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Community Blog Asking BIG Questions: An Eser Perspective

By Stephanie Wellen Levine

Stephanie Wellen LevineWhen I signed up for Eser, I figured that if I’m going to explore hot-button issues and Jewish texts with a group of fellow participants, I’m going to ask the “ultimate” questions of soul and immortality. This year’s Eser theme is “10 Social Issues You Can’t Ignore,” and includes topics such as: race relations, immigration, climate change, and gun control. My feelings about two of the topics – capital punishment and euthanasia – hinge on my questions about the soul: What it means for one human soul to snuff out the life of another, whether legally or criminally.

During our discussion of euthanasia, two conflicting opinions about the fate of our souls surfaced. In one story, a Jewish scholar described death as “eternal life.” Woohoo! However, the next source we read explained that a different scholar described death as “eternal rest.” Rest might be OK in small doses, but eternal rest? To me, that implies the end of all learning, growing, and experiencing. Not cool!

My consciousness is everything — the entire galaxy of existence — to me. But others clearly have other takes, and it’s good for me to see other perspectives. Eser, with its focus on “big questions” and Jewish texts, allows me to penetrate some of them while being surrounded by delicious snacks in the comfort of a fellow group member’s living room.

I have found reading texts and exploring them with others to be a fabulous experience. Our group still has many sessions left and I hope that, as time goes on, we open up a bit more, get to know each other, and get a sense for why we each react as we do to the topics and texts at hand. I look forward to more!

Stephanie Wellen Levine is a first-time Eser participant and is part of the Brookline 30’s group. She is the author of Mystics, Mavericks, And Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey Among Hasidic Girls (winner of Moment Magazine’s Emerging Writer Book Award). Currently, Stephanie is completing a second book and teaches at Tufts University.



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