Crossing the Interfaith River

River Iceland_near_Dettifoss_1972Each wisdom tradition, says Hassidic teacher Reb Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), vibrates at a unique frequency. Each tradition is a unique slice of the infinite eternal vibration of Eyn Sof, divine infinity. Were our ears spiritually attuned, we would hear a cosmic symphony of paths to God.

If only our ears were so attuned! Most of us get so used to our own melody that others just seem wrong. So we disagree, we argue, we split, we compete, we fight. And to people not attached to the religious life, our disputes look ridiculous. Look how contentious religion is, they say! Look at the tiny differences that rip apart communities into teams of enemies! I want nothing to do with it.

Imagine religious debates as a flowing river, says Reb Nachman. Opposing opinions about religion are like silt piled up on the banks, leaving a void in the middle where atheism can take root – not simply an atheism that rejects a particular metaphor for God, but an atheism that completely denies the spiritual life.

Pharaoh, says Reb Nachman, is the Biblical archetype of that atheist.

Who has the power to confront Pharaoh? Why, the Hebrews — the Ivrim, those who cross the river — do! Not the historical people, but the ones who know how to bypass disputes and differences.

Who leads these Hebrews? A Moses, one who calls himself a speaker of few words. One who knows she cannot win over a Pharaoh with words or arguments, but only with silence. Only by meeting a Pharaoh where they are, moving with their vibration, and quietly demonstrating a living faith in God, a living, non-divisive faith.

Bo el Par’oh, “Approach Pharaoh,” God says to Moses (Exodus 7:26). Bo el Par’oh – words addressed not just to one historical Moses, but to the Moses power in all of us.


Cross the river with us at the Vancouver School of Theology, May 15-17, 2016, at the Encountering the Other conference. Register for a full two days of learning or stop by Epiphany Chapel for the FREE and OPEN keynote address (Dr. Marc Gopin, May 15, 7:00 pm) or the FREE and OPEN Fossil-free Faith young adult panel discussion and World Music Concert (Arabic, Jewish, Japanese and Indian music, May 16, 7:00 pm). ***

Image: Iceland, near Dettifoss. Source: Wikimedia commons

One Comment
  1. OK — you’ve convinced me to read Reb Nachman. Your point about hearing “different” as “wrong” — that happens in music, too. We accept what’s familiar, and reject the strange. Most people eat that way, too.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *