[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/book.292.320.rabbi.jpg caption="Sherre Hirsch is the author of We Plan, God Laughs" width=292 height=320]
Editor's note: Sherre Hirsch was a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles for eight years and is the Spiritual Life Consultant and a speaker for Canyon Ranch. She appeared regularly on Noami Judd’s New Morning. She has been featured on Today, Tyra, and PBS’s Thirty Good Minutes and is also a contributor to Momlogic.com. Hirsch lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.
Rabbi Sherre Hirsch
This Saturday night begins the holiday of Passover, the most widely observed holiday in the Jewish religion. Jews around the world will “open the door” metaphorically for Elijah, symbolically to herald the coming peace. During his first papal visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI has made it a point to be at a synagogue in New York City during Passover. By going out of his way to meet a rabbi in a synagogue, the Pope is opening the door to a dialogue, and taking a step forward to remove barriers and promote understanding. This is certainly better than a step back or not having the courage to take a step at all.
It brings to mind the words of Abraham Isaac Kook, a prominent 20th century religious thinker and the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, who spoke of the unity we can find despite our many different points of view, beliefs, and cultures.
Rav Kook said,
“It is precisely the multiplicity of opinions that derive from different souls and backgrounds which enriches wisdom.” Even though historically we came from very disparate beginnings, there is a place for various souls to enrich each other through their wisdom, and peace can come about even with the multiplicity of our opinions. In an age of fanaticism and tumult, it is restorative to have and acknowledge a positive religious role model, a deeply observant believer who is a man of peace.
Since it has been so long since a pontiff has come to the States, I think his presence also restarts a dialogue about faith and spirituality in the larger world. Many struggle and want to talk about issues surrounding their beliefs, yet find it a difficult subject to approach, even with their friends. We rarely hear chats about religion around the water cooler. With his days in New York and Washington, D.C., the Pope becomes the water cooler conversation. It places religion, faith, and spirituality into the everyday dialogue, and enables people to have a meaningful exchange of impressions and ideas. Religion is no longer only a private, internal contemplation. “Did you hear what the Pope said,” is a short step from “I’ve always believed…” In a day, he’s given voice to religion and a positive way to discuss faith, spirituality, and belief.
For many people, the Pope is the embodiment of God. While I don’t believe that, as a Jew, his presence does remind us that there is god in all of us. Pope Benedict’s visit speaks to the possibility of faith within each of us. Again, it allows us to bring religion into the modern dialogue, and accept pluralism—the concept that people with conflicting beliefs can live in peace, respect, and harmony with each other.
Filed under: Pope Benedict
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