Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The Purpose of Religion

Author: Paulo Coelho

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

My daughter, Heather, recommended a book to me and I have started to read it. It is called Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho and Margaret Jull Costa. As I have begun to read it, I found these two lines that struck me. “They don’t understand that religion was created in order to share the mystery and worship, not to oppress or convert others. The greatest manifestation of the miracle of God is life.”

Wow, what a mouthful. Simple, yet so difficult for most of us to do, which bothers me to no end! Last week, I was able to participate in the Valley Beth Shalom honoring of my friend and teacher, Rabbi Ed Feinstein. Ed has spent the last 20 years sharing the mystery and worship of God with all of us in Los Angeles. He has honored life and truly sees the reflection of God in each and every person. So, what stops the rest of us from doing this better?

Because we think that money, power and prestige are all that matters. Because we think that narcissism is natural and right. Because we believe that oppressing/blaming someone else will make the truth we know about our own shortcomings and errors go away! Because we believe that without converting others to “our way” we must be wrong. Because we don’t believe in anything really, so we must make another believe in “our way.”

I suggest that we follow Rabbi Ed’s example. He reaches out to the poor and gives them a meal, not a thrashing. He welcomes the stranger and gets to know them, again over a meal, without trying to convert them. He cares for the sick, the orphan and widow with words of comfort and love, not blame and disdain. Rabbi Ed is a master teacher. Yet, his actions speak so much louder than his words.

I don’t want to oppress you or convert you. I do want you to join me in being addicted to redemption. Why? So that all of us can appreciate the Miracle of God, life, a little bit more. So that all of us can share the mystery of life and God with each other and everyone else. So that all of us can join together to find the path to worship through caring for each other. So that each us can live lives of meaning, purpose and passion. Your way is good, Her way is good, and my way is good if we all are on the way to worshiping, enlarging, sharing and enjoying LIFE a little more each day.


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