Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to participate in a Native American sweat lodge, and it was truly an eye-opening experience. The ritual that the guide performed prior to us entering the lodge really reaffirmed for me the knowledge that we are all truly connected to one another. The Native American elder blew sounds from a horn made from an animal—and while I’m not exactly sure which animal the horn came from, the sounds were identical to those performed in the Jewish faith, using an instrument called the Shofar. Upon proper reflection, what would appear to be two extremely different religious points-of-view, are actually completely interconnected, and based on my faith— are ultimately speaking to the same entity, which I choose to call Hashem. Regardless of our varying religious points-of-view, there exist commonalities, in that we are all seeking the same things: safety and connection.
I am reminded of a story that I find funny, yet sad at the same time. I once had the privilege of helping the son of a devout Christian help himself heal from his addiction and other struggles. The father came to me and said, “Asher, I feel terribly— even though you saved my son’s life, you are still going to hell.” I responded, asking if the gentleman believed Jesus was a benevolent God, to which he responded “yes”. I then asked, “So, if I do everything he wants me to do, yet I do not accept him as my lord and savior, am I still going to hell?” He thought about it for a moment, and then said “yes”. I then asked him if he read scripture, to which he responded “yes”, and I said in the story of ‘End of Days’, it says the Jews have to conquer Jerusalem prior to Jesus revealing himself, therefore, I have last licks.
While I admire this man’s faith, it just shows me how divided our faiths and our beliefs can make us. If only we realized and recognized that we are seeking the same thing, we can then find common respect for each other’s goals. As a society, we have spent way too many years— even centuries— seeing largely the differences, and then subsequently fighting with each other because of our different beliefs. We really need to start to look at the similarities that exist between us, and when the differences come up, see them as just that: differences.
In the end, do my beliefs actually affect you? As long as I am respectful of you, and as long as I do not wish harm upon you, should my beliefs even come into question?
How do you help yourself to see the similarities instead of the differences when someone has different beliefs— no matter what those beliefs are? Additionally, how do you lead by example— offering patience, kindness, and acceptance?
This week, let’s recognize the vastness of the universe— the vastness of the entity I call Hashem. Let’s remember that just because I have, does not mean you have to have less— it is not a zero-sum game.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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