Busted Halo

In Rendezvous with G-d, twentysomething blogger and journalist Monica Rozenfeld explores what it means as a young Jewish woman in New York City to have a relationship with G-d.

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November 16th, 2009

Coming down from High Holidays

Stand up. Sit down. I’m standing now for hours at a time – exhausted, and famished. Repeat. Repeat. In Hebrew and in English. Clop your heart for the following sins. I am clopping my heart to sins I did not commit or did not feel sorry for committing. Take time for the silent devotion. I pray on my own terms. But I am still exhausted, and famished, and unmoved.
Yom Kippur may just be the most difficult holiday. It’s a holiday of transcendence. It’s for letting go of the past and moving toward the future a slightly better person. It’s about asking for forgiveness from G-d, from others, and most importantly from oneself. But this year I felt nothing, and it made me question my faith. Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. Or maybe it’s that I didn’t understand the Hebrew. But I don’t think that was it.
In a book I just read entirely not related to Judaism or religion, there was a quote referencing the Buddhist thought that there are six billion doors to heaven and we each have our own. I thought that was profound, and beautiful. And not at all antithetical to Judaism – but so poignant and so accessible that how can one not find G-d through Buddhism? It feels that in most religions, if you want G-d, there is personal guidance to meet Him. In Judaism, I find it to be a constant struggle. We don’t have Zen books of wisdom, or priests who bring us personally to G-d’s presence… we have a book and teachers who tell us to find Him our self. This Yom Kippur, I could not find Him. Where was He?
But something interesting did happen. While I was so wrapped up in attempting Jewish prayer and praying for the Jewish people, I found my mind drifting toward the girls trafficked around the world – something I’ve been reading a lot about lately. I felt myself in tears, talking to G-d, asking what I can do. I realized institutional prayers or staying within a religious community was never the reason I decided to be a Jew. The reason was to better myself and to repair the world in the way I knew how. I came away from high holidays with a different kind of religion – one devoted to my individual door in Heaven.
Since those prayers, I was given the opportunity to preview Nicholas Kristof’s new film Reporter about his trip to the Congo where he sat on a panel afterward and discussed trafficking as being the worst crime in today’s world, was gifted his book “Half the Sky” and was introduced to two amazing charities that work on trafficking issues which I am now getting involved with: The Blind Project (www.Theblindproject.com) and Not For Sale(www.notforsalecampaign.org).
I heard a rabbi once say, How do you know when you are doing what is meant for you? It’s when you pray for something and G-d actually gives it to you. I believe that to be true. Religion is not something which should force our words, but should force us to find our own words. I believe that praying on one’s own terms is a way to bring us closer to ourselves, and ultimately to G-d.
Since high holidays I found myself in a new place in my spiritual journey, one that is more freeing and true to who I am. I’m wondering how others feel while they’re looking for G-d. Do you think religion is a universal, communal or personal truth? And does one need religion to become close to G-d. Feel free to start a conversation by commenting below or if you have a question/topic you’d like me to talk about, write me at findmyjewspot@gmail.com. Thanks for reading.
The Author : Monica Rozenfeld

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  • Constance Brown

    The six billion doors idea really resonates, as does your description of finding what God really wants you to do while in the midst of the prescribed prayers. The rabbi’s statement about that is something I’ll remember . I am happy in my choice of church (Presbyterian), partly because it encourages one’s own interpretation–leading to action. Action in the community, the local community and the community of humankind.

    However, many age-old prayers help me “speak” to God in language that expresses my praise or penitence so perfectly, as the Psalms often do, that they keep bubbling up. I love knowing that these prayers have been prayed through the centuries and by so many millions.

  • Tina

    I have always held great interest in religion in general. I don’t view one religion as being better or holding more validity than another. The Buddhist idea that there are six billion doors to heaven enlists the idea that we all have our own spiritual journeys which may exist outside or within the framework of organized religion. I definitely don’t have it all figured out, but like you I have chosen be a Catholic. I guess it may come from Catholicism’s Jewish roots, but part of it is that struggle towards something better. I certainly don’t agree with everything the Church says and does, but find myself unable to separate myself from its essence. I agree with Martha in that it would be nice if “more people were open to different ideas about God.”

  • Annie Reuter

    Great post Monica! I especially love these lines: “Religion is not something which should force our words, but should force us to find our own words. I believe that praying on one‚Äôs own terms is a way to bring us closer to ourselves, and ultimately to G-d.”

    I’ve always had a hard time grasping the “rules” of religion. I think we all can go about prayer and our path to religion in different ways…it’s not all set in stone. Can’t wait to read your future columns :-)

  • Bill

    I have always found the form of prayer found in synagogues to be stultifying to the spirit and one’s relationship to God. It leaves little room for the individual differences and spontaneity. Rather I find God when I meditate, when I engage in acts of tzedakah (giving to make right the world), and sometimes just when I spontaneously start talking with God. Like Jacob of the Bible, I see being Jewish as an eternal act of God-wrestling. We each have to find or create our own ways to wrestle with God and with our purpose on this earth. But, it’s also nice to have company on this ever-evolving journey – those with whom we can wrestle together – if only for a brief time. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and stimulating mine.

  • Monica

    Wow – thanks Martha for that comment. It’s amazing to hear someone so opened about finding G-d, and makes me feel more comfortable in exploring who I am outside of “who I am.” I hope you continue reading Rendezvous with G-d.

  • Martha

    Great post! I think religion is a personal truth. I don’t believe that one needs religion to find God but I do think that religion helps to nurture that relationship. I also dont think that God can only be found in someone’s specific religion and that by looking in other places, like Bhuddism, we are less of who we are in that religion. I wish more people were open to different ideas about God. I love what you said, and I agree that we all are on a specific journey with our own door….

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