Without Googling, where would you say the world’s largest Passover seder is frequently held?
Jerusalem? Florida? Brooklyn?
Try Kathmandu, Nepal – because of all of the Jewish tourists to the East seeking new spiritual experiences.
There is a reason why Jeffery Miller became Lama Surya Das, why Dr. Richard Alpert became Ram Dass, and why both the late Adam MCA Yauch of Beastie Boys and Leonard Cohen both sought out spiritual paths in Buddhism. These are spiritually hungry Jews who had been failed by modern stagnant Judaism.
Far too often, more and more Jews report less reverence in synagogues and more of a spark of spirituality out on a hike through the woods. While ashrams, gurdwaras, and Buddhist temples are filled with Jews thirsting for a taste of the Divine, synagogues in their neighborhoods are having trouble making a minyan if theres not a chag or a bar or bat mitzvah.
Jewish congregations are becoming less of a place of a place where Holy One’s glory abides and more an extremely interactive museum to Judaism that mostly old men attend weekly out of habit. One of the main issues is that we, as a society, are becoming afraid of the elephant in the room — aka: God.
The modern synagogue has come to feel more like a country club than a center for spiritual nourishment. They have become fraught with committee politics when they should be centers of actively working out ones personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Less drama more kavanah.
A younger enthusiastic rabbi I know summed up the dilemma during a parent-teacher conference with the Rosh Yeshiva of his friends school.
“So, how is my sons study of Chumash going?”
“And Talmud? Mishnah and Gemara?”
“He’s an exceptional student.”
“And his tefillah?”
“Yes, he prays regularly.”
“Well, of course, but I meant his kavanah. Do you think he has a good relationship with HaShem? Are they close?”
Sir, this isnt a hasidish yeshiva. We dont discuss each others personal spiritual relationships like that.”
“At this point, he turned to those whom he was telling this story.
“What? This is a yeshiva, right? Why am I even sending him here if not help him strengthen his kavanah and relationship with the Almighty? Why are they not giving him the tools he needs to better love HaShem every single day?”
Before another Jews feels the need to venture outside of their own Judaism to find the Divine, we need to invite God back into the building.
If you feel far from God, it wasn’t God that moved. Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser