A thoughtful account of religious discovery.
Trauma, physical or emotional, often precipitates spiritual awakening. For Benedek (The Wind Won’t Know Me, 1992) it came in the form of a mysterious episode of near-blindness, followed by visits to doctors who mulled over possible causes—lupus, MS, Lyme disease—for the abnormal MRI readings their tests turned up. Marooned in Texas, where she had followed a boyfriend who turned out not to be the man of her dreams, and working as a television reporter against her writerly instincts, Benedek concluded that the disease was a matter of a troubled heart: “I feel,” she writes, “the cause of my illness was a deep psychic confusion, a rupture from myself. I believe that the cause of this illness was inside myself, in my psyche and in my soul.” Seeking solace, she turned to the wisdom of the Navajo people, among whom she had lived for several years, and to modern psychiatry as interpreted by one Dr. Andresen, whose cagey, idiosyncratic intelligence enlivens the middle section of her memoir. She also began to explore her roots as a Jew, finding a community of Orthodox believers in a Dallas suburb and continuing her studies on her return to Boston. That exploration was by no means easy, she writes, given her views as a feminist against various Orthodox traditions (such as the prayers of thanksgiving recited by men “for not having been born women”). Intellectually torn, she nonetheless reached a reconciliation. “I have come to a newfound respect for tradition, yet I am wary of strictures that impede individual creative strivings, particularly of women.” A subsequent trip to Israel, she writes, deepened her devotion to her faith—and, by good fortune, brought her new love as well.
Soulful and well-written, this will appeal to readers on spiritual paths of their own.