WHY AM I HERE? (with the emphasis on 'here') is a personal account of how I ended up deciding to become a rabbi, even though I had spent most of my childhood baffled by religion in general and Judaism in particular, and my teenage years rejecting it completely. This extract sets the scene:
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Why am I here? A profound philosophical question? Or a rhetorical one, demanding to know what has brought us to a particular location when we would rather be somewhere else? Either way, it’s a question that, I am sure, everyone has asked at some point in their lives.
It’s certainly one that I have occasionally asked myself when sitting in front of a microphone in a BBC Radio 2 studio opposite Chris Evans, Aled Jones or Sir Terry Wogan. How did I get to be in this unlikely location? What did I do to deserve the chance to speak live to, so I have been assured, millions of listeners? Why might they be interested in hearing my opinions as I ‘offer a faith perspective’ on the news stories of a given week or invite a morning audience to ‘pause for thought’?
Why Am I Here? tells the story of how the traditions and regulations of Judaism as they were presented to me as a young man inspired in me only contempt and disrespect. They failed completely to address the questions that concerned me in the world in which I was growing up. I suspect that this is the case for many youthful encounters with a religious heritage, whatever form it might take: ancient rules, practices and beliefs tend not to sit comfortably alongside modernity.
Religious traditions confront the challenges of modernity in different ways. The response of some believers is to take refuge in ancient certainties. Others reject their heritage completely and embrace whatever emerges to supersede or replace it. Most settle somewhere in between those two extremes. Insofar as religion is a response to the world’s challenges, these – and all – responses are valid and deserve respect wherever and whenever they are sincerely embraced and practiced without belittling or negating the rights of others to observe or reject their religion as they see fit.
The purpose of this account is to chart how I moved from a rejection of practices and beliefs that seemed to have little relevance to me and my world to taking up a vocation that actively promoted the heritage they purported to represent and teach. It is my hope that this account of my journey away from the baffling religious experiences of my youth may echo the experiences of others, Jews and non-Jews, who have found that their search for meaning and truth was not properly addressed by whatever version of their religious heritage might have been the framework of their upbringing.
‘This book tells the story of how Rabbi Pete eventually found in his religious heritage answers to so many vital questions that had initially challenged him and turned him away from faith. His experiences offer thought provoking answers - and yet more questions - that are relevant to so many searching for meaning in the 21st century.'
Aled Jones, Presenter, BBC Radio 2 ‘Good Morning Sunday’
'Why Am I Here? (with the emphasis on 'here') is available by e-mailing email@example.com. It costs £4.99 plus £2.00 p&p. It will soo also be available on www.amazon.co.uk and other online bookstores.