Rabbi Alan Lew is dead. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle said that he’d been teaching at a rabbinical seminar, said morning prayer, lead a meditation, and gone off for a jog. And died in mid-stride at the age of 65.
Rabbi Lew was a founding teachers in the year-long program for end-of-life-care practitioners which I completed in 2006. I remember him as a kind and wise, learned and unpretentious man with a lovely sense of humour. He’d been a Zen student for ten years before studying to become a rabbi. He re-introduced ancient meditation practices into the life of his Jewish congregation and was widely known for bridging Jewish and Buddhist teachings and practices. I was stunned to hear the news; I am glad to have been his student. May his memory be a blessing to all who knew him. Zichrono Li’vracha.
In one of his books, Alan wrote this about the soul’s journey:
On this journey our soul will awaken to itself. We will venture from innocence to sin and back to innocence again. This is a journey from denial to awareness, from self-deception to judgment. We will learn our Divine Name. We will move from self-hatred to self-forgiveness, from anger to healing, from hard-heartedness to brokenheartedness.
This is the journey the soul takes to transform itself and to evolve, the journey from boredom and staleness—from deadness—to renewal. It is on the course of this journey that we confront our shadow and come to embrace it, that we come to know our deepest desires and catch a glimpse of where they come from, that we express the paradoxical miracle of our own being and the infinite power of simple being present, simply being who we are. …
It is the journey from isolation to a sense of our intimate connection to all being. This is the journey on which we discover ourselves to be part of an inevitable chain of circumstances, the journey beyond death, the journey home. This is the longest journey we will ever make, and we must complete it in that brief instant before the gates of heaven clang shut.
source: Lew, A. (2003). This is real and you are completely unprepared: the Days of Awe as a journey of transformation. Boston: Little Brown, p.8.