Who Is Being Hurt by This?

As a rabbi, meditation instructor and a man in my early 30’s, I’m not sure this bothers me so much. We live in an era where there is cross-cultural sharing of ideas all the time, and it often yields good results.

No one owns teshuvah. Your friend sharing it with his meditation group is similar to a yoga teacher ending the class by sharing a Buddhist idea. Yes, yoga is technically a practice that comes from an Indian/Hindu cultural context, so bringing in something Buddhist could also be critiqued from that angle. We see things like this all the time, and most of us don’t balk. The reason? Because really no person or tradition is hurt by this kind of sharing or cross-pollination.

When I was right out of college, I often agonized over the ways in which Jewish teachers were adapting Buddhist meditation techniques and plopping them into Jewish settings, all while ignoring the underlying theological and philosophical difficulties this raised. It’s a question I’m still interested in, but I’m less angry about it. Overtime I came to see, firsthand, how many people were benefitting from these techniques, even if these ideas were not presented in their full complexity.

Maybe learning about teshuvah is just what a person sitting in the meditation group — who might, after all, be Jewish and estranged from the tradition — needs at this particular moment, to help work through a personal issue or repair a relationship. I don’t see any reason why there’s a problem with sharing it.

Rabbi Seth Wax is a rabbi at Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn, New York.

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Who Is Being Hurt by This?

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