In 1990, a group of eight rabbis and Jewish scholars came to India for an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who had asked them to unlock the mystery of Jewish survival in exile for two millennia.
At one point in their discussion, after one rabbi explained how, in our prayers and customs, every Jew is to be reminded of the exile, the Dalai Lama said: “This is what I call the Jewish secret—to keep your tradition. In every important aspect of human life, something is there to remind you: we have to return, to take responsibility.”
Although in many ways Buddhism and Judaism are very different, I think each can serve to enlighten the other. In this light I offer a sample of Hasidic Jewish insights that I believe can be of use to both Buddhists and Jews.
Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov once said to his children, “My life was always blessed in that I never needed anything until I had it.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes: “Aren’t all religions equally true? No, all religions are equally false. The relationship of religion to truth is like that of a menu to a meal. The menu describes the meal as best it can. It points to something beyond itself. As long as we use the menu as a guide we do it honor. When we mistake the menu for the meal, we do it and ourselves a grave injustice.”
Soon after the death of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin someone asked one of his disciples what was the most important thing to his teacher. The disciple thought and then replied, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.”
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