Rabbi’s Corner

Rabbi Helen Cohn: Our own special corner

Rabbi Helen T. Cohn

I find it increasingly difficult to understand how any religion or spiritual tradition can put itself at the center of the world and claim it has the only truth about creation and the Divine.

The internet offers windows into all corners of the world.  Interfaith dialogue among open-hearted people of different faiths allows us to see what we have in common and what each tradition uniquely has to offer.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory wrote, “In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths. … God is greater than religion. [God] is only partially comprehended by any faith.”

Hafez, a 12th century Persian mystic poet, understood this well.  He wrote:

I am in love with every church
and mosque and temple
and any kind of shrine
because I know it is there
that people say the
different names of the one God.

Judaism is our religious language.  We have uniquely Jewish names for the one God.  We have a Jewish calendar for celebrations; rituals to give shape and meaning to human activities; texts to instruct and teach us; sages to impart values.  Yet we can’t claim to be the one true religion or the only path to God.

Recently I heard Bishop Michael Curry, the head of the U.S. Episcopal Church, say “rituals of faith carry you when you can’t carry yourself.”

This is one of many compelling reasons to be part of a religious community.  Sometimes when we don’t know where to turn, it’s our “rituals of faith” that guide us, support us, and help us feel less alone.

This is what it means to be “particularistic” and “universal” at the same time.  We are part of the human desire to connect with the ineffable, one of the many paths that lead toward the One.  In heaven there may be a single truth, as Rabbi Sacks claims.  Here on Earth we turn to Judaism as our own special corner of many different human truths.