjoy their heritage.
Listen. One size does not fit all. I’ve seen enough hypocrisy to turn my ears red and people still think they’re walking a straight and narrow path.
We are all broken and we are all whole. We all have infinite wisdom and we are all so damn ignorant.
What I told my friend was that every single Jew – every person! – has a unique contribution to make the community a collective whole. Let them. Cherish them. And fill your hours with more important endeavors than preaching about how everyone else just doesn’t know any better.