Are You On A Spiritual Journey?

I chose to click the Barry Gelman link in my Google News Alert for "rabbi" because I am a masochist. I know that whenever I read this Orthodox rabbi, I will be annoyed by the shallowness of his thought.

Here’s his opening statement today: "Now that all the “bells and whistles” of the high Holidays and Sukkot are gone, what will be of our spiritual journey? There is a lot that attracts us to synagogue during the month of Tishrei. With the excitement of Rosh Hashana, the awe of Yom Kippur and the joy of Sukkot amnd simchat Torah behind us, what will serve as the attraction to shul and renewed Jewish commitment."

What bugged me particularly in this paragraph were the two words "spiritual journey".

I’m really tired of spiritual journeys. I find the phrase is usually used by narcissists.

I am a narcissist. I know narcissists. I don’t like to be around narcissists and I am not interested in their spiritual journeys.

"Spiritual journey" reminds me of my childhood when the Christians around me were preoccupied by their individual salvation. They’d get together and tell stories of how they came to Jesus. All the sinning they did beforehand always sounded more exciting to me.

I understand "spiritual journey" as a quest for the transcendent. That’s no foundation for Yiddishkeit. Spiritual journeys are likely to be faddish. Frankly, I usually get more spirituality out of going to yoga than praying in synagogue.

My conversion to Judaism and my commitment to Judaism has nothing to do with a spiritual journey. It is based on my belief that this is the most effective vehicle for morally educating myself and for furthering goodness in the world and for fighting evil. It’s not about my spiritual highs. Spirituality don’t enter into it. If I encounter it, that’s nice.

If Judaism competes in the marketplace on the basis of spiritual highs, it will lose. Judaism is the most this-worldly of the world’s religion. It is unromantic religion, as opposed to Christianity’s romantic religion. Judaism is consumed with prosaic details.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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