It's Christmas Eve, Friday Prayers, and Shabbat all on a single day today in Jerusalem. And I'm here with our family to soak it all in. We spent the day in and around the Old City and it was a special experience.
I'm not much for organized religion. I was raised a Catholic and we have raised our family Jewish. I'm not a believer but I do have an appreciation for the practice of religion. I've witnessed the joy and solace that my mom's faith gives her every day. And I've experienced the pride of watching my three children reading from the torah on their bar and bat mitzvahs. And I've seen the comfort that rabbis and priests have given to greiving families in their moments of pain and suffering. I understand and appreciate the role of religion in the world and am thankful for all the good it does for so many. I also abhor all the bad it does in so many places.
We got a tour of the Old City last night from a wonderful guide who was deeply spritual and he said this about religion, "it is the practice that counts, not how they practice." I buy into that line of thinking and am still trying to figure out how I practice. Writing every day is certainly part of my practice. But not all of it.
Although Jerusalem is certainly the place that comes to mind when one thinks of a religious melting pot, living in New York City has done a lot to introduce me to many forms of religion. The Muslims we met in Egypt and Jordan and their culture and dress and food are familiar to me because of their brethren in NYC. The orthodox Jews that are all over Jerusalem and their culture and dress and food are familiar to me because of their brethren in NYC. And we also get to experience all that Hinduism offers to the world in NYC.
I enjoy swimming in the cross currents of religion. I don't buy into any one orthodoxy. In fact I think ortohodoxy is dangerous. But I have taken particular note of certain aspects of each of the religions I have come into contact with and appreciate them and maybe even practice them from time to time.
So I found today in Jerusalem very moving and enjoyed it very much.
Merry Christmas to everyone who will be celebrating Christmas tonight and tomorrow, including my mom, dad, and brothers and their family.