“If you were to start another synagogue, what would you do?”
The question was emailed to me this week, and for a moment it captured my imagination. When the moment passed I realized I have no desire to lead a synagogue of any stripe. The purpose of a synagogue is to pass on the received wisdom and traditions of the Jewish people. It is an honorable goal and I am honored whenever I am asked to speak at such a place. Judaism, and those Jews who take Judaism seriously, have a gift to offer the world that can only be given by them. The prophetic legacy is the heart of Judaism as I understand it, and serious Jews (religious and secular) should be at its service always.
As a Jew I too seek to live out the prophetic call for justice, compassion, and humility, and support Jewish institutions that do the same. But as a human being I have no desire to limit my search for wisdom to “things Jewish.”
If I were to create something it would be a place for seeking rather than finding. It would be open to all people and all scriptures, both those coming to us from religion and those coming to us from art, music, literature, and science. It would have no fixed liturgy or holy days. Our meetings would blend silence and conversation. We might meet at night to lay out under the stars; or at dawn or dusk to sense the earth turning before the sun; or at the ocean or by a lake or river to learn the Tao of water that is at the heart of compassion and justice.
I used to think that finding trumped seeking, but I had it backwards. When seeking ends, what has been found rots. We should never rest on the known. What we seek is not a fixed thing to be found, but an unfolding mystery to be glimpsed. Seeking is dynamic, challenging, and rooted in questions and doubt rather than certainty and faith. Indeed, my faith is doubt, and my hope is in not knowing.
I would want a Center for Seeking that embraced doubt not as a hurdle to be overcome but as a gift to be cultivated and celebrated. My Center would be a salon for scientists, mystics, artists, writers, poets, musicians—holy rascals who are always willing to step beyond what we know. We would draw on human wisdom and experience. We would read Buddha and Blake, Ecclesiastes and Emerson, Job and Jesus, Paul and Patanjali, but we would not limit ourselves to any canon or to words alone. Math would matter alongside metaphor, and the Hubble Deep Space Field would remind us of the true holy land. We would have no creed but humility, no practice but kindness, no liturgy but wonder.
But we would have dues. You can’t have a center without dues. Well, now. This is something to ponder.