God At The Edge: Searching For The Divine In Uncomfortable And Unexpected Places

God At The Edge: Searching For The Divine In Uncomfortable And Unexpected Places

  • Publish Date: 2001-04
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Niles Goldstein Niles Elliot Goldstein
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Here is a book about adventure, raw experience, and facing inner demons. Niles Elliot Goldstein is a young rabbi who sets out to find God in tough and often scary situations: dogsledding above the Arctic Circle, taking the Silk Road into Central Asia without a visa, being chased by a grizzly bear, cruising with DEA agents through the South Bronx, and spending a night in jail in New York City's Tombs. He explores the connections between struggle and growth, fear and transcendence, and uncertainty and faith, seeking the boundary where the finite meets the Infinite.

Goldstein is not alone in making this kind of pilgrimage. There has always been a strong tradition of seekers who looked for revelation outside conventional religious settings and encountered God in moments of anguish, terror, and pain. Goldstein juxtaposes his own experiences with those of some of the great historical figures of Judaism and Christianity -- Jonah and St. John of the Cross, Moses Maimonides and Julian of Norwich, Nachman of Bratslav and Martin Luther -- as well as lesser known mystics and preachers, and he discovers, as they did, that it can sometimes take a journey to the edge to recognize God's presence in our lives. "Not everyone can find spiritual fulfillment in a place that feels inviting and safe, like a self-help book or a house of worship," writes Niles Elliot Goldstein, in the introduction to God at the Edge. Goldstein, the founding rabbi of The New Shul in New York City's Greenwich Village, begins his book by invoking "a long history of people discovering God in unexpected, unusual, sometimes even uncomfortable contexts." It's an appropriate setup for Goldstein's stories of his exotic pilgrimages, which have included dogsledding above the Arctic Circle, traveling the Silk Road in Central Asia, and cruising with federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents through the South Bronx. Revelation on the margins of human experience is, Goldstein explains, a central aspect of Jewish and Christian traditions: "Judaism was born in the wilderness of the desert, at the foot of a mountain, as a people cringed in terror. Christianity traces its origins to a man dying on a cross, crying out in doubt and despair." The stories in God at the Edge bristle with intelligence and wit. Goldstein's adventures are grander than those most of his readers will experience. But even the homebound will find inspiration in the example of his fearless exploration. --Michael Joseph Gross

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