Death: A Rabbi and a Priest Walk Out of a Bar…

Today at lunch I was told that Rabbi Alan Lew, a seemingly vigorous, recently retired pulpit rabbi, died yesterday during a post-prayer walk.  January 4th, 9 days ago, I helped Alan and his wife find transportation from this retreat center to visit friends in Martha’s Vineyard.  He then traveled to Maryland to continue teaching with Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz about mindfulness, brokenness. From his website:

Rabbi Lew’s book This Is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation was published by Little Brown and Co. in August of 2003. ” . . .Yet for Rabbi Alan Lew, the real purpose of this annual passage is for us to experience brokenheartedness and open our hearts to God. . . . Lew has marked out a journey of seven distinct stages, one that draws on these rituals to awaken the soul and wholly transform us. . .”

I like and despise the Days of Awe, an annual death preparation meant to transform our lives.  During the Yom Kippur fast, white is worn to suggest our burial outfit and bathing discouraged.  You are already rotting!  The soul must experience Tshuvah, or re-direction, turning to the ways of God and away from sin, in order to be granted life in the coming year. This is severe yet Alan know the energy can be guided toward self-revelation, the death of the old self must be embraced.

I also note Richard John Neuhaus’ passing.  His fascinating life teaches what is possible.

Who drops out of school and runs a gas station in north Texas at age 13?   Who organizes with King and Heschel against the Vietnam War (Clergy Concerned about Vietnam) while serving in tough urban parish?  Who then becomes the author of a seminal text on American religious and political life (The Naked Public Square), leaves Lutheran Church of his upbrining for full communion with the Catholic Church, then edits a major conservative inntellectual magazine (First Things). RJN was unique in his path.  David Brooks here details RJN’s preparation for death.  Along the way a vision alerted him to the closeness of death, as well as its undeniability. I can’t quite capture it.

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