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Somewhere Between Spirituality and Religion

Somewhere Between Spirituality and Religion

There is truth


Most of us in these spiritual 00's profess a "spiritual side," a "religious self," or however else we might refer to that part of ourselves that's in touch with Something Higher. So the question is not really do we have it, but what exactly is it. Is it a self-improvement thing, like a woodworking class or a therapy session? Is it a duty, like obeying the law of the land and going to work in the morning? Or is it simply who you are?

The Talmud, addressing this question more than 1500 years ago, put it in these terms: what do you call the place that G‑d occupies in your life—a mountain, a field, or a house?

It was something else to each of the three founding fathers of the Jewish people. There is a place—the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—which the Torah regards as the focal point of G‑d's presence in our world. When Abraham was there, it's called "the mountain of G‑d's revelation." To Isaac, the place was a "field." Jacob spent a night there and proclaimed it "the house of G‑d."

The Kabbalists sum up the lives of the three Patriarchs this way: Abraham was the embodiment of love, Isaac personified awe, and Jacob was the essence of truth.

The problem with love is that it can go too far, bearing down on the boundary between self and other to the extent that it becomes smothering and decadent. Abraham was the perfection of love, but his son Ishmael was an example of love run amok. The problem with humility, commitment and self-discipline is that it can congeal into cruelty—Esau is an example of Isaacness corrupted.

Truth, on the other hand, is what it is, not because it is reaching for something or recoiling from something. Truth is love that respects boundaries; truth is commitment tempered with compassion. Truth is not a mountain, a distended piece of earth trying to be heaven; nor is it a field, flattening itself to the ground to submit to the plow and spade. Truth is a home: a place that shelters life, facilitates its needs, enables it to be itself.

Of course, the home cannot exist without the mountain and the field. Truth without passion is dead; truth without commitment is ungrounded. To become ourselves, we must climb our mountains and work our fields. But we must remember that life truly lived is not to achieve or to submit, but to inhabit our achievements and commitments. Or as the Midrash expresses it: to make the world a home for G‑d.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
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ruth housman marshfield hills, ma February 2, 2012

Music, the Language of Soul I came to this after writing this morning, dear Anonyous, about this beautiful piece on music written by Jonathan Sacks.


I love this too!!!

Thank you. Others might find this really beautiful too. Reply

Anonymous February 2, 2012

r h and anyone else On a different slant/pathway to truth, you may want to read an essay by Jonathan Sacks titled " Music, The Language of The Soul ".

I read it last week in He writes up some beautiful truths about music and spirituality, much of which i have picked up from your posts over the past couple years. The part i liked best was his approach to prayer as song.

All the best. Reply

Anonymous wisc February 2, 2012

Truth - Feb 1, 2012 Looks like ' irreconcilable differences ' on the debate about truth, concluding in a respectful happy divorce.

I think that we can all agree that discussions about Torah make G-d smile. That much is true. Torah study is a mitzvah !

Regarding CHaBaD, there is a reason why the acronym of Chochma, Binah, and Da'at is ordered in the name/The Name. Chochma, then Binah and then Da'at. That's Chabad ! It doesn't work when Da'at/Knowledge is put first and Chochma/Wisdom last, like putting the cart before the horse. It's a fascinating concept. If interested, R. Tzvi does a fine piece on it in Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia February 1, 2012

"Truth IS relative" - is it absolutely true - yes or no? This statement is the empty core of all new-age philosophy. It is not only incoherent with Judaism, it is incoherent with itself. Others' refusal to answer this simple question (both of whose possible answers lead to contradictions) betrays their private realization that they have uttered stream-of-consciousness gibberish.

The seal of Ha-Shem is truth. Jewish survival is imperiled today, as it has been for thousands of years, by people drilling holes in the bottom of the boat in which we sail. I will never understand the Jewish madness of self-destructiveness. It is a curse.

I am bowing out of this discussion, per the advice in Mish'lei (Proverbs): "Do not argue with a ..." you-know-what. I pray that Ha-Shem will bestow upon his people Yis'ra'eil Da'ath (Knowledge), Binah (Understanding), and Chakh'mah (Wisdom), amen. (That's Chabad!) Reply

Anonymous w January 31, 2012

r h " as if " January 31, 2012 Love your graceful bow out. You have taught us about the relativity of truth. I concur. Philly does not.

So what are we left with ? Spaceships flying side by side look at each other and appear motionless. Yet we see their movement. Both observations are true. Hillel and Shammai were often at odds with each other, yet they were friends. Abraham best served G-d by Chesed. Isaac best served by Gevurah. Jacob best served by a synthesis of those two. Which manner of service is the absolute truth ? BTW, Abraham interrupted a conversation with G-d. How dishonorable !? G-d loved it ! There is a Jewish story " The Walls of the Study ". A rabbi knows the absolute truth on a question of impurity. G-d 'laughs' when that rabbi gets excommunicated. A higher truth was in play. Truth is relative.

Thanks r h on your contributions.

Mazel tov Philly. Just as you are absolutely correct in your sphere, i am absolutely correct in mine. On that note, i'm out. No hard feelings. Reply

Anonymous w January 31, 2012

Truth -Anon in Philly No amount of philosophical linguistic gyrations of logic fits the dance i speak about. You appear to be mired in one single mode of factual truth, the 1930 and 1940's and The Holocaust. It all happened. The facts are true and there is plenty of film footage to prove it.

However, I will repeat my question of January 29th to which you gave no answer : Is anti-semitism on the rise or decline ? Supply your facts thereto. No doubt you will find yourself in a debate about the truth. It will be relative and contextual. You also did not reply to the many questions asked in posts of January 26th, 2012.

All the best.

If you do not want to answer, or have no answer, it is fine with me. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 31, 2012

objectivity is a relative thing, ask any of the people who claims to be objective who disagree with you

I said it

there is nothing else for me to add and I am bowing out of this continuous non discussion

Truth is Relative

We all bear different truths. You say yours is right and I may totally agree, but others say it is not.

There are so many examples of this. A Rabbi interprets Torah one way and that is the way but within Torah, we do midrash which is a re examination of what is layered, and we do this togehter, and that too, could be termed truth.

The nature of what is true if you want to use that word, as if we are talking the same language, and we might not be, is not absolute.

G_d is absolute and has the answers to the deepest questions, and G_d gave us both Einstein and Relativity, and something could come along to blast into a new truth that embraces us all. That's just how it is, in life, as we do experience it, or we wouldn't be writing to each other all the time to explore truth. Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia January 30, 2012

"Truth IS relative" is... absolutely true - yes or no? I have asked the question about a dozen times, failing to get an answer. I take it you concede that the statement is nonsense. If it is absolutely true, then it is true, so it is relative, so it is not absolutely true, so it is not relative, so...

This self-contradictory statement is one of the class of pons asinorum statements analyzed in elementary logic classes. Its restatement with the verb in capital letters does not make it coherent. Any philosophy based on it is false - absolutely false.

I take my stand with the facts - objective facts - and with reason. Without these, civilization decays rapidly into savage barbarism, as we saw in 1930's Germany. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 30, 2012

Confusion reigns and pulls at the reins I have no idea at this point which Anonymous I am responding to. It does get confusing.

Van Gogh was an artist. He painted with swirls and he painted a kind of frenetic and beautiful picture of everything, not just the stars, the sun, the earth, the moving fields of grass and he used very brilliant color and lots of paint. His work is heavily pigmented.

I am not sure what truth about stars Van Gogh did know? I am not sure this makes sense to me. I have been at many Van Gogh museums and in Amsterdam and there was nothing about his deep knowledge of astronomy. Nothing at all.

I only refer to the Holocaust because others, other anonymice, keep hitting me over the head with this. I am happy not to discuss this at all. Or rape. Or anything that was thrown at me as if I am in some kind of denial of realities.

As to antisemitism, it exists. It waxes and wanes. I am not doing research in this, but sure, there is antisemitism. Is this what you want to hear? It hasn't disappeared, has it? Reply

Anonymous w January 29, 2012

Starry Night Jan 27 , 2012 You changed the context. i did not present Van Gogh's style.. I presented it as the truth about stars which Van Gogh knew before the scientists did. So everyone laughed at Van Gogh's truth, not his style. The stars he painted had nothing to do with style. His style did appeal to the public until much later on. The truth he painted was there since the day he painted it and even before. Truth updates occur daily. Some of these truths undo a former truth. This has nothing to do with the Holocaust which you continually refer to. It is true. It did happen. The debates about the Holocaust are racist meanderings. Anti- semitism is true. It exists. If things go right, it will not exist. It will no longer be true other than historically. In this example it isn't necessary to look backwards and say, it was true, if the world has truly moved on.

Let me ask, is anti-semitism growing or declining ? What is the truth ? Is it static or does it change ? Relative change or absolutely static ? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 29, 2012

anonymous Philadelphia Philadelphia: the city of Brotherly Love.

I am not sure why you argue with me on things where we do agree. I am not sure why you keep asking me to agree with you when in reading through my response, it's quite obvious where I stand on rape, on the Holocaust, on all genocide, on the nature of what men do that is cruel, abusive and wrong. There is NO disagreement.

Truth is relative as it references the individual and the individual's truth. How hard is this?

If someone believes the moon is so definitely made of green cheese or that the earth is the center and the sun revolves around this, as WAS a truth at the time, that got an astronomer into deep trouble when promulgating a new truth, that this was wrong, well that's how we function. This doesn't make it right, but yes, people do believe they have the truth, and that is about relativity. It sure is.

There's a rabbi who feels evolution is misguided and wrong, and no truth in this, yet scientists and others are vehement he's wrong. Reply

Anonymous January 27, 2012

r h color Jan 26 2012 May you continue to spark ( le ) us. Your soul had to be around before the beginning of time. Definitely long before the " You rock ! " sound byte which so applies to you.

Good Shabbos all! Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia January 27, 2012

Van Gogh's paintings are neither true nor false I happen to like "A Starry Night"; others may not. That is a matter of taste, or preference, not a matter of truth.

The Holocaust did occur. That is not my "truth"; that is the truth, the absolute truth, for everyone. Those who deny it are ignorant, evil, or insane.

If you get raped, G-d forbid, and the judge acquits your assailant, despite video surveillance tapes, on the grounds that his "truth" is not the same as your "truth", writing, falsely and incoherently, that "truth IS relative", how would you feel?

I still await an answer to the question: is the assertion "truth IS relative" an absolute truth - yes or no? Both answers lead to contradictions, showing the assertion is meaningless - a new-age vacuity. Reply

Anonymous w January 27, 2012

r h Jan 26 trouble Color blindness was my first choice for rebuttal. Good thing i didn't rack my brain to apply it. Can't match how you string your words of wisdom.

On the pink elephant argument, if your mind conjures an image, isn't the image true ? As a matter of fact, i happened to buy a pink elephant at a Hallmark store and gave it to my colicky granddaughter. It calmed her. Do pink elephants exist ? Ask Hallmark. I have the receipt that says it does exist. Ask my 1 year old granddaughter ? A wee bit relative i would say.

Van Gogh painted stars as swirling bodies of energy. Everybody laughed. His truth was not theirs. They just didn't get it. Poor Vincent. Right guy; wrong place. Common occurrence. All relative. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma January 26, 2012

there is much more to be said about seeing Red there is a genetics to this Opsinin .. red green and blue. You can look this up. There is a very sensitive difference in perception of color that does affect a per centage of males and females. I think you chose the wrong subject to talk about absolutes when it comes to the known genetic differences in the perception of color. Reply

Anonymous w January 26, 2012

definition of truth - Anon - Jan 24, 2012 Pink elephants do not exist.

When you are frustrated sometimes, create pink elephants in your mind. Does it help ? Think about it. If it brings a smile and relieves the frustration, make it a habit. Reply

Anonymous w January 26, 2012

definition of truth - Anon - Jan 24, 2012 Israel was created in 1948 won by a single vote in favour at the UN. The politicking was fast and furious.

In terms of absolute truth who does Israel belong to ?
After the Six Day War, it belongs to Israel. We might trade away half if a peace can be negotiated. Will there ever be an absolute true peace. Objectively, is Jerusalem only a bargaining chip ? We say that Hashem gave us Jews this Promised Land. Allah told the Muslims that it was theirs. The Christians call Jesus the true King of israel.

History is written by the victors. The fog of war prevents absolute truth. Is Cyprus ' Red/Turkish' or ' Blue/Greece ' ?

My point is not border disputes. My point is that in many cases the objective truth can be unknown. Which is the best cold medicine ? Is capital punishment , right or wrong ? Euthanasia ? Cremation ? Theory of evolution ? Hinduism ? Marijuana ? Greatest athlete, Secretariat ? Won Belmont by unimaginable 21 lengths ! G-d's existence ? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 26, 2012

how we get into trouble I have a Jewish friend who is color blind. He really doesn't see colors as we do, and we know why, it has to do with the genetics of rods and cones in the eye. Many people are color blind. So, what if all these people lived together on an island. What they say is red if perceived by a visitor to the island not color blind would be disputed. Who is right?

This is the problem of relativism stated in another way.

And yes, of course the Holocaust happened. And of course Genocide is immoral. And these truths are about morality, and an ethics that does deeply embrace Torah. Reply

Anonymous January 24, 2012

The definition of truth Here's how we define truth. The statement "that house is red" is true if and only if that house is actually red. If that house is actually red, and someone describes the house as blue, that person has stated something objectively incorrect. It may be their "truth", but it is objectively wrong.

Mathematics and logic are absolute truth. "Genocide is immoral" is absolutely true. The assertion that 6 million Jews were murdered by Nazis is absolutely true; those who say otherwise are ignorant or evil or insane.

I am still awaiting a response to my question: is the assertion "truth IS relative" absolutely true - yes or no? If it is absolutely true, then the assertion is false, because there is an absolute truth after all. If it is not absolutely true, then I do not have to accept it, so even the capital letters do not have any persuasive power. Reply

Anonymous January 24, 2012

Ricardo of Buenos Aires, Argentina - r h r h -- you should recall Ricardo who pushed his atheist truth upon us. He was far more logical than those who wish to escalate your opinions on relative truth.

Ricardo told us that his father who was a doctor went to a small town to treat a patient. She told him that Jews took blood from children to sacrifice to G-d.

After many dogmatic arguments Ricardo's last post told us that he wanted nothing other than to dispute those who believed in Hashem. As much off putting concrete data he presented, it was an effort to make us rethink about our faith in Hashem, It wasn't a hoax. He was playing Devil's Advocate.

r h , you have presented a personal concrete experience. So far your naysayers have only dealt with the perversion of the Holocaust question. It is absolutely true that the Holocaust happened. Reply