If not, a new course promises to help you find it.

If you’re seeking spiritual nourishment but coming up empty-handed, you’re certainly not alone. In 21st century America, the search for spiritual meaning seems to be a national pastime.

Though some seek spirituality in the usual places — synagogues, temples, churches, mosques, etc. — many others take their quests outside of religious institutions and normative religious traditions.

That’s OK, says Rabbi Martin Siegel. “Sometimes, religion can be a barrier to God,” says Columbia Jewish Congregation’s rabbi emeritus.

“[But] the need for spirituality is universal,” he says. “It’s built into the nature of being human. Living a materialistic or secular life is not enough. We must find another way to live.”

Rabbi Siegel’s course this fall, “Paths to Living a Spiritually Based Life,” aims to help students of all religious backgrounds and perspectives, as well as those who question or deny the existence of a divine power, find what they’re looking for.

The discussion-based course led by Rabbi Siegel will be comprised of four one-hour sessions and held at CJC, at the Oakland Mills Meeting House, 5885 Robert Oliver Place in Columbia, at dates to be determined.

“I’ve taken what’s profound and made it available to people who don’t have [that knowledge] and are embedded in Western culture,” says Rabbi Siegel, 84, who has studied different streams of Judaism and other faiths over the course of his life. “[This] course allows people to reach beyond science, history, economics, etc., and teaches them a transcendent system that makes life more authentic.”

The classes will explore such themes as humility, the power of universal love, the development of greater wisdom and understanding, and the need of putting faith into action, says Rabbi Siegel, an acclaimed author who served as CJC’s spiritual leader from 1972 to 1974 and has studied with Chasidic masters.

After the course is over, Rabbi Siegel says he hopes students will form ongoing groups to discuss and support their spiritual growth and perhaps even train other spiritual seekers.

“The capacity to acknowledge something larger than yourself … is what allows one to become fully aware as a human,” says Rabbi Siegel, adding that this leads people to the “discovery of their authentic selves, which in turn leads to transcendence.”

Savage resident Matt Citron, a course participant and longtime student of Rabbi Siegel, says he enrolled in the class with the goal of becoming closer to God.

Citron, who is retired, admits that before studying with Rabbi Siegel, he was “skeptical about religion. As an engineer, I was very analytical. I was always the first one to say, ‘But how do you know that?’ I found it was hard to get close to God if you can’t know about God.”

Citron says he has come to understand that building a relationship with God is a “two-way street. God is there with his love, but if I’m serious about this I’ll have to take action and do some of the things I haven’t done before.”

Another course participant, Ellicott City resident Michael Myerson, says he hopes to make Judaism more meaningful in his life and develop a stronger spiritual connection.

“There’s no magic bullet or guarantees. Everyone must approach this in their own way,” says Myerson, an attorney who attends Temple Beth Shalom in Arnold. “The hope is that people will find a mechanism that works for them. The whole point is, spirituality is both universal and individual.”

For information about “Paths to Living a Spiritually Based Life,” call 410-730-6044 or email robin@columbiajewish.org .

Top photo: Rabbi Martin Siegel: “Living a materialistic or secular life is not enough. We must find another way to live.” (Photo by Ed Bunyan)



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