Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo and I are friends for a long time. I also learned a lot from him and other teachers he invited to teach at the Cardozo Academy lectures and Think Tank meetings. And, my life would not have been so good as it is without his general and personal input.
Yet, having learned a lot from him doesn’t mean that we see eye to eye on every issue. In fact, we have very different personalities and personal ideals. As I see it, Rabbi Cardozo is a romanticist, always happy to find another untouchable mystery in the universe. He far surpassed down-to-earth Dutch culture. And, he’s a macho man with feelings and emotions.
By being a happy camper, I’m also beyond Dutch Calvinism. That’s a sin in a country where it rains every day. But, I don’t fancy romantics. I’m a rationalist, trained in the natural sciences. I like the part of Judaism that reflects and reflects on earthly reality and scientific findings. I don’t need vague spirituality or any type of drama. I like things organized and calm.
So, I’m not totally surprised by Rabbi Cardozo’s new masterpiece that seems to touch on the far and beyond of sexuality and prayer. It is very honest, personal, daring, and new for someone not on psychedelic drugs. I also find this trip well deserved for a seeker who gets thrilled by being lost more than by finding his way. Yet, it’s not for me. I don’t see the ultimate thing of sex or prayer as meeting the Other in the most sublime way.
I see prayer as a two-way street (we talk, He listens) whereby it doesn’t matter what He does. It matters, but it is not for us to check out. It’s His responsibility. Like in a deep mutual friendship where you stopped critically following the other. You each take care of the other and that is it. G^d even humbly agreed not to be our Everything.
I see sexuality as a two-way street where you each take care of the needs of the other and are not involved in getting (let alone taking) either.
When you both give, everyone receives, everyone is happy.
So, I find checking what we get out of such a relationship destroying the process. As soon as we ask ourselves what the Other does for us, we place ourselves outside of mutual trust, the process of prayer or sexuality.
“Look at your own plate,” my parents would say if we’d compare what our siblings got. Asking what I get from my encounter with G^d is like checking what I get out of sex with my partner. While the whole purpose is to take responsibility for my part and leave the rest to the Other.
I must add that sex and prayer are generally terribly overrated. Sex and prayer are only as good and wholesome as the relationship in which they operate. And the relationship is built by consistent hard work, of being reliable partners. That is something for around the clock. The actual sex and prayer acts are only the finishing touch of the relationships.
But, it’s nice that Rabbi Cardozo always comes with new stuff.