Sabbath Satori

Stefan and John.
author: Lewis Randa, Life Experience School.

by Stefan Schindler

“Do we want to preserve the traditions – the history, prayers, rituals, and faith – which make Judaism distinctive, or do we want to become just a bunch of ethicists?” An ethicist advocates virtue, and the rabbi’s question was rhetorical. Now stay with me here; this is not complex.

Sabbath is the Hebrew holy day, beginning on Friday evening and extending through Saturday. Satori is a Japanese Buddhist word for enlightenment. One Saturday morning long ago, when I was still a child and attending a religious instruction class at our local temple, I had a mini-enlightenment.

I was only 12, and I found the Sabbath morning class inspirational. It was intellectually stimulating in a way that school was not. That morning, the rabbi’s question struck a chord. The name of that chord is irony. A Jewish education is ironic because, at its best, it’s Socratic: it teaches one to doubt and inquire. The same is true of Buddhism.

I was too shy to voice my response to the rabbi’s challenge; besides, he was on a roll. But I have always remembered that moment. Adding a retrospective flavor, here’s what I thought:

Although my mother was a Christian, she converted to Judaism to please my father. During the process of her conversion, my mother asked the rabbi if there was a conflict in being both Christian and Jewish. She wanted to convert, but she also wanted to keep her Christian values.

The rabbi responded that ethics is the heart of the Torah; therefore, at the deepest, most important level, there is no conflict. He told the story of the Hebrew sage who was asked to summarize the Torah, standing on one leg. So the sage stood on one leg and replied very simply: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And so, dear rabbi, on this glorious Sabbath morning for which I do give thanks, kindly allow me to say: I would much rather have a world of ethicists, committed to peace and the Golden Rule, than a world of religious rivalry and strife. Religious distinctiveness has its beauty, but it also contributes, tragically, to what Hegel calls “the slaughter-bench of history.”

I would, therefore, gladly abandon all religious difference in favor of – and here comes irony again – a postreligious world committed to what the Dalai Lama calls “a common religion of kindness.”

After all, isn’t what all religions have in common more important than how they differ?

And at the heart of all religions, is there not a common urge, prayer, and path to the Peaceable Kingdom on earth?


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10 Responses to Sabbath Satori

  1. Many thanks for the photo and the story. For those who might view these “comments,” I thought I would add two quick additions. 1) When I was visiting The Life Experience School, its founder and director, Lewis Randa, gave me the gift that I’m holding in the photo he took. 2) The gift is a refurbished piece of the Berlin Wall. Also, I’d like to thank you for including the photo in a size sufficiently expansive that viewers can easily see the sketch of John Lennon, and even, if they look closely, the words beneath, which read: “Music is the medicine of life.”

  2. Barbara says:

    Reading this post reminded me of a quotation from H.L. Mencken.
    “The men that American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest the most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
    I wanted to highlight every Mencken quotation and to add women to this equation. An egg-beater in the back of my mind stirred up my own beliefs regarding religion.
    Years ago I dubbed myself an agnostic, doubtful that a caring Goddess existed but not being so bold as to declare there was no such divinity. “But who made God?” asked Timmy with ten-year-old temerity back in 1956. Well, no one, Timmy, God just is.
    So why can’t it be true that our solar system big-bangingly just is, I ask now. And why can’t it be true that the evolution of man/woman from other primates like he/apes and she/apes just is, with no divine intervention necessary?
    I particularly related to Mencken’s conviction that there was neither something to look forward to nor something to fear at life’s end. He would just vanish, as I will, rejoicing with my last breath (if I still have a functioning brain with which to rejoice) that I was lucky enough to catch the golden ring in humanity’s hugest lottery, miraculous conception. Why should nothingness hereafter be feared any more than the nothingness that existed for each of us before we were conceived?
    Several years ago I subscribed to a bi-monthly magazine called Free Inquiry; Paul Kurtz was editor-in-chief, proponent of secular humanism. A statement of principles has this affirmation:
    “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.”
    Makes sense to me, Mr. Kurtz.

    • Your response is greatly appreciated, Barbara. I love the way you write. “Big bangingly” indeed. “Timmy” is the name of the bike-riding boy in a poem I wrote about puppy-love, called “Timmy and the Bell.” The bell on his bike rings like a serenade, and chimes with the laughter of the girl selling lemonade. The name “Timmy” also reminds me of the boy called Teddy in the last story of J. D. Salinger’s “Nine Stories.” (Teddy is the reincarnation of Seymour in the first story, “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish.” “Seymour” is a glyph for “see more.”) Timmy in my poem, and Teddy in Salinger’s story, have the kind of optimism and joy flashing from your Kurtz quote. After being Bar Mitzvhad (hardly my own choice at age 13), I became an atheistic-agnostic in college, where I studied and became an existentialist. Then, in graduate school and beyond, I became a mystic after experimenting with Tarot, studying Jung, and experiencing multiple and increasing synchronicities. Then I became convinced of the reality of spirit and the after-life after studying, teaching and embracing Buddhism, keeping a dream journal, and recalling previous lives. I respect and applaud your optimistic and peace-loving secular humanism, as well as the”free inquiry” which attests to your inquisitive vigor. (Here’s my paraphrase of Socrates: “Humans are — or ought to be — walking question marks.”) Now, the best book I’ve ever read (in 50 years of teaching philosophy, East and West) is SETH SPEAKS, “by” (i.e., through) Jane Roberts. I recommend it to you. It’s a joyous, enlightening, and wild ride. I intuit that it will ring a bell in the space-is-grace that is the Path with Heart of your pursuit of knowledge. Also, you might want to access my youtube lecture called “A Reawakening of Bicameral Mind.” You might also want to read Florinda Donner’s “Being in Dreaming.” If Seth, Donner, and my lecture spark a desire for further dialogue, you may email me at I would then send you my essay on the origins and evolution of Transpersonal Psychology. Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my article-story. Perhaps in a subliminal time-warp we have yet to grok, I was the bike riding Timmy who rang his bell like a serenade, for you whose name is Barbara, once upon a time in a parallel dimension the laughter-chiming girl selling lemonade. If so, then synchronicity is indeed what Lewis Randa describes as “the universe winking at us.” And Kathie MM is the link that brought us together again. Om Shanti Om, ma cherie. Keep the faith. I know you will. 🙂

  3. Barbara says:

    Stefan, I am honored that a gentleman of your intellectual stature has taken the time to respond so generously to my comment.
    The reincarnations and uncanny coincidences wink back at me and you and the universe.
    Timmy is the name of my younger son, Teddy the name of his brother, unfortunately lost to ALS (Lou Gerig’s Disease). Ted spent the last few days of his life surrounded by family, phoned me to tell me what a good mother I had been, mystifying me as well as gratifying me because no one had told me he was fatally ill, with only a few days left to live.
    And lastly, as a young teenager I did indeed make and sell lemonade to the crowds who came to watch and cheer on the yearly Marathon, whose weary competitors trudged by our Newton Center house on 716 Commonwealth Avenue. I’m talking about the 30s here – ah, the memories!

  4. Dot Walsh says:

    Interesting post and comments. Thank you Stefan for your reference to the Dalai Lama’s call for a common religion based on kindness. I don’t believe there could be a better way to live a life of faith. Keep it going!!!

  5. Evets says:

    Personally I do not understand why did a Christian mother convert to Judaism in order to please a Judaism father, especially when she wanted to keep her Christian values. Is patriarchism or masculinity heavily emphasized in Judaism? Although Dalai Lama’s call for a “a common religion of kindness” provides certain degree of insight to my question, I am still not persuaded. I have to say his idea of making Tibet a independent state from China makes him a questionable figure. I could not agree with him because I have to give priority to maintaining domestic sovereignty. Imagine if California did exit and became a independent state after Donald Trump’s Presidency, everything would have gone wrong. I can’t agree with Dalai Lama while he is covertly trying to separate Tibet from China under his doctrine (gaining foreign and international supports).

  6. Dear “Evets” — In a shared quest for both knowledge and wisdom, thank you for your questions. Re question #1 — Remember that Jesus was a Jew; in fact, the greatest rabbi who ever lived. The earliest Christians were Jews. It’s not either/or. Yes, my father had his faults and foibles, many stemming from his experience of World War Two. My mother exercised her Christian compassion, achieving two goals: 1) Increasing her Christian understanding by exploring and embracing the Judaic tradition that gave birth to Jesus; and 2) securing the bond of marriage, with openhearted, open-minded, religious flexibility. Turning obstacles into opportunities is part of the art of a sage, male or female.

    Re question #2 — My understanding is that the Dalai Lama has long been open to the notion of a substantially autonomous Tibet within something like a Chinese federation of states; noting that China too would benefit by loosening its imperial grip, letting local cultures flourish in a commonwealth of political pragmatism. This would be an important first step toward China’s own enlightenment, and a blooming of freedom in the garden of Tibet. A pragmatic path to the harvest of peace in Asia, which could act as social democratic model for the world. If full political autonomy for Tibet is the goal, it yet remains true: Longest journey begins with first step. The Dalai Lama has long sought dialogue. He still waits for his invitation to Beijing.

  7. Dot Walsh says:

    Philip Czachorowski , Walpole Peace and Justice

  8. Dear Barbara — Your opening Mencken quote (Jan. 26) reminds me of Socrates on trial (in Plato’s “Apologia”, meaning “defense” in Greek). Far from “apologizing” for living an inquisitive life, Socrates reminded his accusers that it was actually Athens on trial for her soul in the courtroom that day. His own soul was just fine. This message erupts like a fountain of rainbows from your closing quote — the Free Inquiry “Principles of Affirmation.” Your little jewel of a letter has the kind of full-circle wholeness emanating like a mandala from Buddhism and the structure of Salinger’s novel disguised as “Nine Stories.” Seymour Glass “sees more” because he has, in Zen terms, polished his mirror. A tragic bodhisattva; an existential antihero; still too much a stranger in a strange land. He reincarnates as the 12-year-old Teddy in the last story, who, when watching his younger sister drink a glass of milk, “sees God pouring God into God.”

    Seth says Teddy’s death was part of a an agreed-upon soul plan; child and parents setting up a life experience of beauty, grief, and opportunity. In 12 years, Seymour-Teddy completes his dharma. His parting gift to the parents is that his sudden and tragic absence may cause them to question completely; polish their mirrors until the glass breaks and they step through the doors of perception. He breaks their hearts to open their minds. Waterfalls of tears becoming a lake of enlightenment. Sorrow but waves on a sea of joy. A dialectical loop: Only an empty cup can be filled with grace. “Immaculate conception” in Zen terms meaning “clear of concepts.” Mind empty of limiting thought-forms. Work in the garden like baking bread. A meditation on cooking enlightenment. You say: “An egg-beater stirred in the back of my mind.” I once hitch-hiked in the middle of the night from a college town tucked in a valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains to visit a lady friend living in a sixth-floor room of a girl’s dorm at Philadelphia College of Art. We spent an amorous morning, sunlight on plants, listening to Nina Simone and Richie Havens. Then, after a long nap, I said I’m going outside for fresh air and to catch the sunset. She said: “You can’t leave now. This is a girl’s dorm. You’re not allowed in here. Someone will see you.” I thought a minute, then went to the kitchenette, grabbed an egg-beater, held it up, and said: “Not to worry! If anybody sees me, I’ll just say I’m returning an egg-beater.” Ahhh … the Sixties. Those were the days. Thanks for the deja vu. You and I and Seth and Salinger — I think it was fated rendezvous. Kathie and Dot Walsh too. Angels, allies, guides, friends and Familiars in a circle bridging earth and heaven, in what the Dalai Lama calls “global peace through inner peace.” Om Shanti. Stefan

    • Barbara says:

      Thanks for your reply, Stefan. I Googled Om shanti and learned that it means peace. From some forgotten wisdom from the past, my way of combatting life-long insomnia is to chant the word “Om” over and over again. Invariably, blissful sleep overtakes me after only a dozen or so “oms.”

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