A24. Finding my Spiritual Self

The amazing events with DJ reinforced ideas and feelings about life that I had been developing for a couple of decades.  Thus far I have shared how my involvement with the world of medicine helped instruct me about how life can work.  In parallel, I also had experienced examples in my personal life of how the universe appears to unfold in an organized manner.


As a college freshman in San Diego I felt quite unsettled about my role in life, which is not an unusual preoccupation for young adults at that age.  That uncertainty felt somewhat uncomfortable, and I was felt envious of some of my classmates who seemed to be much more sanguine about their lives.  I asked them why they were so peaceful.  “It’s because I have found Jesus,” explained one of them.  “I follow His teachings and this helps me know what I should do.”


This was a novel way of thinking to my mind.  I had grown up in a secular Jewish home, and hardly practiced religious Judaism.  The last time I went to synagogue as a child occurred when I turned 13 years old, on the occasion of my becoming a Bar Mitzvah. 


As a sophomore I ended up sharing our 10 person dorm suite with several of my friends, most of whom turned out to be evangelical Christians.  “Why are you Jewish?” asked one of my friends, during some of our late night discussions about the meaning of life.  It was a good question.  I did not have an answer other than that I was born into a Jewish family and had grown up in Israel.


“But you can choose to follow Jesus,” said my friend.  “He can provide you with guidance and peace.”  I was intrigued, and a little wary.  I was drawn to his strong feelings of purpose, and yet did not know enough about my own religion to make a decision about whether I wanted to explore alternatives.


I called my father, who knew a lot about religious Judaism, even though he did not practice it.  He explained to me that I could find within Judaism the same kind of guidance that attracted me to Christian thought.  “After all,” said my father. “Christianity is a daughter religion of Judaism.  In fact, Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi, and early Christians represented one denomination of Judaism.  It was only when the Roman Empire became involved with Christianity that it broke off completely from Judaism.”  Years later I found out that my father had bought many books about Judaism and its religious aspects in order to be able to answer my questions fully!


I was glad to hear that I might be able to find the answers I sought within my own roots.   That year I decided to fast for the first time on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.  I remember going to La Jolla Shores beach with my college friends, taking a last bite of an apple as I watched a glorious sunset, and resolving not to eat or drink anything else until the following sunset.


That evening, my spirit was not yet settled, as the words of my Christian friends continued to play in my mind.  What about what Jesus represented to Christians?  Didn’t his teachings lead to an evolution of Judaism?  As an open-minded individual, shouldn’t I be considering Christianity for myself?


I found myself leafing through the Bible.  There is an old game wherein one can open the Bible randomly, put a finger on a verse, and learn something important from that passage.  With that kind of page turning my eyes fell upon a passage in the New Testament, which by definition is not part of Jewish Bible.  The verse was from the book of Romans, in which Paul provides instruction to pagans about the nature of Christianity.  This particular verse, Chapter 28:11 discusses the role of Judaism.  “Jews are the enemies of God for your sake,” said Paul.  “However, they remain God’s chosen people, because God never revokes his gifts.” Chills ran up my spine.  This verse from the Christian Bible, helped strengthen my belief in my religion, and provided an answer for my Christian friends about why I chose to remain Jewish.  This was an answer they could not refute, as it came from their own scriptures. 


During my last year of college I was reintroduced to religious Judaism as a young adult.  A friend suggested that perhaps we could attend services at a new synagogue that was within walking distance to my college dorm.  The synagogue, Beth El, was so new that services were held in a residential home that was half-way down a hill.


We went together to the synagogue in the fall.  I loved that many of the prayers were in Hebrew, which was my mother tongue.  During the service, I was given the honor of lifting up the hand written Torah scroll (in which are inscribed the first five books of the Old Testament, which makes up the Jewish Bible).  After the Torah scroll was wrapped in its coverings, I was asked to sit while holding it for the next part of the service.  The musty odor of the scroll and velvet feel of the covering imprinted upon my brain that day.  I felt that I found my way back to my roots.


The friend who had suggested we go to synagogue never returned with me.  I think his job probably was to guide me there.  After that one time, I was hooked.


Beth El had engaged a wonderful reader of the Torah whose job was to chant the weekly reading in Hebrew, and following an elaborate set of musical notations that are found in the Jewish Bible.  Listening to this reader chant in Hebrew helped spark my interest in relearning how to chant (as I had first learned to chant in preparation for becoming a Bar Mitzvah, after which I promptly forgot how to do it). 


I asked another friend to teach me how to chant the same portion I had recited on the day I became Bar Mitzvah.  And at the end of my senior year at college, I chanted from the Bible in Hebrew for the first time as a young adult, on my 21st birthday.

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A27. Dreaming of a House

I had expected to have several more sessions with DJ in order to continue our post-transition work. However, we met on only two other occasions to discuss his career development path, and then he felt he no longer needed to return.

A26. Another Synchronicity of Events

After living in Syracuse for a number of years, my wife said that she was tired of the difficult winter weather there, which affected the city nearly half of each year.

A25. Guided through Life

During the summer prior to medical school I met with the Cantor at my parents’ synagogue and asked him to help me to continue to learn how to chant from the Torah.

A23. Return of a Friend

During the following two weeks until DJ’s next appointment with me, I kept thinking about the remarkable lessons that DJ and his subconscious were teaching.

A22. The Role of a Leader

DJ brought a copy of “Dharma Bums” to his next visit with me two weeks later. “You were right!” he exclaimed. “The part about the paths was not in the book.”

A21. What happened?

I looked out my office door at 4:59 pm on Sunday, December 23. And precisely at 5 pm DJ walked down the darkened hall towards my office. (For some reason, no one else was seeing patients at that time.)