Rabbi Emma talks about relationships

I recently learned about an app you can download on your phone that shares words of wisdom from 155 different world religions. 

The app, Vennly, aims to share ‘audio insights’ through the voices of spiritual leaders of all faiths. It is described as an audio library that offers users ‘spiritual support’ by covering issues that affect people’s everyday lives, such as parenting, marriage, grief and more. Vennly purports to be useful to people in moments of intense joy or immense challenge in their lives. 

The co-creator and CEO of Vennly, Brian Laundau, grew up outside of organised religion and found that his spiritual life was not getting the “work that it needed” (as compared to his physical health, which could be addressed in the gym). The internet, where so many go to find answers these days, also was not providing the answers he was looking for, and he found that many of his friends and colleagues were experiencing the same challenge — lacking spiritual direction yet, resistant to seeking it from overtly religious spaces. 

Brian wanted to bring together those who were seeking spiritual guidance with those who know how to provide it, but through a “spiritual, not religious” approach. While this seems like a lovely idea, and though the app is likely to be successful in attracting users, Brian and the creators of Vennly are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle. Spiritual support doesn’t just come from listening to wise men and women sharing their truths in universal language. Though surely, much can be learned and gained through such an approach, the missing ingredient is relationship. 

I can share with you a teaching from Jewish tradition in a recording, and you might find it interesting or useful, but if we are not sitting together face to face, if we don’t know one another, then I cannot help you to apply the message to your own life. I can’t connect you to other resources that might make sense for your own unique challenge, experience and context, and I can’t introduce you to other people who may be resources and supports to you in and of themselves. I can’t invite you to a Shabbes dinner and I can’t welcome you into community. In Jewish tradition we are encouraged not to study Jewish text on our own, but rather in chevrutah, in partnership, because there is only so much you can learn through your own perspective. Without the experience, questions, ideas and suggestions of another, we can only take ourselves, our learning and our growth so far. 

It’s lovely to be able to carry around the wisdom of world religions in your pocket, but nothing can replace the sacred relationships proscribed by Pirkei Avot (1:6): Aseh lecha rav, uk’nei lecha chaver – “Find for yourself a teacher and acquire for yourself a (study) partner.” Only in true relationship with other can we grow.

To read the editor’s column for December/January click here

To read or download the December/January issue of the Chronicle in PDF click  here

To read the most read article of the November issue, click here

Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here

Featured organisation of the month: The Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) activities are centered on relief for the poor and distressed in the Jewish community. They provide a full range of preventative, educative and supportive counselling, statutory services as well as material relief. Visit http://www.jcs.org.za  for more.


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