At the recently completed FJMC International Convention, I had an extraordinary experience. On Thursday morning, we were divided up into 4 groups for different Symposia. I was assigned to the session on “Learning to see an Invisible God”. The format for the Symposia was that there was a 1 hour presentation followed by moderated break-out sessions. We had Rabbi Harold Kushner and Rabbi Gordon Tucker leading the main presentation and I was chosen to be one of the breakout session moderators.
Rabbis Kushner and Tucker both spoke movingly of their experiences and their beliefs. Rabbi Kushner spoke at more of an emotional level and Rabbi Tucker spoke at more of an intellectual level. Listening to both of them caused me to look into my soul and my beliefs. After listening to them, and the few questions and answers that time allowed, it was clear to me that I had a very tough act to follow.
As we got into out sessions, I had the privilege of having Rabbi Kushner in our session to start. I asked the first question of the Rabbi, and our group had a great back and forth for the 5 minutes that he was with us. After that, we continued our discussion. As the facilitator, my job was to try to get as many people to participate as possible but to not allow one or 2 people to dominate the conversation. The first part was very easy, everyone had an opinion, and once we got started, the floodgates opened, and both men and women shared their feelings and impressions. Thanks to Don Miller for capturing much of what was said during the session, I believe that there is much that we will be able to take back to our clubs and shuls.
Finally, it was time to wrap up the session. This was the hardest part for me. While I was trying to summarize the discussion, I was overcome with emotion. I personally have so many issues with God, something that I have been free to share with many, many people over the years, that discussing this topic is hard for me. Then the most amazing thing happened. As soon as the session was over, a number of people, some I knew and some I didn’t, came up to me to give me a hug and to tell me that they are also having difficulties and that the session was as helpful for them as it was for me.
I think the end result for me is that there are many, many people in our clubs and our shuls that are having difficulty with God or want to understand God better. We need to find a way have this open and honest discussion. The Hearing Men’s Voices format is the perfect way, in my opinion, to get this discussion started.