Lawrence Kushner


American Reform Rabbi, Scholar, Story-teller and Author

Author Quotes

Everyone carries with them at least one piece to someone else's puzzle.

Spiritual and cultural strength is measured not by rigidity or power, but by the vitality and flexibility of the response.

We seek a metaphor for holy words that will return them to us once again as an ayfz hayim, a tree of life (Prov. 3:18). One that yields heightened self-awareness and God's Word. One that permits sustained intellectual inquiry and Scripture's holiness. One that preserves clarity, but not at the expense of mystery. One whose playfulness does not dilute piety. One whose public objectivity tolerates personal intimacy. In the spiritual code words of our generation: a holy text.

For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble. But know this: you do not have within yourself all of the pieces of your puzzle. Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else?s puzzle? When you present your piece, which is worthless to you, to another, whether you know it or not, you are a messenger from the Most High.

That's what Hanukkah is about: trying to survive the darkness on the far-fetched hope there's still some life and light left in the universe. It's more than just a religious story. The days have been growing shorter, imperceptibly but inescapably darker.... Heading into the night of the winter solstice, every spiritual tradition has some kind of festival of light. We're all just whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that someone up there will see these little Hanukkah candles and get the hint.

We should draft dogs, he said. People would say, ?But I love my dog; I wouldn?t send him to Vietnam. He might get killed.

Hold up your hands before your eyes. You are looking at the hands of God.

The "burning bush" was not a miracle. It was a test. God wanted to find out whether or not Moses could pay attention to something for more than a few minutes. When Moses did, God spoke. The trick is to pay attention to what is going on around you long enough to behold the miracle without falling asleep. There is another world, right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.

What first occurs to us on remembering the dream/reading the text may be the most important thing.

I think what our generation seems to be living through is the realization that rationalism is only part of the answer. I think, I?m not the first one to notice this, that Auschwitz and Hiroshima were perfectly rational decisions and behaviors. So there?s this sense that religion has to be more than rationalism. And mysticism offers this sort of like in the corner, ?Psst, hey kid how would you like a direct experience of the divine? Would that help your religious life?? And, a lot of people discover that they?re mystics after all when they?re given that offer.

The amount of communal participation in prayer is in inverse ratio to the combined vertical and horizontal distance between the leader of the prayers and the first occupied row of seats.

What is the underlying emotional dynamic of the story? The emotions displayed in the dream are its most reliable elements. The emotion usually corresponds to the latent but not always to the manifest content of the dream.14

If a group of people can have a psyche and think of itself as an organic being, then surely a people should also be able to dream. A series of motifs and archetypes should keep reappearing and seem to each individual dreamer, as Jung suggested, to emanate from a transcendent source.8

The boundary between now and not yet will softly blur. And the clean line between your discrete body and all creation will someday be no more.

When you see something that is broken, fix it. When you find something that is lost, return it. When you see something that needs to be done, do it. In that way, you will take care of your world and repair creation.

If Scripture be like a dream, then methods of understanding the dream are, at least in principle, valid for learning Scripture.

The first mystery is simply that there is a mystery, a mystery that can never be explained or understood, only encountered from time to time. Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something else.

You choose to believe what you want, and you choose to do what you do. First comes life, then comes law. You are still responsible. You cannot hide behind anything. Since when does religious tradition permit you to short-circuit any morally uncomfortable decision?

Is it not at least occasionally the case that we set out on a clear and simple mission and return with something undreamed of? Whether or not we accomplish our original intention becomes unimportant.

The goal of all spiritual life is to get your ego out of the way ? outwit the sucker; dissolve it; shoot it; kill it. Silence the incessant planning, organizing, running, manipulating, possessing, and processing?? because these activities ?preclude awareness of the Divine.

You must protect people who have no social clout because the health of a congregation is measured by its ability to tolerate dweebs.

A kind of journal of forgotten, reworked, and remembered holy moments, too awesome to be simply described in everyday conscious language. It is all that remains of the most penetrating incursion of waking into the earth-mother-Jewish-people darkness of what is not the spirit, but only sleep. But the memory is still there, set in our bodies by our parents or our choice. We may ignore the dream or we may appropriate it for ourselves, and so make it our own. It is our choice alone.

Isolate and identify the primary elements of the dream text before us. What are the dream's components? One of the most common errors made in trying to understand a dream is the almost automatic refusal to recognize more than one character or element or verbal idea in the narrative, when of course, all the parts are indispensable.

The letters of the name of God in Hebrew are yod, hay, vav and hay. They are frequently mispronounced as ?Yahveh.? But in truth they are unutterable. Not because of the holiness they evoke, but because they are all vowels and you cannot pronounce all the vowels at once without risking respiratory injury. This word is the sound of breathing. The holiest Name in the world, the Name of the Creator, is the sound of your own breathing.

A mystic is anyone who has the gnawing suspicion that the apparent discord, brokenness, contradictions and discontinuities that assault us every day might conceal a hidden unity.

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American Reform Rabbi, Scholar, Story-teller and Author