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Matthew Bruer

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Interviewee: MATTHEW BRUER

Interviewer: Lawrence Boocker
Interview Date: May 25, 2019

Location: Troy, MI
DOB: 3/21/1974 Place of Birth: California
Interview No.: 05.25.19-MB (audio digital file)
(Approximate total length 42 minutes)
Transcription: Yousaidit (DS), Fiverr


Themes: Jewish Identity, Doctrine, Observance, Upbringing

Summary: Matt Bruer describes his return to spiritual Judaism after years of being a secular, rational atheist with ties to ancestral Judaism. In difficult times, he recounts that God (Ha Shem) came to him and offered the solace of prayer. He began doing Jewish customs, such as laying tefillin and davening. He started learning Hebrew, while also joining the community of a Reform/Renewal congregation.

Example of proper citation/ attribution:
Boocker, L. (Interviewer) & Bruer, M. (Interviewee). (2019) Matthew Bruer: Jewish Journeys [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Jewish Journeys Oral History Collection of Congregation Shir Tikvah: https://shirtikvah.org/cstoralhistoryarchive

 

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
[00:00 silence]

Interviewer: The name of the interviewer is Larry Boocker, the name of the interviewee is Matt Bruer. Today's date is May 25th 2019, and we are in the library at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy, Michigan. I've explained the project and you have signed the consent to this public interview, is that correct?

Interviewee: That is correct.

Interviewer: Thank you. The first thing I want to ask you about is; you do a lot of Jewish studies.

Interviewee: Yes, I do.

Interviewer: You do studies in groups, and you're doing studies as an individual and I want to know, what does that mean to you, what is the importance of doing so much Jewish study?

Interviewee: Well, initially I had this notion of Jewish identity as just family lines and maybe about a year, it's been more that I realize that wasn't connected with the Jewish people in the way I wanted to be and I wanted to develop a spiritual connection. I was really a secular person most of my life, and so it's just been recent that I wanted to grow some spiritual roots, and a connection to my higher power. And so it's really my search for spirituality and this was the form it took getting that connectedness with the Jewish people and my ancestry, understanding more about it, about the religion, about the culture.

Interviewer: So what shape did your secular Jewish identity take? Did you observe Jewish holidays or a connection to Israel or history or anything like that?

Interviewee: Well, initially there’s more of a connection to ancestors in a more general way, it really wasn’t an observances of holidays and just that connection meant something to me and some what meant something to my mother. So she preserved some understanding and wanted me to be circumcised but didn't do it religiously. My mother spiritually was all over the board, we kind… I didn't realize it but we were kind of hippies minus the long hair, and the sex, and the drugs.

                              Just hippies and philosophically, and from an early age I was told I could believe whatever I wanted believe, nobody told me you're this or that, so it left a lot of doors open and I kind of discovered this connection later in my life. The ancestral connection was not emphasized to me in any way, when I was growing up and I had to explore myself and ask questions to find out.

Interviewer: So what were your mother's Jewish beliefs like? Did she have a Jewish education or...?

Interviewee: Not in any way, shape or form they are just that she wanted me to have a Hebrew name, she wanted me to be circumcised to explain the significance of circumcision as something that  spiritually  was significant and…

Interviewer: Had she rejected religion I think?

Interviewee: No, I think she just didn't embrace a particular religion. [chuckles] And so she wasn't… I’d say she's more spiritual than religious. So…

Interviewer: What about her family going back further?

Interviewee: Well, all I really know about is her parents. And her parents were, blocking on the term, Freemasons. And there's a female version of freemason that her mother was, and her father was a Mason.

Interviewer: But they were Jewish?

Interviewee: In ancestry.

Interviewer: In ancestry.

Interviewee: These practices were… in my father's side,  basically his mother identified as being Jewish, she didn't fully understand what that meant because he didn't really get to the bottom that much, but he had a bris and everything. My mother's side they were definitely not really religious at all, they just kind of did that this as a social club cultural kind of thing. They were identifying with their community through that, connecting with their community that way.

Interviewer: So other than your mother explaining circumcision to you and---

[05:00] ---giving a Hebrew name, did you have any kind of Jewish education at all?

Interviewee: Not really, no. So this became important to me because growing up I was following a connection to ancestries, I didn’t who they were but wanted to know about them and when I was much older, my first job was with an Israeli man and he was an atheist but to him Jewishness was something that was lineage. And he's the first person to actually out right told me I was Jewish, and because he asked about my ancestry, and I told him and said; “Well, I don't really think you're those things, ask your family but I really think you're Jewish.”

 

                              And so then he had a clientele of Orthodox Jews, and they would socialize me. It was very informal setting, and then later when I worked other job at that pizzaria I was talking about, they come and see me and we talk occasionally. And I would wear the star of David, and they would look at it and then we start talking about it and they kind of just accepted me as a Jew. From the Orthodox point of views lineage, they were trying to encourage me to maybe explore that more.

 

Interviewer: When did you start wearing the Star of David?

 

Interviewee: Probably like 25, somewhere about there.

 

Interviewer: And at the time did you think you were starting a spiritual quest or was it the connection to Ancestry?

 

Interviewee: It's more concise connection, I didn't want to admit that there was anything spiritual going on there because I termed myself as a secular person, an atheist. And over the years I became more and more obnoxious in my assertion of atheism. But it's only been more recent that I kind of had a 180 turn around.

 

Interviewer: It was important to you to identify as an atheist?

 

Interviewee: At the time; yeah I’d say so. It was a way of me saying that I was not burdened by these antiquated concepts as people are. Just to me, the ancestry meant to honor your ancestors but I didn't believe as they did.

 

Interviewer: It sounds like you consider yourself a rational scientific?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, and that's the background I came from, I call myself a rationalist and I'm still a rational person that has just embrace my religion. But I'm more of consider myself a spiritual Jew, I don't necessarily 100 percent full in lock step with anything, I just want to understand the practices and learn from it. And I like being connected with the way people do it, so when someone in the congregation shows me how to do something, it's more meaningful for me to do it as they did because it's a tradition that's been passed down to me, so…

 

Interviewer: I want to get back to that a little bit later but I still want to talk a little bit about your childhood. You have Jews in your family, so did you go to family bar mitzvahs or religious weddings?

 

Interviewee: No-no-no, we didn’t.

 

Interviewer: There were no family Seder, anything like that?

 

Interviewee: Nothing like that.

 

Interviewer: So nothing like that?

 

Interviewee: I didn't really even understand the concept of the Jewish person most of my young life. It’s just people, and the way I was raised, my mother didn't like these designations of this that she would always say we're all human beings and she didn't… so when I would talk about ancestry,  she was really supportive of me learning a lot about it because she just like we're all human beings, we are all children of God, that kind of thing, so…

 

Interviewer: Do you think your mother was a spiritual person?

 

Interviewee: I'd say so, yeah.

 

Interviewer: But not in any…

 

Interviewee: Not religious, no…

 

Interviewer: And then what about your father?

 

Interviewee: My father is definitely a spiritual person, I haven't seen him really... More recently, he's going to synagogue with me and interested in pursuing that.

 

Interviewer: But when you were being raised?

 

Interviewee: No, it was just more they would look at eastern philosophy, even native American wisdom and there was just a lot of different exposures there. You know many path lead to God, that kind of thing.

 

Interviewer: And it wasn’t making sense, you weren’t buying in. it isn't actually because you were a rationalist.

 

Interviewee: I wasn’t buying in, and so I really called myself an atheist by the time I was eight.

 

[10:00] So… because I didn't even understand what religion was and what atheism was until much before that, and then I start really kind of understanding where I stood.

 

Interviewer: So when did the desire to be more spiritual start manifesting?

 

Interviewee: It’s basically that my life was turned to take a bad turn and I think that that’s what leads a lot of people into spirituality. My life has taken a bad turn and I got in trouble with the law because of my drinking and everything. And that's when I started pursuing reading the Bible, read the Bible twice. I had a lot of Christian people trying to nudge me in their direction. And they would tell me, this is the way to do it, so I explored it, it didn't stick for long. It lasted like a couple of months, I went to the whole Christian thing and it didn't work for me and my epiphany, it sounds horrible but my epiphany was when they did the whole baptism thing and that just all belief was washed away with the water. It accomplished exactly the opposite of what it was meant to do.

 

Interviewer: So you were baptized?

 

Interviewee: I was baptized.

 

Interviewer: But it didn't connect with you.

 

Interviewee: It actually totally turned me off and then all belief in anything washed away once again.

 

Interviewer: Was that your rationalist side or was there a spiritual rejection of it?

 

Interviewee: I think it was a spiritual rejection, it was kind of a shock. I didn't expect to have that reaction and I went to church for a couple weeks and then I just stopped. And then I was completely honest with myself, I said; “You know what? I don't believe any of this.” And I just pursued rationalism and just tried to be a good person. 

 

Interviewer: Ok, so then how did you make another attempt at becoming more spiritual?

 

Interviewee: This time I didn't make attempt, it wasn't because of people, I feel like Ha Shem reached out to me. At various points of my life, I feel like in that period of time he's reaching out to me and saying; “You’re a Jew, these are the practices you're supposed to be doing.” And even when I was doing the Christian thing, I still wear The Star of David, I still identified as a Jewish person and it's kind of weird to the Christian people but that's what I did.

 

                              And I never gave up on that identity, that connection because I remember what the Orthodox people told me. I told I don't believe in anything and they said; “you're still a Jew. It doesn't change, you don't have to believe.” And so I always held on to that connection. Even dabbling in Christianity which didn’t last but a couple of months.

 

Interviewer: Do you feel like there was a time of… let’s use the word “a revelation,” a specific time when you feel like you were called by God?

 

Interviewee: I think that happened several times in my life. And the most profound was when I finally started praying and that was meaningful to me. That was not some exercise that didn't have meaning for me.

 

Interviewer: So where and when did you start praying?

 

Interviewee: About a year ago. I feel like he came to me and told me to pray, so I did and it worked. So I've been doing it ever since, and in a Jewish way.

 

Interviewer: When you say that prayer worked for you, what did it accomplish? What does prayer do for you?

 

Interviewee: Alleviation of anxiety, worry, rumination, depression, mania. So all those things, the negativity that ruled my life for most of my 45 years, just washed away with prayer and every day I get a reprieve from all of that garbage just by davening. So that's a good bargain.

 

Interviewer: What is it about prayer that you think is so effective?

 

Interviewee: Because it makes me realize the shekinah, his presence is all around us. When I feel that connectedness with him, then I know that his provision is there, that’s protection, his forgiveness.

 

Interviewer: Are there words in the prayers that are particularly meaningful?

 

[15:00]

 

Interviewee: In the Shema. I mean it is describing right after O hear Israel and he's one, the one is saying that he's the only god, there are no other gods but it is describing

                              which is a very meaningful exercise to me. When I put on Tefillin, it's like an antenna that’s kind of like pulling the curtains away. And I can see his presence and feel his presence.

 

Interviewer: When did you start wearing Tefillin for prayers and how did that come about.

Interviewee:  It probably happened… so I read the Bible again, this time not with Christian nudging but just to understand the Jewish faith because I’ve fully at that point decided this is what I wanted and this is what Ha Shem was asking me to do. And when I was doing it, I was just reading Numbers and Deuteronomy and it was like what does that mean, what are they strapping on themselves?

 

                              And what are they writing on their doorpost and their gates. So then I’d look them up, Tefillin? so I considered it for about a week, go and buy them and try them. Everything was a profound exercise and every time I say the Shema I think of those things when I say them. And it gives me a connectedness with him, his shekinah.

Interviewer: So your practices are developing as a Jew but it feels like there’s a switch that went off and there was an earlier life and then your current life for or are you still winding along the path towards something that you know you're going to get to someday?

 

Interviewee: Yeah, that's the beauty of all the mitzvahs. Like you never get to the point where… oh, I do it perfectly, I never relate to feeling perfectly, I’ll never daven perfectly but every time it's an improved step of improvement, it is a program of improvement. And where I do it, where I beautified these things, where I do these things better every time, maybe it’ll be 3 steps forward, 2 steps back maybe, but there's a progression. I think that’s what he wants for us is this process of self-improvement.

 

Interviewer: Well let me ask you about your family, because this has been a dramatic change in your life. How have your friends and family responded to this change?

 

Interviewee: Well most of my friends, I have some Jewish friends before I came to synagogue but now more, a lot more. I count you as a friend. I have a lot more Jewish friends now that are also kind of guiding me in this whole journey and I really appreciate it. But mostly I have friends that are of different faiths, Hindu people, like a lot Muslim people and the Muslim people are supporting me in this whole journey really nicely and my Hindu friends. Aside from one guy who has a lot to say about Jewish people that are not good, but I love him, his name is “Harry.” He calls himself Harry because it's kind of spelled like that. It's an Indian name.

                                                                                                                      

                              But a lot of my friends… we have awkward conversations about Israel, they're not so supportive of it. They have a lot of preconceived notions about Jewish people and I've spent the last 25 years hopefully being a good steward of the Jewish people and explaining to them.

 

Interviewer: What about family?

 

Interviewee: Immediate family;  it's just my brother, mother and father. My mother passed away when she was 16 (correction 60 years) and she wasn’t in support of my choice. She was all over the place but there were times when she'd say Oh well, I'm a Christian or whatever, and she would tell me I was going to hell. She wrote me a letter to that effect but I just got along with her afterwards, that was just her opinion. The way she raised me is to be independent thinker, so it really didn't have a huge impact on me, and I just threw out the letter and still got along with her.

 

[20:00]

                              My brother was much more supportive, and the in-laws were mixed bag. Some people were supportive, the in-laws have Jewish ancestry and like my father-in-law talks about it. He enjoyed going to Israel and he learned a little bit of Hebrew to get along and he gave me a prayer shawl. Ruth, she was Jewish, her mother was Jewish, but she ended up in the orphanage but her last days she saw my siddur and she could sing perfectly to all of it. She knew all the songs.

 

Interviewer: I'm sorry, who was this?

 

Interviewee: My mother in law. But she passed away from cancer. 

 

Interviewer: Okay.

 

Interviewee: But I showed her my siddur and she was able to read them and sing along to all.

 

Interviewer: Sometimes making dramatic changes can be challenging to the people around.

Interviewee: My sister in law is not very accepting of it, but then she's actually asked me to do the challah blessing for her wedding, so that's nice. So I invited them to my siddur, this time around, I should say seder. I invited her to my seder and it went pretty well I would say. But you can see that taking this maybe a little bit there but we’re getting along.

Interviewer: So it started with prayer though or would you say that it started with the study?

Interviewee: No, it started with a prayer. I mean I studied way back when a little bit about it and I read a book about Reform a long time ago that gave me some of my notions about Judaism and I've read a few things but I wouldn't call that study. I read a little bit, so I know a little bit about it but I still wasn’t identifying religiously. So I wasn't really immersing myself in it, and it seemed like a daunting thing. You got people that they pray in another language, they have…

                              I knew how big the Talmud is and all the supplementary texts and learning, so it seemed very daunting and since I wasn't inclined initially. I didn't really immerse myself in the study that goes along with it.

 

Interviewer: But now you are?

Interviewee: Now I am, because I feel a conviction and I want to learn. And I've also learned a tool called “acceptance.” So I'm not hard at myself for what I don't know and I am just happy doing the process and accepting where I am. So when I bracha and I don't know all of them and I have to refer to notes I carry in my pocket, everything for the blessings when meals. Mostly, I know them so I can say it in my head in the after  meal blessing when I take out and read a lot to kind of guide me through it. But I mean, I just accept where I am and I accept the process.

Interviewer: So you said that with the prayers you’ve found it very meaningful and you've done a lot of study and you also find it very meaningful and you're doing a lot of ritual. You wear Tzitzit and Tefillin

                              you find that meaningful?

Interviewee: Exactly, and then the thing is I think some people are afraid that I'm feeling like high and mighty doing it. I don't, I totally embrace the Reform/Renewal kind of thing where these are meaningful to me but they're not meaningful to somebody else. I don't think you're obligated to do it if it's not meaningful to you.

 

Interviewer: Let’s talk about that a little, because the things that you are doing are not common in the Reform movement.

Interviewee: And I’m fully aware that I’m kind of edging towards Orthodox but I’m not orthodox. And that's partially because I'm a liberal until embracing that. So the homosexuality question would be a good example of that, I have homosexual friends, I don't really feel in my heart that they're wrong. I know in Judaism we're not supposed to rebuke people to the point of embarrassment. But I don't even feel inclined to because I don't think they're wrong.

Interviewer: So Rabbi Arnie used to describe the renewal movement, this neo-Hasidism, so that it looked to a whole lot of the practices and wisdom and rituals that Hasidism do without the theology. And that's a…

[25:00] Interviewee: Exactly. I really like Hasidism because… and there's one rabbi that I like all of his lectures and I don't necessarily believe 100 percent or practice like that guy does but I love what he has to say about various things from everything to why do you believe in God, to how do you use t’fillin and why, marriage is…He was a marriage counselor, so a lot of it is about marriage and I like his wisdom on marriage, maybe I don't share…

Interviewer: Sorry what’s his name?

Interviewee: Rabbi Manis Friedman.

Interviewer: Manis Friedman, Ok.

Interviewee: But I don’t necessarily espouse too, somewhat quasi-arranged marriages with very little dating, jumping into the marriage thing but I do like what he has to say about it. And it made me have a lot more respect for the practice when he explained it

Interviewer: Have you experienced any other forms of Judaism going to Orthodox and Conservative services?

Interviewee: I studied and I've interacted with orthodox and I know that I’m philosophically different and obviously my level of observance would be an issue and I don't want to change it, never be shomer shabbos. I do want to sanctify the day. But I don't want to go to the extreme of light bulbs in the refrigerator. I will always drive, to me that's a sign of freedom. God with a strong hand pulled us out of slavery from Egypt, that's very meaningful to me.

 

Interviewer: What about the Holidays? Are there holidays you find particularly meaningful?

Interviewee: The ones that really emphasize his intervention and pulling us out of slavery, have been a lot of narrow spots as we talked about and just that Passover Seders is very meaningful to me. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur preceding what comes before the month of Elul is very meaningful to me. So the High Holidays are very meaningful to me and I really enjoy Hanukkah. And that story, the story with it and enjoy the whole... I like all the ritual aspects of Judaism, which is so very obvious because I'm going out of my way to observe them all. Another thing is like eating quasi kosher, I’m not eating kosher but I’m eating quasi kosher, cutting pork, trying not to have cheese with the…

                              Well I have my own version where I’m not, I’m literally saying don't have the kid in its mother's milk. So that means dissimilar animals if I have goat cheese with cow, to me that's observing the kashrut. But it's not perfectly and there's no rabbi blessing overseeing a lot of the food I get partially because of financial reasons I couldn't afford to. But I couldn't afford to upgrade my kitchen the way that orthodox people do. It's just not reasonable in my financial situation, and I don't really feel that that's what the Torah is telling me.

 

Interviewer: You’ve also talked about the connection to Israel and as you pointed out many Israelis are not particularly religious, they have a strong Jewish identity.

Interviewee: And that's really-really the background that I was exposed to, if I had not had that exposure to a secular Jewish person telling me this and maybe Orthodox people being very welcoming, and just saying you're Jewish and you should explore this, that's what made me connect with this initially and if people had said well you would have to do all this and they just put together all the hurdles I'd have to go through. And then did make me feel accepted initially, I might not have explored this. But like I said if you like Ha Shem reached out to me and oftentimes he does through people.

Interviewer: And you benefited in practical ways?

Interviewee: Oh yeah-yeah, definitely.

Interviewer: Do you try to share this with other people who are struggling with issues that you've had?

Interviewee: I have two sponsees. They were…

Interviewer: You’re in an official recovery programs.

Interviewee: Yes.

Interviewer: Ok, so you sponsor them,--

[30:00] --and then?

Interviewee: Then talk to me about everything, all the spiritual stuff and one of my sponsees is actually Jewish, so that makes a common ground that helps.

 

Interviewer: Would you suggest stuff like this to somebody non-Jewish, who is struggling with issues like that?

 

Interviewee: Well, yeah. I mean I think I reach out to people in my life and some people are not in a support group but they have issues and I try to reach out in a meaningful way, not a preachy way but I try to be helpful.

Interviewer: Would you suggest that they try to connect with spirituality in whatever their own tradition is or…?

 

Interviewee: That’s too strong, I think I'd rather share with people my story as pertinent to their story and see if they want to emulate what I'm doing. If they hear my testimony of what is has done for me, maybe they’ll decided to do that but a lot of times when we get into dialogue about comparative religions, I'm very supportive of their religious practices and I like in Judaism the story of Job. Because he was not a Jew, he was a non-Jew but he was a righteous man and really what that tells us is that you can be without with God, Without a particular set of practices or backgrounds. Not accident birth that you get to be with him, you can be righteous in your own right.

 

Interviewer: This is the 2nd time that you've mentioned wanting to be a role model, both for right behavior as well as spirituality. It sounds like a lot of pressure, do you feel pressure as you go out throughout the day, I need to be a role model?

 

Interviewee: I feel like when you're doing what's right. You'll know it's right because it feels right. Pressure doesn't feel right, it feels like something's wrong when you're under pressure. When I help people, like my sponsees for example, you feel rewarded by it. It feels good to help somebody change their life or take on a new direction that's healthy. And when I feel like I help somebody maybe make a turn to their religious background and get a little bit more serious about it, I feel good about it, I don't really feel burdened by that.

 

Interviewer: Going forward do you think that there are aspects of Judaism that you haven't explored yet, that you would like to were you’re looking forward to working on.

 

Interviewee: Really the Holidays thing right now is the main focus, my main focus is I want to just really adopt the practices of the holidays that work for me and kind of adapt it to my setting and we are interfaith, my wife calls herself Christian and I’m Jewish, and so kind of practices where people are happy and can get meaningful connection with the holiday. So I’m trying to find a happy medium there.

 

Interviewer: Are there holidays or practice that you try that you found don't really work for you?

 

Interviewee: I don't know that they don't work for me, I like it like for example Purim, I'm not going to really wear a costume, most of my life I know that's not going to stick. t's like a holiday for kids almost, it's like Jewish Halloween the way people have made it, but reading the book of Ruth, to me I take that as a mitzvah, and I do that every time.

 

Interviewer: There’s also the factor of drinking alcohol.

 

Interviewee: Yeah I know and that's abstaining from completely. I was just watching a video about Purim,  people who were talking, there was a nice guy that was hosting but yeah he was drinking while he's doing this and yeah there's this excessive drinking. In the Talmud they prescribe how much you can drink at different ages, because they account for your tolerance in increasing and all that. But to me it's about the Book of Ruth, it's about charity, and fasting, and just becoming connected to God and the meaning of the story.

 

Interviewer: Oh you mean Esther.

 

Interviewee: I’m sorry, I’m jumping over. The Book of Esther, Ruth’s coming up in a couple weeks. So Esther’s story and what that story meant, and I like  an opportunity to remind you to be charitable, and fasting---and just having gratitude that connects with God's and salvation.

[35:00]

Interviewer: There's a lot of wine in Judaism, you have no problem just substituting?

 

Interviewee: Yeah I mean way back when I was 1st abstaining, it was something I had to avoid. And now that I’ve really gotten connected with a 12 step program and everything, it really doesn't bother me. I just make sure that people around me, like you, so they protect me when I say something to you and you know, you're going to make sure I get the grape juice. You're going to make extra effort because you feel obligated by me saying something.

 

                               And I’m careful just to make sure that doesn't happen. So between the vigilance of multiple people, I'm not going to mistakenly drink something that' I’m not supposed to. It doesn't really bother me and it's just as meaningful to me to use grape juice, I don't think there's something special about fermented beverages that where the blessing and the significant of grapes is basically revealing the good on the inside inside when you're put under pressure and things getting better with time which is kind of alluded to the symbolism of fermentation but they use it for weddings, making Shabbos more meaningful with time.

 

Interviewer: Again, getting to the future though, are there other things that you found in the study topics or practices that you just have found daunting, so far that you're not going to tackle?

 

Interviewee: Seriously. I like… I don't think I’m necessarily going to embrace all the study of Kabbalism but I like it. And I like it when somebody kind of dumps it down a little bit that gives me something toward more meaningful practice that’s more meaningful. And so I like aspects of it but I am more happy to rely on others for that, but it is a daunting story and Talmud is a daunting study and I’ve read some passages of it and I like that I've heard about people reading one page a day from the Talmud and I may do that maybe in a couple years now but my focus needs to be on right now learning to read Hebrew, not necessarily understand all of it but read it.

 

Interviewer: Do you feel that Hebrew is important?

 

Interviewee: Here’s something, philosophically I've heard what Orthodox have to say that it's God's language. And I like that as a custom but I don't really believe that God or his heavenly counsel or his angels, I don't believe that they need you to speak in a particular tongue to understand you. I’ll never believe that, I believe God will listen to anybody that comes to petition him.

 

                              As he says he heard their cries, I think he will always listen and understand because he's all knowing and he'll pass that gift on to any of his helpers that might hear prayers. I’ve read text where they said the angels won’t understand, so you have to plead extra hard. That was an orthodox text and I don't believe that. No, I believe you can pray and he will understand.

 

Interviewer:  But you’re working on Hebrew.

 

Interviewee: So why am I working on Hebrew? Because I think it's important for me and it’s even a mitzvah to connect with the Jewish people, this is important to the people in the congregation, that's why I'm doing it. Because it's important to you, it's important to Cindy. But I like praying in Hebrew and it's very profound sometimes to do, it just makes me feel connected to ancestors, people existing contemporaries and people existing in the future, this is something special about the Jewish people and part of our identity. Is it essential for God hearing me? No.

 

Interviewer: Ok. So let me ask you about the difference between being part of a Jewish community and doing things individually, you do a lot of individual practices like davening with tefillin and doing all these stuff.

 

Interviewee: I don't feel like I need to have a minyan to be connected with God at that moment.

 

Interviewer: What do you feel are the differences between doing things as part of a community and doing things individually?

[40:00]

Interviewee: Well I think Ha Shem wants you to do things as a community. I mean it's stated in the Torah. The significance of minyans from Abraham where they were reading that today to get to the part where they're going to get to the part, where he's appealing for the Sodomites.

 

Interviewer: Personally what do you what do you feel you get out of the part of the community as opposed to doing all these things as an individual?

 

Interviewer: Well I think that is what the Shema talks about, it's the feeling I get when I feel connected to everybody that's existed, currently exists or will exist, it's a feeling of connectedness not only to God but to my people, which is part of the whole deal of Judaism. So to me I'm accomplishing that part when I get together with people, when we even say the bracha before we read the Torah, it's that we're doing that when we're connecting all of us at that moment.

 

                              But I can go off individual and connect with God, I mean the patriarchs and the matriarchs are examples for us on how to live and they didn't always have a minyan, they went off by themselves a lot of times and prayed. And so I can do the same because I'm supposed to be emulating their ways as well as Ha Shem’s ways, because when I'm emulating their ways I'm emulating the Ha Shem’s way.

 

Interviewer: Well I want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed and participating in this program, thank you very much.

 

Interviewee: Thank you.

 [00:41:41.00]

 

[End of Recorded Material]

 

Mon, April 12 2021 30 Nisan 5781