Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I go to High Holiday services, have an annual Seder, light Hanukah
candles, and believe in (one) God. A friend insisted that I go with her
to a lecture/meditation by a guru that she just “discovered.” If this
woman had dressed and talked differently, she could have been in our
bridge club. Instead she has a crew of acolytes, a series of books, CDs,
DVDs, and a radio show. Nothing she said was wrong or bad, but also
not much different than the psychobabble I read in any magazine at
the hairdresser’s. The audience of several hundred appeared rapt,
even enchanted, even when all she did was parrot back what they said
and murmur “Yes, yes, yes.” I was mostly bored, occasionally
annoyed, and generally surprised about how easy such a lucrative gig
seemed, not to mention confused how it pulled in so many including
my sharp-as-a-tack attorney friend. She’s now after to me to enroll in
a weekly study group, go to a retreat with her, or otherwise
demonstrate my support while she explores this new path. She’s
offering to make this my Hanukah gift. How can I decline without
Clearly this person has had a very meaningful influence on your friend.
Be kind and polite. But don’t draw out the period of ostensible
consideration. Ask to borrow one book or tape to follow up the lecture.
Keep it for a week and read the first five pages. Then return it. Say
you tried out of respect for her judgment, but have decided to decline.
Be clear that you gave it due thought, but that your friend’s teacher is
just that, hers not yours. Say your spirituality is more traditional, that
you’re not against the guru, just more indifferent than enthused and
that you don’t want to invest more time seeking if her influence.
If, and only if, pressed, say that you were a little turned off by the
slick packaging and adoring rapture. But sincerely go out of your way
to be gentle and indifferent rather than cutting or belittling. Then go to
services a little more often and talk Jewish at your friend for a few
weeks. She’ll back off. Who knows, you might like services.