Man’s Search For Meaning

Dana Jennings writes for the NYT:

As my 40s lengthened, I inexplicably became ravenous for wisdom and meaning. I devoured theological tomes — the works of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Catholic writer Thomas Merton come to mind — as if they were particularly fine cuts of steak. We are adrift in galaxies of mere information, distracted by the relentless drone of the e-hive, and I ached for the oxygen of understanding, which is always in short supply.

Gradually I sought, and found, solace, refuge and a way of being in the Judaism of my wife and my sons, found a depth that had been missing from the religion of my childhood.

What won me over to Judaism was the insistence that our sacred texts were still vivid, still alive, the idea that the Torah and the Talmud were meant to be wrestled with the way Jacob wrestled with the angel. In the Protestantism of my childhood, the Bible, especially the New Testament, was meant to be read, but reverentially. The words were cast in stone; they didn’t resonate with the earthy energy that I find in Torah.

And, too, I was moved by a tradition in which we are still in dialogue with our greatest teachers. We Jews speak of the ancient sages Hillel and Rabbi Akiva as if we just had an espresso with them at Starbucks. We still refer to Moses Maimonides, the brilliant 12th-century rabbi and physician, as if he still made house calls. We don’t dwell on saints and martyrs, but on flesh and blood men and women.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that becoming a Jew-by-choice has been one smooth drive down some celestial highway of transcendence. There are doubts, outright arguments with God and the little voice that keeps whispering: “Oh, come on, man, how much can one tiny strip of bacon hurt?”

About Luke Ford

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