Madison Avenue, Wally’s Gas Station, and a Box of Cereal with Rabbi Wayne Dosick, Ph. D., D. D.
Transforming our world through Radical Loving and Awesome Holiness
Rabbi, Dr. Wayne Dosick
RABBI DR. WAYNE DOSICK, Ph.D., D.D. is the founder and spiritual guide of The Elijah Minyan — bringing Spiritual Judaism and Jewish Renewal to San Diego.
Rabbi Dosick is a dynamic, inspiring, and loving educator, writer, spiritual guide and healer, who teaches and counsels about faith and spirit, ethical values, life transformations, and evolving human consciousness.
He is well-known for quality scholarship and sacred spirit, his reading of traditional texts for their sense of prophetic social justice, his abiding commitment to utmost dignity and decency for every human being, and his lifetime of guiding people to a deep, personal, intimate relationship with the Divine.
He has been described as a “rational intellect with the soul of a mystic,” and he has been called “one of the most gifted teachers of our generation, who understands the mindset, needs, and yearnings of people, and responds to this intellectual and inner searching in peerless fashion. ”Recently, he has been called, “a spiritual master of our time.”
More about Rabbi Wayne Dosick at https://elijahminyan.com/rabbi-wayne
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. It’s Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where we help leaders clarify their vision and then build synergy around it. What are we called to do? What are we called to be? How do we empower people within our sphere of influence to follow a pathway for the common good?
For seven years, we have been talking to amazing people. Today is not like any we have ever had before. My guest is author of many books. The one that got my attention is called Radical Loving: One God, One World, One People. Rabbi Wayne Dosik, tell us a little bit about who you are and why you wrote this book.
Rabbi Wayne Dosik: Thanks for having me. It’s a great pleasure. I love the work that you’re doing to help people through the chaos in many ways of this world right now. I grew up in Chicago. My original career plan was to be governor of Illinois, senator from Illinois, and president of the United States. Sometimes I regret not having taken that path. I was a child of the ‘60s, so I spent a great deal of my time in pro civil rights work and anti-war work. I thought that going into politics might be a way I could help the fulfillment of those goals.
Then on the day that Bobby Kennedy was killed, I went to the dean of the rabbinical school and said, “Activate my application. I know I can’t do it from the streets anymore. I’ll have to do it through the Establishment.” A great deal of my career was spent in social justice action following the teachings of the Biblical prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and all the other boys. This year in June, I will finish 49 years as an ordained rabbi. Plus all the preparations before that. I have bene in this for 55+ years.
About halfway through, God began to really manifest in my life in a deeply spiritual way. I switched the focus of my rabbinate to helping people come into a deep personal, intimate, loving relationship with God. That’s what I’ve been doing all these years.
As you kindly mentioned, I have written 10 books now. One of them is called Living Judaism: A Guide to Jewish Belief, Tradition, and Faith. That is a basic 101 introduction to Judaism. 25 years after that book was published, it’s still being used in synagogues and churches and universities all around the world.
I write what compels me in what is going on in the world in any given moment. I have written about parents and children; business ethics; good and evil. This book Radical Loving has grown out of the experiences we are all having in this world right now. The pain of sexism and narcissism and nationalism and white supremacy and Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and brutal violence and terrorism. How does this happen to the world in which I grew up, where even though we had many differences of race and religion and ethnicity and culture in my neighborhood, we got along? Except when I was beaten up by the Catholic kids because they had learned that I, Wayne Dosik, was personally responsible for killing their Lord.
The irony is that 30-40 years later, I was on the faculty of a private Catholic university here in San Diego, the University of San Diego, where I was teaching the only courses in Jewish Studies in the Department of Religion and invited to preach from the pulpit of the Immaculata.
The reality is that we can be closer and closer together when we take care of the things that unite us rather than divide us. We can move closer and closer to a oneness consciousness. I wrote here about the evolution and transformation of our world from the brokenness and fragmenting that it is now to a world where there is oneness, where there is the recognition and the daily momentary acknowledgement and celebration that there is one God. When we look into the mirror, we see the face of God. When we look into the face of a human being, we see the face of God. The only possible response to seeing the face of God is love. The goal here is to encourage people to move away from the things that keep them from each other and to move into a world of oneness, one God, one world, one people.
Hugh: That is so profound. I’m with you. I’m 75 years old, and I have seen some of the hostility take shape. I think we have more in common as people of faith. We’re doing this clergy recharge series for clergy and faith leaders. We represent Islam, Judaism, and Christianity among the presenters. We have one God. Abraham is the father of our religions. When we did this webinar, and you can visit ClergyLeadership.Live to see the replay, we were quoting each other. My wife was quoting the New Testament, which quoted the Psalms. We were talking about the synergies as people of faith for the good of humankind. I think we have more in common, but instead we look at what is different about us instead.
Rabbi Wayne: We do. But we made a terrible mistake throughout history. Judaism came along in the Pagan world and said, “Our scripture, our God, is better than the Pagan texts and gods.” Christianity came along and said, “We got new revelation. It’s better than what has come before from Judaism or Paganism.” Christianity even calls it replacement theology. Islam came along and said, “Our Quran is better than the New Testament, the Hebrew Bible, the Pagan teachings. Ours is best.” No, no, no. It’s not one replaces the other. It’s one that adds to the other. There is new revelation coming all the time because we are different people living in a different world. Evolving human consciousness brings us closer and closer to understanding the mysteries of the universe. Evolving human consciousness means we understand more of what God wants from us and how we are to behave.
The theme song of the world these days is, “My God is better than your God.” That’s not true. God doesn’t play favorites. God says to us, “You are all My children. I love you all equally. Call Me whatever you want.” In a family, somebody might say “Daddy,” “Pops,” or “Father.” “Mother,” “Mommy,” “Mama.” It’s all the same, mother or father. “I am the same God to all of you. Doesn’t matter what you call Me. Doesn’t matter how you approach Me. Come to Me with silence. Come to Me with great joy. Come to Me with a narrow path. Come to Me with a path that embraces far and wide. Sing. Whatever. You are all My children. I love you all. I don’t play favorites. I keep giving you new revelation so that you have the tools, the vessels to deal with this ever-evolving world. It is not the world of the Pagans or early Judaism or Jesus or Mohammad. It’s all of those things combined plus what we have received every day. Come be with Me,” says God. “Know that you are all My children. I hope you will love Me because I love you. I hope you will learn to love each other.”
Hugh: I read the work of Richard Rohr, who quotes from all those other religions & Buddhism and other thought leaders, looking at the universal concept of not being dualistic in our thinking. It’s not either/or. There is a thing we do together that is a lot more powerful. My wife and I read those together. I have to look up words every day; it’s pretty intense writing.
In addition to that, in our tradition of Christianity, there is a daily lectionary. There is two Psalms and an Old Testament reading. Very often, the New Testament reading in the Gospel quote Isaiah or some of the Psalms. There is a lot of synergies in those readings.
I grew up in the Presbyterian Church. God’s chosen frozen Scottish Presbyterians.
Rabbi Wayne: We call our frozen chosen the Jews in Minnesota.
Hugh: We are pretty stiff as Presbyterians. We are Scottish, so we still pray to forgive us our debts. I have seen a shift over the years of serving the church for 40 years as a music director. There are schisms and fractions. It’s never based on the word that we profess to believe. In my tradition, we have really strayed from what’s in the word. I don’t know if that’s true in Islam or Judaism. My sense is that Jews have been more faithful to tradition and accurate in scripture than we have. What’s your take on it?
Rabbi Wayne: We’re ever-evolving. We can’t be frozen. Christianity can’t be frozen in the New Testament where it came from. Judaism can’t be frozen in the word from the mouth. Neither the Hebrew Bible nor the New Testament nor the Quran talk about space travel or medical ethics of turning on or off a breathing machine, a ventilator, or going to court for a traffic violation. Those things didn’t exist at that time. Our subject to the ever-evolving times in which we live, and our religious traditions, are there to bring us to God and to understand God’s evolving will. That is what we call the transformation of this world.
Oneness does not mean sameness. I want that to be very clear. Oneness does not mean sameness. My dearest friend Father O’Leary does not want me to be Jewish, and I don’t want him to be Catholic. Yet I went to Mass at the university, and he came to my Yom Kippur services. On campus, they called us the stodgy radicals. On one hand, we were both deeply committed to our own traditions. On the other hand, we understand this evolving process of human existence. We need to come to the notion that nothing is frozen in time, but everything moves along with time. Our religious traditions give us the vessel with which to exist in that evolving time.
Hugh: When I served as music director, I had some large churches. 12,000 members and 750 people in music ministry. We are on TV every day. The first church in the world to livestream its services many years ago.
Rabbi Wayne: With all due respect, I have to tell you: We didn’t have livestream, but I was actually the first video pioneer in religious services back in 1981 when there was still debating between VHS and Betamax. I recorded a 45-minute Friday evening Sabbath service completely with rabbi, cantor, full congregation. Beautiful background visuals. Responsive readings. It popped up on the screen. We put those into hospitals and nursing rooms, wherever Jews were confined and couldn’t come to synagogue. Those were the days where even the hospitals had to schlep a VHS player from room to room and plug it in into the television. I was there at the very beginning of video religious ministry.
Hugh: We have an opportunity now. There is no such thing as snow days anymore for church and synagogue and schools because they can go online. People who get snowed in in Minnesota, especially my generation, a lot of us don’t want to go out with snow. Now we have full access. You were at the front end of a movement to make these experiences available to more people. I think we take that for granted now. We have easier access to engage people in meaningful dialogue and learning and worshiping together. What do you think?
Rabbi Wayne: Which means we are on the brink of entire revolution in religious life. For the example you are using, it used to be if you wanted to come to my Friday night service, let’s say, that I and my cantor are conducting, you had to show up. Now you don’t. You turn us on on Zoom. At the same time, you can go to any one of a dozen, 20, 50 services all around the country. If you like a rabbi or cantor better than you like me, you go there. It’s going to change the entire membership model, the financial model, the community model.
There is a great story from your neck of the woods, Harry Golden from South Carolina, the comedian. His father went to synagogue all the time. “Why do you go? You don’t believe in God.” He says, “You know my friend Goldstein?” “Yeah.” “Goldstein goes to synagogue to talk to God. I go to synagogue to talk to Goldstein.” What we’re missing is the community. Worship can now be held in many different forms. We’re missing the community where at the fellowship after the service, we eat brownies and cookies, and we hug each other, and we say hello to each other, and we catch up on each other’s lives. We get deeply involved when someone is ill or needs help. I am not enough of a prophet to be able to talk about what is going to be, but I know that we are standing at the precipice of an entire revolution in religious life.
Hugh: In all of our religious life. The famous seven last words of the church, “We have never done it that way before.”
This radical stuff you’re talking about. You inspire transformation, is what I’m putting my head around. Transformation helps with opening our minds to possibilities. Talk about your inspiration behind writing the book. Why should people have this book?
Rabbi Wayne: The initial inspiration was on Thanksgiving Day of 2016. I had always wanted to go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I never lived close enough. This one time, I said to my wife, Ellen, “Let’s go. I want to go to the parade once in my life live.” We went. It was Thanksgiving, so we went to Thanksgiving dinner. We went to a Kosher deli that had this Thanksgiving menu. We ordered from our waiter, whose nametag said “Mohammed.” After we ordered, he came back, as there weren’t too many people in the restaurant at this time of day. He came back and sat down in a chair and said how afraid he was. This was immediately following the 2016 election when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. He said, “I don’t get it. Why does he want to keep us out of the country? My wife, my children, my parents, my brothers, my sisters, we are trying to make a living. We are trying to have a good life for our children. We want to live in freedom just like you do. Why doesn’t he like us? Why doesn’t he want us?”
I don’t know if some authors will tell you this or not, but as he was speaking, I began getting a download of information from the heavens. I took the back of the Thanksgiving menu and started making notes. I was running out of paper, so Mohammed brought me more menus. That was the beginning.
Then we have this country that we all love. All of a sudden, the rhetoric became harsh and divisive and diffusive. While we used to get along so well, we are now becoming enemies with each other because the rhetoric that was coming out of the top leadership of this country, which was always a language of e pluribus unum, out of many will come one. What is happening is we were becoming a patchwork quilt of special interests instead of striving for the common good. The anti-Semitism, which was underground, bubbled up, near where you live, Charlottesville, and so many other places. Killing the Pittsburghians in the synagogue. Anti-Muslim rhetoric. I said, “It can’t go on like this.” It’s going on because we are being pulled apart instead of being brought together.
That was the genesis for the writing of the book. Talking about how we are one and how we need to strive for the common good, the highest good, the best for everyone because we are one people. It was aspirational. This is how I think our lives should be as we move forward.
Then came corona. All of a sudden, theoretical writing became real. For example, I think businesses should remain open because my pizza parlor or dry cleaners or nail salon is the only way I make any money to feed my children. Or businesses must remain open because I have to go to the nightclub to dance and drink and to the beach to get a suntan. Individual rights, individual freedoms versus the common good, the highest good. That went on with the issue of keeping schools open and getting vaccines. All the things we have been talking about theoretically now became real-life decisions. The value that we live manifest in how we behave. In so many ways, I didn’t like the values that we were living at that time. I wrote an afterword to the book about the reality of how we are being right now.
Hugh: Love it. Who needs to read this book?
Rabbi Wayne: With all due respect and humility, everybody, including the president of the United States, the Pope. I would have said including Bishop Tutu, but sadly he has left this world in the last couple weeks. The Mother Teresas of the world. And the people who are demanding their own individual freedoms and rights without thinking about the highest good. We do control ourselves even though we have freedoms and rights. I have the freedom and right to drive through any red light, but I don’t do it because of the common good. I don’t want to kill myself or anybody else. The Supreme Court tells us I have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. I don’t do it because I don’t want to hurt myself or others. It is the balance. It is a delicate balance. Yet it is an intensely needed balance, to balance the common good versus what people are demanding for their individual rights.
Hugh: It’s very scattered and diverse. In 75 years, I don’t know if I have ever seen such a toxic world. I want to call out a couple of chapters. Tell me what’s behind it. First, “The Word.”
Rabbi Wayne: Well, the word came from God. He said, “Here, since I created you, I am going to give you a set of rules to live by. When you live by those rules, you will make love and compassion and decency and dignity and justice and righteousness your compelling behavior. When you do that, I assure you,” says God, “that your life will be much better. There will be much greater psychic rewards than if you fight with each other and try to kill each other. Don’t fight over a little piece of land. Don’t fight over a little more wealth to your treasury. All it will get you is pain and suffering. And the finest of your young people in the cemeteries of your lands.”
Hugh: You spoke very profoundly. I look out the front window of my house, and there are cannons. The Battle of Lynchburg in the Civil War was fought right here. People died on my property because they couldn’t talk to each other.
Rabbi Wayne: Right. So God says, “I made you. I understand you. I’m telling you, this is what’s best for you to get along with each other and to achieve the most for your communal life and your personal life.”
Hugh: Here is a couple others. I am doing a teaser. There are two chapters back-to-back: “Entering the World of Spirit” and “Being in the World of Spirit.”
Rabbi Wayne: The Catholic priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” There is more to see in this world than we can see in any given moment. For example, if I blow a whistle that is called a dog whistle, my dog can hear it, but I can’t. Does that mean it doesn’t exist? Of course it exists. My dog heard it. In the old days, when we had transistor radios that could only get AM signals, not FM signals, does that mean they don’t exist? Of course not. We just don’t have the power in that little radio to receive them. If I opened up my camera lens this big, does it mean all the other things around it don’t exist? Of course not. If I had a bigger camera lens, we would see them.
There is more we can see and experience and feel at any given moment. That’s in the world of the spirit. That’s where God lives. That’s where we came from and where we will eventually return. Is it better to live without that world of the spirit here? No, of course not. We strive to go further and further in our understanding of the mysteries of the universe and everything that exists out here. We put it this way: We read the white spaces between the black letters. Some people call it déjà vu. Some people call it ESP. We call it soul memory. Your soul remembers everything that ever happened to it in this life or any previous lifetime. It is entering God’s world. The more and more we come into God’s world, the more and more we come into the world of the spirit, it means the more and more we understand, and the more and more we want to follow God’s set of rules for us, which means the more and more we will get along, and the more and more our world will be so much better.
Hugh: One step at a time, to those who are anxious and fragmented. Down toward the end, the spirit is upon us. You tie it up. Then “And We All Say” is the last one. How do you tie this up?
Rabbi Wayne: We don’t tie it up. We just keep working toward it. When we tie it up, it will be the world of the Messiah. We have a saying from the Talmud that says, “If you are planting a tree, and you are told that the Messiah has just come, first finish planting the tree. And then go greet the Messiah.”
You see, it is the work of our hands and our hearts that build this world. We are involved in every moment in bringing the time. I know different religions have different points of view, but the Jewish point of view is that the Messiah will not suddenly come down from the heavens and plunk him/herself down and say, “Hello, it’s a better world.” No, we have to build that better world through- Keep planting the tree. You won’t benefit from it, but your children or grandchildren will benefit from its fruits and its leaves. Work, work, work to build a better world through the work of your hands and hearts. That will create the atmosphere where the world will come to that moment of perfection that we call the coming of the Messiah.
Hugh: I am now putting this book on my recommended list for leaders. Leadership is about constantly growing, constantly learning, constantly working on self-improvement. This is a very important perspective for self-responsibility, people to step up to where their calling is.
You talk about the division amongst religions. We have division amongst Christian segments, and it’s pretty bad. There is a different way. If we just delved into the roots of our religions, there is a lot of wisdom we could listen to.
I recommend Radical Loving: One God, One World, One People for every leader because it’s a universal message.
We are at time on the interview, but it’s my show, so I can go as long as I want. Eventually, no one will be here.
Rabbi Wayne: Stick around. We’re having a great time.
Hugh: Any other message you’d like to share with people?
Rabbi Wayne: Yes, and that is gratitude. It’s a tough world out there. It’s a very tough world. I think that God knew it was going to be a tough world. Think about this. I am half a year younger than you. 50 years ago, we didn’t have the things that kept us going during this pandemic. Think about a pandemic without a smartphone, a computer, FaceTime, all the other electronic things that kept us connected. It would have been virtually intolerable. Maybe God knew this was coming and gave us the tools to get through it a little bit. Even in the midst of all this great pain-
I was just reminiscing the other day. We moved from in-person services to Zoom only the second week of March 2020. On that day, I announced that there were 22,000 deaths from corona in America. Literally we all wept. Now there are 800,000. What a two years this has been. And yet here we are. We are talking to each other across time and space in this thing called the internet. By the way, I would add to my list before “the internet” and Amazon and DoorDash, which kept us supplied.
Here we are. We have much to be grateful for. We have much to be grateful for, just for our lives and the trees and the beautiful sky outside my window right now and for the air that I can still breathe out there. California is getting a little touchy about the air we can breathe from the fires and earthquakes.
One of the things I recommend, and I do this, is I have made a list of everyone to whom I am deeply grateful in my life. If any one of them weren’t on that list, I wouldn’t be who I am. I am a conglomerate of all those people.
It goes all the way back to Biblical times. I am grateful to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Sarah and Rebecca and Rachel and Leah, to Moses, to the prophets. Then it goes to all the old ancient philosophers and teachers whose work has come through the generations. I am grateful to the writers and teachers of the last two or three centuries who have formed the shape of the kind of life I live. I am grateful to my own teachers and the books they have written and the personal teachings they gave me. To my family and my colleagues and my deepest friends. I have friends who go back all the way to first grade. To my students from who I have learned so much.
Every day, I read that list. I say thank you to each and every one of them because again I wouldn’t be me without any one of the missing from that list. I say to them, “Okay, who has something to teach me today?” Maybe I am writing, and my high school English teacher has something to say to me today. Maybe I am thinking deep theology, and my rabbinical school rabbi has something to say to me today. Maybe I am out of sorts because I got criticized for something, I go complaining to my high school buddy.
Everybody comes up and says, “Here is what we have for you today. We will be your spiritual guides today.” Tomorrow, I am grateful to the same group, but other people might bubble up. I would recommend this practice to everyone, a practice of gratitude.
Of course, the greatest gratitude goes to God, who formed me, who created me, who breathed life into me, who will one day take life away from me by taking breath away from me. But I woke up with the breath of life today, so I am grateful to God.
Hugh: I am grateful to you and you sharing those wonderful messages with our audience. Thank you, Rabbi Wayne Dosik for being our guest today.
Rabbi Wayne: I had a great pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.