Author Archives: Laura Duhan Kaplan

About Laura Duhan Kaplan

Laura Duhan Kaplan is Director of Inter-religious Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology, a faculty member at ALEPH Ordination Programs, Rabbi Emerita of Or Shalom Synagogue, and Professor Emerita of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Follow her blog at

Theology in a Time of Anti-Semitism

Paying attention to dreams is an ancient Jewish spiritual practice. Our biblical ancestors Isaac and Jacob dreamed of God. Jacob’s son Joseph was a skilled interpreter. He would analyze dream symbols with reference to current events, and articulate truths the dreamer was afraid to face directly.

Last week, I had a dream, highlighting some questions about God that I’ve been afraid to ask directly:

I am helping a friend with a project. She is editing a biology textbook for her professor and mentor. But I am having a hard time reading, retaining, and processing information. I tell my friend and her professor, “I can’t keep all these functions straight. You have to provide more explanations of basic concepts in the text. Either this is an introductory text and you provide them, or it’s an advanced text and I can’t help with the editing.” The professor seems not to care. Yet my friend wants to be his lover and desperately desires his approval; she is disappointed and filled with longing. I am a participant-observer wondering at it all.

In this dream, an all-knowing teacher has created a text to explain how life works. However, I cannot understand it. And its creator does not care. Yet my friend wants the creator to care, to love her, and to approve of her. Both his apathy and her yearning amaze me.

Once upon a time, I was like my dream-friend. I believed in a personal God, a spiritual being with a giant mind and heart, who oversees the world. Recognizing my hard work on God’s behalf, God would look upon me favorably. But with anti-semitism on the rise in North America, this optimistic view no longer makes sense to me.

Sure, I still believe in a Higher Being. But this being has nothing like a human mind or heart, nothing like a human body or soul. It doesn’t plan or worry or love. We might say it does, but we are only describing our own experiences of reaching towards it. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what it is; I can only tell you what it is not.

My emerging theology is not new. A version of it was articulated by the great medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. Maimonides presents it as a result of his careful, abstract philosophical reasoning. But given my dream and my social context, I see it differently. Behind this theology, I see Maimonides asking deep questions about God’s governance of the world — and despairing of any satisfactory answers.

Maimonides spent his youth fleeing religious persecution. Surely he wondered, “I was taught that God loves the Jews, holds them to a high standard, and has a blessed plan for them. All around me, people yearn for God to implement the loving plan. Why does God not do it?”  And surely his wonderings helped point to his famous published conclusions: “Because some of what the Bible teaches about God are truths of the human mind, not truths about the Divine. It is possible God doesn’t do, think or feel anything that we attribute to God.” Philosophers call this a negative theology – coming to terms with what God is not.

For sure, negative theology points us to activism; if God seems not to direct human history, we must take matters into our own hands. Negative theology may yet have more to say, about humility, empathy for other faith traditions, or finding meaning in a void. But I’m not ready to draw final conclusions. From Jacob and Joseph I’ve learned: it takes time to fully understand the message of a dream.

Real Religious Pluralism

Here on the west coast of Canada we live in a chain of port cities. People from all over the world land here; we bring with us our languages, our foods, our clothing, our music. We bring the religious traditions that emerged from our previous ways of life. As my friend Amar Singh – a musician, a practicing Sikh and a great optimist – says, “Wherever you come from, you can find your ethnic community here to help you get started.”

Tension between ethnic communities does arise. After all, the only way to never have conflict with someone is not to interact with them. But we try to understand the specific causes and deal with them. Maybe the tensions are economic, and we need fairer business and tax laws. Maybe the tensions concern workplace accommodation of religious practice, and we need better education or clear professional guidelines for negotiating compromise.

Of course, few of us live only within our own ethnic communities. We work together, shop together, go to school together. We learn from Indigenous communities and from earlier settlers. Slowly, and with legal support, we are creating a society that has room for multiple religious communities without favoring any single tradition. Ideally, everyone will be able to celebrate their holidays, wear their clothing, recite their prayers – and somehow, out of the chaos, we will make it all work.

We do not know yet how it will work. But we do know that religious communities have to take the lead. We need to get to know one another. We need to identify our shared values, recognize our differences, and learn from one another how to balance our commitments to truth and peace in the interest of peaceful, civil society. We need to educate our youth and our leaders in tolerance, welcome and compromise.

Together we need to safeguard the incredible work that religious communities do in society. We offer people a philosophy to live by. A sense of identity that connects us with generations past and future. Companionship through life’s trials, transitions, and celebrations. Ethical education and tools for psychological growth. Food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, advocacy for the imprisoned. Support for the sick and money for hospitals. A window into hope and respect for powers higher than human arrogance.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, our Biblical prophet Isaiah taught that this is the proper role of religion in society. What does God desire, he asked?

That we unlock the fetters of wickedness, free the oppressed, share our bread with the hungry, take the poor into our homes, clothe the naked, and be available to help our own relatives, too. If we do this, our light will burst through, like the dawn, and healing will spring up, and the presence of God will gather us together (from Isaiah 58:6-8).

No one does this work as consistently as religious communities do. Our society needs us, and we need each other.

Photo credit: Arun Chatterjee, used by permission. 

Women on the March

Saturday January 20, 2017: Today, I’m committed to reading the Torah’s story about the seven women who give life to Moses — and to attending the Women’s March on Washington in my own city, Vancouver, Canada. I plan to do both.

So, I’m up and dressed early, prepaid transit pass in hand. I join a line of women at the bus stop. We exchange no words; we smile knowingly at one another. We reach the downtown transit hub, where local groups are meeting up. They carry homemade signs: I am a person. Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned.

Some of the women have special gear: handmade pink pussy hats, pink feather boas, pink face paint. Others bring only themselves. Safety opportunity dignity.

From every street, people pour into the convention center plaza by the harbour. Emblems of our collective life in this international port city frame the main stage. Docks, soaring seagulls, mists, mountains and water surround us. Climate change is real. Diversity is real.

A group of young socialists trades signs for donations. I choose a two-sided sign. Brandishing it, I push my way to the front of the crowd. Education not deportation. Fight sexism.

On the stage, Indigenous leaders are robing up in tribal blankets for a traditional welcome. Look, it’s Metis Elder Aline Laflamme! My heroine, a model of dignity, wisdom and compassion. I can’t wait to hear her drum! Make America kind again.

“Daughters of the Drum,” says an organizer over the PA, “go to the red tent.” Aline leaves the stage and heads for the red tent. I’ve read Anita Diamant’s book The Red Tent; I know it’s a place where women gather their collective strength. I’m with her!

“Look who’s here!” Rev. Jaylynn Byassee, a fellow American citizen, gives me a hug. “I’m just so exhausted,” she says. “I feel the pressure in my home state of Texas, and in our shared state of North Carolina, and on my last trip to Lebanon, hearing women’s stories…but I had to come today, to find strength in community.” We become stronger together.

Is Interfaith Marriage Good for the Jews?

Interfaith marriage is in the Jewish news again — just like it was in 500 BCE, as Jews returned from exile in Babylonia. During this time of cultural transition (c. 538-424 BCE), all Jewish leaders recognized the issue. Five biblical books record five different views.

Mordecai, royal courtier in the Persian capital Susa, and hero of the book of Esther, supported intermarriage. Intermarriage, he believed, could help affluent Jews rise in the royal court. Intimate relationships created in interfaith families could protect Jews against lies and conspiracy theories. In Mordecai’s lifetime, the ambitious courtier Haman alleged that Jews broke the King’s laws, and proposed to protect the King by exterminating the imaginary threat. But the King’s Jewish wife Esther intervened.

READ: Intermarriage and the American Jewish Community

Ezra and Nehemiah heroes of their own books, opposed intermarriage. Together, they led a group of nobles returning from exile to settle in Judaea. In Persia, many affluent, educated Jewish men had married Persian women. Perhaps these men shared Mordecai’s political philosophy. Perhaps it was too challenging for them to find compatible mates within their small Jewish community. Their intercultural, possibly interfaith, families faced a new reality in Judea. Here they were trying to actualize a dream of a Golden Age: a city of God, structured around their ethnic religion, a pure oasis for Jews in a turbulent region. When non-Jews offered to help rebuild, Ezra and Nehemiah refused, entrusting the work to Jewish hands only.

Several loyal and adventurous Persian wives had accompanied their husbands to Judea. They made a loving and idealistic decision. But the rough land held little future for their children. As teens, they would likely be sent to relatives Persia for education and socialization. They might never be equipped to join Judea’s ideologically fierce group of pioneers. Thus, it might be best to send them and their mothers home immediately. Relying anachronistically on Torah’s prohibition against Israelite-Canaanite marriage, Ezra and Nehemiah urged the returning men to divorce their foreign wives.

These two pragmatic positions introduce the post-exilic debate. But other voices, more ethical and spiritual, weighed in as well. Speaking to the returning settlers, the prophet Malachi urged, “Men, do not divorce the wives of your youth!” Your wife committed to you, birthed and raised your children, traveled with you to an unknown land, and committed to the Jewish project. And now, out of some newfound religious fervour, you would toss her and her children aside? If you were ethical, and respectful of her Jewish observance, you would not!

Envisioning the new Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah insisted it would not be organized around religious and ethnic divisions. Instead, it would be a city without walls, reflecting a God without divisions. With the Temple reestablished, and God’s presence dwelling in the city, priests of all nations would worship there. Purity laws would no longer separate the holy from the unholy. Even horses would wear banners — just like the High Priest — with the words “Holy to the Lord.” On that day, Zechariah said, “God will be One and God’s name will be One.”

Is interfaith marriage socially and politically helpful to Jewish survival? Does it threaten ethnic and religious integrity? Is it an expression of love and respect? A recognition that all spiritual paths lead to God? All of these views have long been part of Jewish discourse. The task is to discern what is best for our time and place.

The Soul of the Golem is Truth

Last week, CNN ran a controversial banner: “Alt-Right Founder Questions if Jews are People.”

On the one hand: Move on folks; there’s no news here. The Christian Identity movement has considered us Jews spawn of Satan for years.

On the other hand: It’s shocking to see such words emblazoned across the TV screen. As if this were a legitimate point of political debate like, “Democratic senator questions troop movement.”

Turns out, the content of the banner was false. In the sound bite at issue, alt-right publisher (not founder) Richard Spencer was criticizing “mainstream media,” “republican strategists,” and “political consultants.”

CNN has apologized for the banner, and rightly so: their staff is responsible for both its misleading content and its malicious form. Perhaps they should also reflect on the actual words of the misrepresented quote about the media: “One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem animated by some dark power to repeat whatever talking point [satirist] John Oliver stated the night before.”

What is a “golem”? In what sense is it “soul-less”? What “dark power” “animates” it? And what lessons does it hold for journalism today?

The golem is a kind of robot without intelligence. It appears in medieval Jewish folklore as a clay figure brought to life by magic. Its roots, however, are in biblical and Talmudic thought. The book of Genesis depicts God’s material creation of Adam, the first human, from the dust of the earth. Once the Adam’s body is formed, God breathes into it a breath of life, and it becomes a living spirit (Genesis 2:7).

Talmudic stories note that anyone can sculpt clay, but only God can give matter a soul: one sage creates a man who cannot speak, while another creates a calf and promptly eats it for dinner (Sanhedrin 65b). Medieval stories, however, tell of magicians who will not give up. They experiment with powerful words, trying to emulate God’s creative speech. If they place a divine name on the clay, they discover, it will come to life. Each awakened golem, however, has a flaw and must be deactivated by its maker.

Is Schadenfreude a Jewish Value?

My one-week vacation in the United States was a breath of fresh air. A whole week of conversations with family, friends, and strangers, and election-talk clocked in at about two percent.

In Western Canada, where I live, the figure is more like 25 percent. Regardless of topic, venue, or company, conversation veers into the American presidential campaign. “Look at the character of the candidates! Look how supporters sling mud at the character of the candidates! Look at the character of the American people! They’re so crazy! Fortunately, our country is different.”

Our preoccupation is perfectly rational, of course. The U.S. spans our southern border; it is our closest military ally, and our most frequent trading partner. American political events affect us.

Our preoccupation is also perfectly emotional. Last year, our own dynamic federal election deposed the Conservative party and installed the Liberal party. We did not threaten violence, peer into candidates’ marriages, or watch insult-slinging on TV. And we are really relieved. Grateful, too, to one another and to a Higher Power. So, obsessively, we say, “Look at what’s happening in the U.S. – it didn’t happen to us!”

At least, that’s the most compassionate spin – inspired by Rabbi Harold Kushner – that I can put on schadenfreude. Schadenfreude, a word borrowed from German, refers to feeling joy at the disgrace of others. In western Canada, we know that the U.S. election is a cultural, political, and economic referendum. But mostly we enjoy talking about the debasement of campaign discourse. And mostly about the debasement of the party we dislike.

My Jewish ethics gut tells me this is not “kosher” behavior. But research is often more accurate than my gut, so I conducted some. Beginning with the Hebrew Bible, of course, the original sourcebook for Jewish thought.

The Book of Psalms, a poetic catalogue of prayers of the human heart, recognizes schadenfreude. In Psalm 109, King David confesses to God, “They curse me, but You bless me. When my enemies are disgraced, I, Your servant, shall be glad” (109:28). But the Book of Proverbs, a rational guide to pro-social behavior, cautions against public expression of such gladness. “When your enemies fall, do not rejoice, lest the LORD see it, and repent of wrath against them” (Proverbs 24:17-18).

Psalms teaches: Be aware of the feeling, and the judgments it generates. Reflect on them during your spiritual and psychological practice. But Proverbs teaches: don’t bring it into the public sphere. Don’t gloat, don’t boast, don’t build your brand upon another person’s failure. Because fortune can easily change. You may fall, and need to climb your way back to success. If you are known only as a critic, your ladder will have few positive rungs for you to walk.

So what should we do when schadenfreude overwhelms us? “Hold it quietly” (Proverbs 29:11). Accept it as a feeling. Observe it and increase our wisdom about patterns of the human heart. But don’t trust it as a guide to speech or action. Instead, trust only positive principles, acting out of integrity rather than comparison.

Spiritual Not Religious at Rosh Hashanah

Shabbat dinner with young university students can be an adventure. My husband and I warm them up with a few glasses of kiddush wine and we learn a lot about their inner lives.

Sometimes we host our son Eli and his friend Mia. A typical real conversation goes like this. Eli, a biology major, says, “I’ve been thinking about sponges. The kind that live in the ocean, not the kind that live in the kitchen. What if sponges were food? Would you eat them?” Mia, an environmental studies major, says, “How would we farm them? Because, if we harvested them, we would deplete them pretty quickly.”

Sometimes we host our daughter Hillary. and her friend Alex. Their typical real conversation – edited a bit for clarity — goes like this. Hillary, a philosophy major, asks, “Do you believe we bring something into being when we name it? Do we give it objective reality?” Alex, a sociology major, says, “Do you think there really is an objective reality? If there were, would it be socially constructed? By our language? What about weird contradictory cultural statements like, ‘I’m an atheist but I believe in a higher power’?” “Or,” Hillary adds, “‘I feel an energy flowing through the universe but I’m not religious’?”

Then they both giggle. Because they’ve both got enough religion to know that “higher power” and “energy of the universe” are two very old names for God.

But their less traditional friends don’t know this. They use the names to say, “I accept a personal spirituality, but I reject the old cultural forms that have been used to shape it, contain it, and sometimes exploit it.” And even though their beliefs are subjectively very real to them, their language places them in relationship with the same old objective spiritual reality – the higher power, energy of the universe — known to religious people.

On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I join the seekers who want to create their own language. Because the traditional liturgy seems quite strange to me. Did I really do exactly 22 kinds of sin, one for each letter of the alphabet? Did God really write the list down in a big book? Did Aaron really cleanse the sanctuary by wiping it down with blood? Can I really change my future and the community’s future by reciting an Aramaic formula? I don’t think so!

Sometimes, the machzor (High Holyday Prayerbook) drives me away from Jewish cultural forms. It pushes me into confidential moral reflection on my own terms, and into my unique spiritual language. In a way, it urges me to turn directly to the Higher Power as I understand it. Thus it brings me straight into the traditional practice of teshuvahreflection, repentance, and return to God.

Never do I come to high holiday services as a sponge, simply absorbing everything. Every year, I dip into a sea full of spiritual food, and I decide what to cultivate. This, too, is a great adventure.

Interfaith or Multicultural? Words Matter at a Wedding

Young statisticians in love. Can you imagine their wedding? If you do, please don’t imagine anything stuffy or stilted. Because I attended it this weekend, and it was a most excellent multicultural affair.

The bride is Jewish, born to North American parents. The groom is Chinese, from a family based in Hong Kong. The groom studied Judaism; enthusiastically embraced Shabbat and holiday practices; but chose not to convert. The couple has entered what some might call an “interfaith marriage.” They frame it, however, as a “multi-cultural” marriage.

READ: How to Make Your Interfaith Jewish Wedding Inclusive

Multi-cultural. That’s how they designed their wedding rituals. They didn’t plan an “intercultural” wedding that creatively melded Jewish and Chinese elements. Instead, they chose to involve their families fully in the rituals of both cultures.

Wedding Day One centered on a quiet Chinese tea ceremony. The couple served tea to their parents and elders, receiving gifts in return. “After we are married,” the groom said, “it will be our role to give gifts to others.”

Wedding Day Two was celebrated with a large Jewish wedding. Under a chuppah (canopy), a rabbi sang traditional Hebrew blessings, offered explanations and creative translations, and made special efforts to engage the guests in song.

READ: Finding a Rabbi or Cantor to Officiate at Your Interfaith Wedding

At the wedding feast, the bride and groom were escorted by two dancing red lions. Each Southern Chinese-style lion, animated by two acrobats, danced and pranced with humorous elegance, gifting the newlywed couple with fruits and good luck banners.

And then the Jewish hora began. Jewish and Chinese guests alike rose from their chairs and danced around in circles. They laughed, clapped, lifted the bride and groom on chairs, and seemed to enjoy the lightly organized chaos.

North American customs came next. Siblings offered speeches honoring the bride and groom. A cousin presented a slide show featuring old photos of the newlyweds. The DJ distributed funny hats and giant sunglasses as he played a pop song mix. Waiters served beef from the prairies, salmon from the coast, and portobello mushrooms for eco-vegans.

A wonderful time was had by all. And why not? One aunt said, “People come here from all over the world. They bring all kinds of skills. Multiculturalism creates a strong economy, a vibrant arts scene, an interesting culture.” Another relative finished the thought. “Intercultural family is part of the cost. We have to find creative ways to preserve our culture.”

Several Jewish family members complained that it was hard to find a rabbi who understood. “I feel so sad about that,” one great-aunt said. “When the young adults don’t feel welcome, they run away. But if a rabbi marries them, they’ll raise their children to be Jewish.”

As I listened, teachings of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan echoed in my mind. Judaism is a civilization, he taught, producing languages, literature, foods, art, music, beliefs and rituals. Religion is only one of many cultural expressions. No wonder the bride’s Jewish relatives think it is wrong to use religious doctrine to decide who is in and who is out of Jewish community.

To the groom’s Chinese family, the cultural model seemed natural. Perhaps that’s because the Chinese government, officially atheist, also officially welcomes five kinds of religion. Or perhaps it’s because Chinese religious expression is a fluid blending of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, emphasizing inner discipline and social respect. “Our Chinese and Jewish cultures are so similar,” explained one Chinese cousin. “We both value family and education so highly.”

The bride and groom, raised on multiculturalism, see their marriage as a mirror of their society. “We fit each other, we understand each other, and we view life the same way. And we push each other, challenge each other, and see the world differently from two cultural points of view. We are complementary parts of a single whole.”

Photo credit: Charles Kaplan

Let’s Disrupt Income Inequality

Vancouver, Canada can be an expensive Paradise.

Our family is lucky to live in a diverse neighborhood, with cottages that sell for $2 million, condos that sell for $500,000, basement suites that rent for $1500 a month, cooperative apartments that rent for $750 a month, and buses to nearby homeless shelters.

Here, you can’t turn away from economic inequality. You see its results in high suicide rates among marginalized groups, poor health among the underemployed, vulnerability of people living on the street.

We’re a family of educators. Through our work, we provide access to educational services, social networks, and empowering ideologies for marginalized groups. We raise awareness about discrimination in hiring, social services and health care allocations. We spread an inclusive social vision.

And yet. Most days we feel we make little difference. Because we’re part of a system that keeps generating inequality.

We support the social democratic vision of Canada’s New Democratic Party. We gladly pay high income taxes that fund a large (though inadequate) social services net. We donate to private organizations that provide additional services. We give cash and food gift certificates to beggars.

And yet. It seems a mere drop in a deep, empty bucket. But what bucket should we be filling? The “system” isn’t monolithic; it’s a set of overlapping attitudes, processes, and laws. If we want to work for change, where should we put our energy?

Maybe Torah’s social ethics can help. The Book of Deuteronomy, chapters 14-15, describes three causes of inequality, and appropriate responses to each: (1) episodic causes; (2) systematic discrimination; and (3) systemic greed.

(1) Episodic causes: Illness, family disruption, and natural disasters happen, leaving people without work or assets. Others can and should respond, Torah says, offering food, clothing, and interest-free loans.

(2) Systematic discrimination: Many groups are typically targeted, including women, foreigners, and people who don’t own property. End this discrimination, Torah says, by developing empathy. Remember that people migrate. At some point in history, members of your group, too, have been landless foreigners.

(3) Systemic greed. If you already have money, it’s easier to invest and make more money. If you are forced to live on borrowed money, repayment can erode the solid foundation you try to build. Laws often favor those who have and lend money; lawmakers rarely question their favorites’ need to be richer. Overturn that legal favoritism once in a while, Torah says. Try something radical like canceling loan repayment every seven years.

Where should we direct our energy? Into three projects, Torah says. (1) Improve your personal actions: donate more time, services and money. (2) Improve your inner thoughts and feelings: deepen empathy; erase discrimination from your heart. (3) Improve your country’s laws: work hard for visionary change.

Is Prayer An Effective Response To Crisis?

So many dead in racial violence in one short, chaotic week. Dear Lord. Dear Lord.

Whose heart isn’t breaking?

Some people know exactly how to respond – but I don’t. As a religious and spiritual person, I’m moved to pray. But is prayer an effective response to crisis? Of course it depends what kind of prayer we have in mind.

Praying a traditional synagogue liturgy of peace with special passion? Yes, it can bring a community together.

Wordsmithing new liturgical poems? Yes, literature educates a listener’s mind and heart.

Sharing with the on-line community an open letter to God outlining your vision for the distribution of power in a just world? Yes, it helps readers learn, imagine, and hope.

Praying with your feet” by marching in support of a cause? Yes, that is powerful public communication and symbolic political action.

What about a raw cry of pain from a broken heart? The kind tossed scattershot at a Higher Power – without even a clear sense of where it’s aimed? Or where it might lead?

Yes, says the Piacetzner Rebbe, writing in the Warsaw Ghetto (1940). Yes — a simple broken heart makes a difference. We learn this from the famous vision of the politically active biblical Prophet Isaiah (6:1-13).

Isaiah, who believes himself unworthy to serve as a prophet, is transported up to a heavenly throne room filled with sound. The angels call out to one another, “Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole world is filled with God’s glory.” The doorposts shake from the reverberations of a caller. Isaiah hears the voice of God ask, “Whom shall I send?” And of course Isaiah responds, “Send me!”

Which sound shakes the doorposts and moves Isaiah to accept the mission? The sound of human suffering.

What leads the angels to say “the whole world is filled with God’s glory?” Human responses to suffering.

What is Isaiah’s inner process in this moment? He hears of the suffering of others, and his heart breaks. He has no plan, other than to say, “Put me to work, God!” But he says it, and then guidance comes.

That, says the Piacetzner, is exactly how the cry of the broken heart works. The blood freezes in our veins, he says. Meaning: we cannot act. Our old map of reality can no longer guide us. Our thought and our feeling must change. To use traditional language, we are led to repent.

Yes, the raw prayer of a broken heart can be effective. Tossing a cry to a Higher Power hangs on threads of hope. Hope that the universe has a good plan, that it can be known, that we can learn our role in it. And sometimes the prayer starts us on that path of learning.

So please: sing liturgy, write poetry, distribute impassioned ethical tracts, take nonviolent political action.

But if you are like me, and you don’t know how to act, you don’t have to do nothing. Linger with your breaking heart. Call to whatever Higher Power you feel is present. It’s a first spiritual step forwards.

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