Playback speed
Share post
Share post at current time

God was not Jewish Enough for Hebrew School

EPISODE THREE: in which we talk about Lee Weissman’s origin story

I can’t tell you how much I love this episode, and every single Conversation I have with Jihadi Jew. A Bad Hijabi and a Jihadi Jew walked into a room and —

Lee provides a compassionate and insightful glimpse into growing up Jewish in the shadow of the Holocaust, his story reminds us all that there is not hack or short cut, there is just us, and our human context and and the world around us, and our choices. A wise man noticed the seeking Lee did not notice in himself, this was the beginning of a genuine search that altered his course. There is the path we think we will take and the path we end up taking and often the two courses veer when we look back at our life.

Enjoy this hour long Conversation. You can find Lee’s essays if you poke around the posts of the past week — I have hung back a bit and let that purposeful writing of Lee’s percolate here.


Below is an AI-generated summary and the conversation transcript.

Show Notes

Summary :: The conversation explores the religious and spiritual upbringing of Lee Weissman, his journey through different faiths, and the influence of his family and mentors. It delves into the concept of spirituality, the impact of diverse religious practices, and the importance of being a good person. The discussion also touches on the intersection of religion and personal growth, as well as the role of mentors in shaping one's spiritual journey. The conversation covers a wide range of topics related to spirituality, religious studies, community living, and the impact of groupthink on individual spiritual journeys. It delves into the importance of self-examination, the role of dreams in spiritual journeys, and the significance of living in a religious community. The conversation also explores the influence of teachers and the challenges of navigating groupthink in religious and communal settings.

Keywords :: religion, spirituality, upbringing, faith, diversity, mentors, personal growth, good person, religious practices, spiritual journey, spirituality, religious studies, self-examination, dreams, religious community, groupthink, communal living, influence of teachers


  • The influence of family and mentors on one's spiritual journey

  • The intersection of religion and personal growth

  • The importance of being a good person in the context of spirituality Self-examination is an integral part of spiritual growth and the journey to finding God.

  • Dreams play a significant role in guiding individuals on their spiritual paths.

  • Living in a religious community can have a profound impact on one's spiritual journey and connection to God.

  • The influence of teachers and the challenges of navigating groupthink in religious and communal settings are important considerations in spiritual growth.

AI Generated Titles

  • The Influence of Family and Mentors

  • Religion, Personal Growth, and Being a Good Person Dreams and Spiritual Guidance

  • The Role of Self-Examination in Spiritual Growth

Sound Bites

  • "I grew up with, you know, oh, the people are going to the missions and we're sending the check to the missions. And I grew up, you know, going to church and all that stuff, right? But you didn't."

  • "I think, you know, they grew up in Europe and they, my grandparents were immigrants. They grew up in Europe. And I think they felt that there was a certain kind of like, there's a certain kind of old fashionedness."

  • "Has it ever occurred to you that what you really want is your own Ibadat Allah, you want your own service of God, but you have no idea how."

  • "Self-examination is where you find God."

  • "Dreams play a significant role in guiding individuals on their spiritual paths."

  • "Living in a religious community is really important."


00:00 Exploring Religious Upbringing and Spiritual Journeys

06:04 The Influence of Family and Mentors

31:26 The Role of Self-Examination in Spiritual Growth

35:35 Dreams and Spiritual Guidance

52:55 Living in a Religious Community: Impact on Spiritual Journey

57:28 Influence of Teachers and Navigating Groupthink in Spiritual Growth


Bad Hijabi (00:01.319)

Okay, so we are going to talk about you today. Well, you what I find interesting is that like I grew up in a like, I grew up in a very late devote world, like God was always around my dad was an agnostic. He was a he was a non he was a lapsed Hindu was called that his his household and his family and everything was like practicing that he you know, he was like, I'm gonna eat steak and whatever I don't care.

Lee Weissman (00:05.454)


Bad Hijabi (00:30.631)

But my mom was a Catholic, but she was like, shunned Catholic because she was, you know, like she left her marriage and she had to sort that out and there's all these rules and stuff, right? But anyway, so I grew up with, you know, the people are going to the missions and we're sending the check to the missions. And I grew up, you know, going to church and all that stuff, right? But you didn't. My understanding is from all the stuff that I've read about you, I've been like following you for a long time.

that you grew up in a secular household, that you just adopted religion in your adulthood or something. Tell us about that. First of all, I want to hear about your origin story. I think that's interesting. How did you grow up and stuff?

Lee Weissman (01:07.182)


Lee Weissman (01:12.302)

My origin story. So I grew up in, I was born in Chicago, but I grew, I moved to Philadelphia when I was three to be closer to our families because my parents were both from Philadelphia. And it's true, my family is pretty secular. My grandparents on my, I didn't know my grandparents on my father's side so well.

they were sicker and I didn't really know them as well. My grandparents on my mother's side, I knew very well I'm one of 18 grandchildren. I'm the youngest of 18 grandchildren. And so I grew up in kind of a big, pretty big sprawling Jewish family with lots of my cousins. My cousins were mostly a little older than me. And then my cousins were solid baby boomers.

clustered around my sister's age. My sister's 11 years older than me. And so they were clustered mostly around there. And then I came as kind of the little late comer. So I was a little...

Bad Hijabi (02:23.943)

So you were like not even expected. Were you just like the surprise or something?

Lee Weissman (02:28.878)

I was a, I was, so my mother was trying to get pregnant and my mother was trying to get pregnant and she had lost a number of babies. And then finally I came along and, and I stuck. So there I am. Yes. Yes. Yes. And I was like, I was like the kind of like, just after they gave up, I appeared. So, and a boy, no less. Yes.

Bad Hijabi (02:42.151)

that's cool. So she was trying to have babies and then you were like the blessing that the prize.

Bad Hijabi (02:51.751)

Aww. And a boy! Like, wow, like a double prize, right?

Lee Weissman (02:58.35)

Yes, a double prize, yes. So I grew up with my grandparents and I grew up, my parents divorced when I was nine, which was bad, obviously very bad, but at the same time it was also good because I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which was great. I would say the perfect grandparents. I cannot complain.

My grandmother was the loving, wise, cooking Jewish grandmother of your dreams. I mean, honestly, she was wonderful. And she was a very kind, gentle person. And my grandfather was a mandolin and banjo playing sweetheart of a man. And I was very lucky to have such great grandparents.

And while I would say that I was raised out of religion, my grandparents were kind of organically religious. I don't know how to, like my grandfather would go to synagogue like very often because they needed him in order to make a quorum for prayers, right? And he would go and he would put on his talit and he would take me with him because I was often at their house. And...

He would take me with him and I would sit next to him and I would play with his prayer shawl and we would go feed the birds afterwards and feed the squirrels afterwards. And so I had a lot of warm fuzzies around that, but my grandparents were above all kind of committed to the idea that being a decent human being was like the ultimate religious act. They were not, I think that they were very skeptical of,

ritual religion in some respects. You know, when I grew a beard, yeah.

Bad Hijabi (04:57.415)

I just want to interrupt you and say that my dad was a bit like that. My dad was mostly, not that he was pressured, but like he was like, you know, when he became a Catholic and he mostly did it, like if my mom would have been like Jewish or Muslim or like Buddhist or whatever, he would have become that religion. Like he was not seeking to specifically become a Christian. But so just to give you an example, you know,

in the confessional thing. So in those days you had to go in the closet and he was like, I'm not doing that. Like, I'm not doing that. Like I'll do your confession thing. But like, I'm not going in the closet. Like, that's just silly. I don't understand that. So like, I like, I think that that was sort of a benefit to me because my dad was not like, well, the rule says that. And, you know, like he, he, he was above all, like help people and stuff. So I mean, it's like,

a distinction to make that not all religious like parents or grandparents have the thing that you just said. So anyway, continue.

Lee Weissman (06:04.43)

Yeah, I think, you know, I think they, you know, they grew up in Europe and they, my grandparents were immigrants. They grew up in Europe. And I think they felt that there was a certain kind of like, there's a certain kind of old fashionedness. I grew a beard, you know, my grandmother was, my grandmother had went blind as she went older. And I remember she felt, she felt my, my, my chin and she saw that I had a beard and she said, no, no, no, no.

She said, you're going to look like you're from the old country. You're going to look old fashioned, whatever. Little does she know. Now I look like an extra from Fiddler on the Roof. So I grew up in that kind of environment. And Judaism back in the 1960s was not very healthy.

Bad Hijabi (06:41.447)


Lee Weissman (07:00.686)

I think that the Holocaust had done a lot of damage. Holocaust had done a lot of damage, I think, to people's faith. Israel had kind of repaired a lot of that, but then Israel had become kind of the new faith because faith in God had become so tenuous after the Holocaust. I remember as a kid,

I went to Hebrew school. This was one of my favorite memories of Hebrew school. Hebrew school was a horrible experience. It was an after school thing that you went on Mondays and Thursdays and Sundays and spent three hours. And it was horrible. Our teachers were either very angry Israeli ladies. I don't know why they were so angry, but they were very angry, like all the time.

And, or they were Holocaust survivors. And, you know, at that time we didn't, you know, we didn't like to have a lot of information about PTSD and things like that. So we just knew that they were angry and weird and that they had strange reactions to things. We didn't realize of course it's because of PTSD. There are people, these people.

Bad Hijabi (08:15.399)

I think to interrupt you again, anger is like a specific kind of anger like you're describing that older women often have is usually I find it like the result of some kind of like trauma or something. You know, like it's, yeah.

Lee Weissman (08:32.078)

Right. And so these people, right, a lot of them, a lot of them had been seriously traumatized. But, you know, and I said Holocaust survivors, a lot of them very seriously traumatized.

Bad Hijabi (08:43.783)

or even just to have observed and known that and seen that happen and feel really helpless about it, probably I would imagine would make a person feel really angry.

Lee Weissman (08:49.646)



Right. And there are either Holocaust survivors, children of Holocaust survivors. A lot of people were messed up. And talking about God, you know, I always thought God was the most interesting thing in Judaism. So we had my Hebrew school teacher said to us, okay, you can write a research paper about anything you want in Judaism. So I said, okay. I said, I want to write about the Jewish conception of God.

Bad Hijabi (09:01.895)


Lee Weissman (09:22.062)

because I thought, God, that's a really interesting concept. I mean, I was really interested in that. And my teacher said, she said, no, no, no, no. Says you have to do something Jewish. And I said, what? I said, no, no, no, not God. He says, you like animals? I did like animals. I said, yes. He said, okay, you can do a paper on the Israeli national park system. So that was my, so.

I had to write a paper on the Israeli national park system instead of talking about God because that was more comfortable. So that's the Judaism. That's the Jewish education I grew up with. And so.

Bad Hijabi (10:02.279)

You know, it's sorry to interrupt you again, but as somebody who grew up in Catholicism, I see find that wanting to write about God is like the most Jewish thing ever, because everyone's talking about and I don't I'm not knocking anything, just making an observation case of whoever's listening. Just just chill your shit. Like everyone's talking about Jesus. Nobody everyone forgot about God is a super Jewish thing.

talk about to talk about God. Super Jewish. Anyway, continue.

Lee Weissman (10:33.326)

I thought so. I thought so too. I thought so too. So I thought so too. That was great. But I was good at Hebrew school. My family nicknamed, they called me the rabbi. Yes, I'm not. I'm not. I'm not. I'm not. I get.

Bad Hijabi (10:54.183)

And I see we still call you that sometimes, even though I don't know that you technically are like the qualified rabbi, but we just call you that as in rabbi teacher, right?

Lee Weissman (11:03.63)

I still get called that all the time, but since I'm 14 years old, I've been called that. And, and, you know, it's always very interesting these things and, but very challenged by, you know, by kind of my religious environment, kind of a conservative, conservative reform religious environment. I remember like, there are a lot of, there are a lot of paradoxes. One of the paradoxes is.

that I was asked to give a sermon and I gave a sermon on the Israel -Palestine conflict. It was my first peacenik sermon of which there have been many since then. It was my first peacenik sermon and I got an award for it. I got student of the year and I got kicked out of Hebrew school at the same time.

Bad Hijabi (12:01.383)

Woohoo! All right! Boo! Yeah!

Lee Weissman (12:03.118)

Yes. So at the very same moment, at the very same moment, there were two reactions. So one reaction was, my goodness, what a creative thinker this young man is and what a wonderful moral thinker this guy is.

Bad Hijabi (12:08.967)

This is like a hat trick. Is that what they call a hat trick in hockey? Woohoo!

Lee Weissman (12:29.166)

And then on the other hand, what a dangerous human being this is, we got to get rid of him. So.

Bad Hijabi (12:33.383)

this reminds me of to interrupt you again? I don't know. You probably have everyone has if you heard of or know Irshad Manji. She wrote The Trouble with Islam. She is she was originally she was born in Uganda and she was one of Edi Amin's means refugees. And so when she was like three, she came to Canada. So she was raised in Canada.

Lee Weissman (12:43.214)


Bad Hijabi (12:58.695)

and she became a journalist and she had like a show on CBC and she's Muslim. But she's sort of like, she calls herself a rufuzinik and she's a lesbian. So like lots of challenges. And just after 9 -11, she was like, okay, like there's like a problem with Islam, right? And so she, you know, talked about this.

She you remind me of her because she wrote writes in her book that she got kicked out of madrassa when she was a kid because she was too cheeky with asking questions So that kind of reminds me of that, you know, there's that like brand of person that's kind of like she calls herself a Muslim Rufusenik you know and like she and she she was just like this like trying to push challenge extremism and stuff like that so that you just from just thought of her anyway, I

Lee Weissman (13:31.022)


Lee Weissman (13:46.99)

Yeah. So that was my early experience. And I honestly kind of gave up on Judaism for a long time. I had warm fuzzies because of my grandparents and so forth. But I just felt like spiritually and ethically, there was nothing there for me. The kind of ethnic national dimension didn't appeal to me.

Bad Hijabi (13:48.967)


Lee Weissman (14:16.078)

I was very much, you know, I was very much, a traveler. I started to travel when I was quite young with my sister, when I was 14. And, you know, I sort of saw the world, I think in a bigger way. And I, I had trouble kind of, with the idea of kind of an ethno national identity as very much a citizen of the world. And, didn't, didn't really see much, point in that.

I was interested in spirituality. I became interested in Indian spirituality, actually when I was in high school. Somebody shout out to, and he'll never hear this, but Tom Burton, who became a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, gave me a list of, he probably won't even remember this, gave me a list of 100 books and told me if I read these 100 books, I would become an educated human being. So I read these 100 books.

And one of them was the Bhagavad Gita. And I decided that I wanted to read it in the original learned Sanskrit. So I went to college and I studied Sanskrit and I studied Indian philosophy. And I eventually went on to the University of Chicago to do my PhD work in South Asian studies, Sanskrit and Tamil, in Sanskrit and Tamil, and studying contemporary Hinduism and classical Indian texts. And so I was very much immersed in

kind of in Indian philosophy and Eastern religions for quite a long time. I spent some years in India and doing my PhD work there. And language learning and such things. And...

Bad Hijabi (15:59.751)

I find, I'm just going to interrupt you again. My dad, like I said, my dad grew up in a Hindu household and I find the philosophy or the way of being or the, I don't know what it is to be quite like spiritual. Like my dad was like a spiritual person, not like religious or like rule -ish or like catechistic or whatever, but he was very tapped into like spirituality, you know? So anyway, I just.

We have this and sorry I just want to interrupt you again and continue like because in the Catholic world this considered to be like You know, these are like the heretics or they're like the pagans and they worship all these gods and stuff And you know, they're like the lesser than it stuff like that was like sort of what you know Catholic teaching wanted me to believe but I mean the whole work my whole community. This was like a French

Lee Weissman (16:28.878)

Yeah, I - well...

Bad Hijabi (16:54.631)

Catholic community absolutely loved my dad. They all adopted him. They just totally like wanted him and he just had it like a knack for interpreting like the text and saying this is what it means and stuff. But he wouldn't have been like that if he was raised in that closed world. So I just like as as time passes like I look back and I observe that like that world has something to offer. Anyway continue.

Lee Weissman (17:08.622)

Mm -hmm.

Lee Weissman (17:22.51)

Yeah, I mean, I enjoyed India for its diversity. And it's funny, so my personal religious journey, my personal religious journey, I was doing my PhD work and I was studying, for those of you who want to look it up, I was studying the Melmarvatur Adiparashakti movement, which was a goddess movement that began.

in the 1970s and early 80s. And I was studying the rise of this movement. It's actually basically, it's a kind of like, it's a women's led movement. In any case, I was doing that. But in the evenings, I had discovered there was a Sufi teacher in Madras, now called Chennai. And...

I would go to him in the evenings. I went to an event there once and I met him. And he was a very simple man. Shout out to Professor Shah, who has now passed away, but his grandson, Tahir Bilji, I consider to be a friend, and he's still there. But he was an amazing person.

And I used to go talk to him in the evenings. We would spend hours and hours and hours together. He would sit by the grave of his master, this Sufi mystic. And we used to talk and one time it was like three o 'clock in the morning and we were all alone and he made us a little cup of tea and we were sitting down and he said to me, he said, what are you doing here? I said, what do you mean? What am I doing here? He said,

I said, I'm talking to you. He says, I know that. What do we talk about? I said, well, we talk about religion. He says, and what do you do for a living? I said, you know what I do for a living. Why? I said, just tell me. He says, well, you know, I'm doing my research. I have a Fulbright and you know, I'm doing my PhD. It's what's the topic? He says, well, it's religious studies. Religion. He says, what do you do for fun?

Lee Weissman (19:40.974)

for fun, I come here and I talk to you. He said, what else can you do for fun? I said, well, I go to these religious festivals and this and that, and I go on these pilgrimages or whatever. This is a religion that you do. Yeah. He says, so tell me something. Is there anything you do that has nothing to do with religion? Anything. And I said, well, no, not really. He says, well, why is that? And I fumped around a little bit. I said, I don't know, I don't know, my God.

He said, look, has it ever occurred to you that what you really want is your own Ibadat Allah, you want your own service of God, you want to serve God, but you have no idea how. So you just go here and you go there and you do all these things. And of course, when he said that, I immediately recognized that it was true. I mean, it seemed obviously true when he said it.

So I acknowledged, I said, yeah, I think you're right, you know, that I have a sort of inner spiritual prompting and I don't know what to do with it. So I kind of, yeah.

Bad Hijabi (20:41.799)

Can we stop there? Because I think that's important. A lot of people feel that and they seek like those kinds of things that you were saying, like you were going to, you know, all the things, right? Cause you like, feel like, felt like that was where you wanted to go. Cause you've had that hunger or let's call it a hunger or a thirst. I don't know. You were like, you know, if you're thirsty, you can drink.

Lee Weissman (20:55.15)


Bad Hijabi (21:04.999)

glass of vodka or you could drink a glass of water in the tits leg. So I just because I feel like that's a like a phenomenon that people are seeking. You know, maybe they don't even realize but you tell saying that you were going this man was observed this, you know, wise man was observing that you were going to all these things and everything you were doing was like, like about religion as though you were like seeking but you didn't even really realize that so I think a lot of people could identify with that. So anyway, keep going.

Lee Weissman (21:08.494)


Lee Weissman (21:30.19)

Right. Right. I think that that's a very common experience. And I said to him, I told him truthfully, I said, I have no idea what to do about it. He said, well, he said, you're a Yahud, right? I said, yes. He says, you have the tradition of a prophet, right? Musa? I said, yes. He says, well, so you're not a prey? I said, well, yeah, kind of.

The whole, you know, I had learned from my grandfather, you know, how to pray, you know, more in the Jewish way. And I did have the equipment with me for reasons that I don't want to go into, but the last minute I took my prayer stuff with me and he said, so pray once a day in the morning. Pray in the morning. Okay.

And he says, is there anything else? He says, well, there is one more thing. He says, every day before you go to bed, spend five minutes and go over everything that you did during your day. Everything you did during your day. And if it's something and divided up between things which brought you closer to God and things which put you further away from God. And the next day, the things that brought you closer to God, try to do more of those.

And the thing is, you know, took you further away, tried to do less of that. And I said to him, the words I said, what's that going to do? He said, it will do everything. Those are his exact words. He says, it will do everything. So I followed.

Bad Hijabi (23:13.159)

Those are like the exercise. Sorry to interrupt you again. Those are like the exercises that you do. Right. That's like when you're training or like for old enough to remember the karate kid. And, you know, dude had the kid like waxing the car and a kid was like, well, I want to do something really important. Well, you are you're training. That's like, you know, that's like those are the exercises you do. That's the things this is like. I have this thing in my head where I feel like.

Lee Weissman (23:19.918)


Lee Weissman (23:25.134)


Lee Weissman (23:36.814)


Bad Hijabi (23:42.055)

you know, for a while now, the compassion revolution, but everyone thinks of revolution is something to change something outside of yourself. But what if the revolution is like, okay, sorry, I have to take you into the math world for a minute. A revolution is like the turn of a circle. So when you turn a complete like 360 degrees, you've made a revolution. So if you show up every day and turn the flywheel of your life by just doing the things like waking up and praying,

going and doing this thinking about what brought you closer to God yesterday doing those things what brought you farther away from God trying to not do those things and doing the things and at the end of the day that's like showing up and turning the flywheel that's kind of like the revolution it doesn't seem very special but if you do it every day you will like you feel feel better

Lee Weissman (24:28.302)

Yeah, it was it was really honestly and truly honestly and truly people asked me when people Because because I have a white beard now people ask me for advice all the time I don't recommend asking me for advice But if you but you know some people insist that if you have a white beard that says ask your advice This is my advice always I mean it's it's it's one of the simplest things that you can do for yourself and and I never so I was gonna say like

I never became religious. Like I never woke up one morning and said, I'm going to be like this religious guy, right? That never happened. You know, that never happened. But really what happened is that I kind of started moving, you know, space by space by space, you know, try.

Bad Hijabi (25:13.063)

So stop again, because we're having this conversation, or I was having this conversation that we didn't talk about, but I talked to Justin Sonseri, I told you I was gonna do that, the Polly Viggo guy, and we talked about that. Essentially, this is all about awareness. It's all about stopping and being aware of yourself and everyday, and there is no, that's his mantra, is there's no hack. There's no shortcut.

There's no like, I'm going to do this thing. It's like a journey. It's and that is the journey is the thing. It's like it's like it is like every day showing up and like some days are better than others. And like, so that's kind of like that is it's not like you're like, OK, I'm going to do this thing. It's like an evolution or like, you know what that so like you're you're yeah, you're saying that about how you evolved into this person who everyone.

Lee Weissman (26:01.966)

Right, there's no magic.

Bad Hijabi (26:08.071)

like, you're the rabbi and whatever, is kind of like mirroring how like on an individual, like on a emotional or whatever level, you probably had to, a person has to do that, show up and notice and things like that. Otherwise you obviously can't, you don't, you're not equipped to, you know what I'm saying? I hope I'm, that's all. The two seem to go together. Your emotional journey or your whatever journey and your spiritual journey are like sort of the same thing.

Lee Weissman (26:29.294)

Right, right. It's.

Lee Weissman (26:38.222)

Yeah, it's interesting to speak to your comment before about India. It's interesting. When I started to pray, I would go up on my roof. A lot of homes in India have flat roofs, so you can hang out there during the hot months. You can put a pandal up there. You can put some place to rest up there. I said, I'd go pray on my roof. And it was...

Quite the experience, because I lived right near a mosque. So, you know, that would go off, because I didn't have to worry about alarm clock, because that was, I had a special prayer alarm clock going off. And my, my neighbors downstairs were Martomite Christians. Okay. So they would pray every morning in Aramaic. So they would, they would sing hymns in Aramaic every morning. My neighbor across the street,

Mrs. Venkateshwin, she was a very religious Brahmin lady and she would do her puja in the morning. So she would be ringing, she would be ringing her bells and blowing conches and doing all sorts of stuff across the street. And I had another neighbor who lived right next to me and he had a whole thing that he would be doing. He had a Tulsi plant in his backyard and he'd be walking around it and saying his prayers. And so everybody was praying. It was like...

Bad Hijabi (28:05.735)

That's cool. That is so that's really like kind of punk or something. I don't know.

Lee Weissman (28:06.734)

It was very cool. It was honestly, it was really cool. It was like everybody's praying at the same time. We're all and it was like this little.

Bad Hijabi (28:17.287)

Like you need to write stuff, dude. I'm sorry, I'm not gonna give up on that shit. I'm just gonna keep bugging you every day until you do. Anyway.

Lee Weissman (28:20.398)

Yeah. So it was very nice having this kind of like, you know, it was those early mornings, those early mornings with midlife luck, it was very easy to pray, hopefully, because everybody was praying. So it was very nice. And so I was...

Bad Hijabi (28:47.047)

I think that's sort of, again, I think it's kind of important to help foster a spiritual relationship if you are around people who are doing that. Even if you're not particularly interested, if everyone around you is like that, it's like sort of an osmosis after a while you just observe people doing it and sometimes, yes.

Lee Weissman (29:11.086)

Yeah, and you know, and I have to say, you know, I'll say a little bit about about about Professor Shah, my, you know, my Sufi, I would call him a teacher because I'm not sure he I'm not sure he ever thought of himself as teaching me anything. But Professor Shah was my first example of, I would say, a truly spiritual person. He just

He was very, very simple. He was very normal. You would, you saw him on the street. You'd never think he was anything to speak of. He didn't dress up or anything like that. He was a very simple guy. He was a poet. He was a poet in Urdu, a very fine poet actually. And, and, but he was just like connected, you know, I don't know how to say it any better than that. He was, he was.

Bad Hijabi (30:08.359)

Mm -hmm. Mm -hmm. I get that.

Lee Weissman (30:11.054)

He was, you know, he raised a bunch of kids and he was very good with the students. He was a professor of physics during the day, you know. And he was, but he was just like also simultaneously living in this world, being in love with God. And...

Bad Hijabi (30:35.271)

I think that's probably like, that's related to that. Like it's probably where that came from. Like usually people that are like that, that have that connection to God are like really attachment savvy and just very wise. And you know, you can just, I don't know.

Lee Weissman (30:51.502)

And he was kind. I mean, he was just, he was just, and he was just a kind, good person. And I think that it's like, he's sort of, he sort of bridged the gap for me, honestly, because my grandparents had taught me this idea that like, it's very important to be a good person, right? It's very important to be a good person. And I had not connected religion with being a good person, unfortunately.

Bad Hijabi (31:18.119)

Well, because probably you saw, you know, there was a bit of a distortion because of the, you know, communal, multi -generational trauma and stuff. And I'll just add, like I said before, I'm a bit obsessed with the Holocaust. And so I watched all the documentaries. And I remember reading, listening to one where they talk about...

Lee Weissman (31:26.702)


Bad Hijabi (31:41.287)

survivors talk about, you know, hearing the things overhead, you know, like knowing that like there's military things going on and they are thinking, maybe we're going to be rescued. And then, you know, talking about how like they were forgotten and they were forgotten and they were forgotten. And then at one point, one of the women said, like, God, you know, wasn't there. Like there was no God wasn't there. And so like, like, it's understandable that like, you know, that that was asked, like, totally not like I don't.

wouldn't begrudge that or anything because anyone would feel that way. And so if you grew up in that world where that is sort of like, you know, there's a bit of a skepticism or like some kind of like anger or something, then obviously, you know, maybe that.

Lee Weissman (32:24.622)

Yeah, it also has to do with kind of a response to modernity and, you know,

At least religious Judaism became the provenance of, to some extent, the provenance of angry old men resisting modernity. Just not exactly a great place to start. In any case, I came back. It was, yeah.

Bad Hijabi (32:49.767)


It wasn't appealing to young people. And even if you like listen to Steven Spielberg talk about that, he talks about that, you know, how like his grand his his grandmother or his grandfather was calling him by his Jewish name, by his Hebrew name. And he was like out on the street and he was like he just wanted to crawl under the floor because he totally just wanted to disengage from that whole Jewish identity. He didn't want anything to do with it. And then as he got older, is, you know,

Lee Weissman (33:13.486)

Right? Right? Right? Right?

Bad Hijabi (33:21.287)

So anyway, continue.

Lee Weissman (33:22.798)

Right, right. In any case, I came back to the United States. I came back to the United States. Before I left the United States, I asked, well, it's like a whole bunch of stuff. I don't know how weird you want me to get, but okay. So two things. Okay, want the weird? Okay, the weird thing is, there are a couple of weird things. So one weird thing is that I, one weird thing is that I said to my teacher to,

Bad Hijabi (33:35.495)

Yes, weird. We like the weird here.

Lee Weissman (33:51.822)

Professor Shah, I'm going back to the United States and I said what should I do and what should I what should I do and He said well, you know, you're Jewish you should go study, you know, I said well How do I know to study with he said look it says the two things says first of all, they're these people I've heard of them called the Hasidim. I don't know anything about them, but I hear they're pretty good

Which I don't know how in Madras he had ever heard of such a thing. I have no idea. Because it's like as far away from his reality as possible, but okay. And then he said, listen, if people don't tell you about this self -examination thing, don't bother with them. He says, any person who doesn't practice the self -examination, okay, if that's not part of their daily life, they're not for you, don't bother with them, they're useless.

Bad Hijabi (34:46.119)

Okay, stop, because that's just what I was said before that it seemed to me that those two things go together that like you can't like seek God or have, you know, like a faith relationship or, you know, engage in that world without first knowing yourself. Like, like that's part of it. Self -examination is where you find God. So anyway, continue.

Lee Weissman (35:07.95)

Okay, so that was one thing. The other thing is I had a dream. Okay, I had a dream. So there's a famous Moroccan sadik, this famous Moroccan saint. His name is Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzera. He's known as the Baba Sadhi. Sadhi means like the prayerful father. And he's originally from Morocco.

He came to, he eventually died in Israel. He's buried in Nevtivot in Israel. And, I had a dream about him. Now I'd only seen his face once in a book at the university of Chicago. I didn't know anything about him, nothing at all. I had this dream. So in this dream, I go, I go to see, I go to see him and I have a blast and he pours me this stuff to drink and makes me drink.

and it's like fire water. And then he starts screaming at me. That's the dream. Okay, he screams at me. And I wake up and I'm terrified. I didn't, it's a weird dream. He's terrifying looking, whatever. So I have this dream. So I come back to the United States. So two things happen when I come back to the United States. First thing is, my first day back in the United States, I'm in Chicago, I go to a bookstore and I look on the shelf and I see a book and it's called The Path of the Just.

The path of the just. It's a Jewish book, the path of the just. So I open it up, and the first words I see are, let a person be an accountant of the soul. And it's a description of exactly this process of how to examine yourself. And I start crying in the bookstore, like I'm an idiot, I'm a writer, or so I just jet lagged, you know. I'm weeping in the bookstore, so I go and I buy, so I go and I go and I,

Bad Hijabi (37:00.231)

Woohoo! All right, you had a moment.

Lee Weissman (37:04.078)

So I buy this book, I go home and I read it, and I read it from cover to cover. Like I don't move for two days. For two days I don't move and I just read this book. Now, I forgot to look in the front of the book. It turns out that my father's brother actually published this book in honor of my grandmother, which I had no idea. Like I didn't...

It was only after I finished the entire book I opened the front cover and it had my my father's brother's name in it and it was and it was dedicated It had been published in dedication to my grandmother, which is very weird like who had never been to Chicago in her life I don't know how this book down to Chicago. I have no idea still have the book any case. It's very weird so that was

Bad Hijabi (37:58.151)

It's like, it's just everything is connected. That's kind of cool. That's really wild.

Lee Weissman (38:02.382)

Yeah, just a little weird, right? So that's one thing. So the next thing is I'm walking in downtown Chicago and I see a sign that says Chabad, Chabad of the loop. Chabad is Chochmah bint Al Tzai. It's a Hasidic outreach movement. And I walk in and I go in and there's a guy sitting there and he's having lunch.

And he looks at me and he says, are you hungry? I said, yeah, kind of, I'm hungry. So I sit down and we're having lunch together. This rabbi, he's got a big black beard, whatever. And there's this little lady, she's like tiny, tiny lady in a kerchief who's serving us lunch. And I said to him, I said, who was that? And he says, that's my mom. And I said, where is your mom from? She doesn't look like she was from any place I know.

He says, we're from Morocco. My mom is from Morocco and actually she lived in Morocco until recently. So I said to him, I said, you're from Morocco. He says, do you know, have you ever heard this guy, the Babasali, right? The saint that I had seen in my dream. And he says, you mean my uncle? You mean my uncle? I said, yes, he's your uncle. Yes, he's my uncle. And that's...

his sister. That's his sister. So, so yeah.

Bad Hijabi (39:36.455)

Okay, stop for a minute. This is kind of like when I was a kid and I heard lots of readings from the Bible and stuff. And often in the Old Testament, especially, someone would have a dream about a thing and it would lead them on the way to God or something. So anyway, I just observed that the dream thing is kind of a theme in people's spiritual journeys or something. So that seems fit.

Lee Weissman (39:57.102)

Thank you.

Lee Weissman (40:01.806)

Yeah. So, so I, so I said to him, I said, so what, what was he like? I mean, what, you know, I said, well, he says, you know, when you went to see him, he would always make you drink. And I said, like something strong is I Arak, it's fire water. Right. And so he brought me, he brought me a little cup of Arak and I tasted it and it was exactly the stuff that I had tasted in my dream.

I think it was this firework, this is in my dream. So then it's a special Moroccan alcohol that's made with fennel. It's like a...

Bad Hijabi (40:35.591)

So is this like a moonshine or something or?

Bad Hijabi (40:45.991)

So yeah, that sounds kind of like moonshine or like screech or something like that. Yeah, okay.

Lee Weissman (40:49.198)

like Turkish, Raki or Uzo, but strong, very strong. Yeah, very strong. So he gave me that. And then I said, well, so what is it like to see him? He says, well, normally he would give you a bracha. He says, but the biggest...

Bad Hijabi (40:59.367)


Lee Weissman (41:18.83)

blessing that you could get is if he yelled at you. He says if he yelled at you that was a big bracha And I said what? And he said, it's a blessing, exactly. So that's of course what happened in my dream is he yelled at me. So that was also a big thing. So in any case I studied, so that was Rabbi Merhai Ben -Ayun. He's still in Chicago. And...

Bad Hijabi (41:25.159)

See, sometimes when people yell at you, it's a blessing. There you go.

Lee Weissman (41:47.79)

So I went to his home for Shabbat, he invited me to his home for Shabbat, and I went and I started keeping Shabbat from that time on. And later I moved to Los Angeles, I met my own teacher, was Rabbi Leo Tesler, Arya Leib Tesler, who was a Vigencer Chosid, a survivor of the Hungarian labor camps.

who was in his nineties who started to teach me and, and I studied with him, for a few years. and, whatever I know, whatever I know, I owe to him basically. And I started teaching kids. I gave up on academia. I gave up on my PhD. I wanted to, I wanted to teach kids and,

Bad Hijabi (42:43.207)

And can I just say that the world thanks you because if you had continued to be on the academia track, you would probably have full tenure and you would be absolute lunatic. And I wouldn't be sitting here having this conversation because you'd be like having brain worms and just like some other totally different person devolved down into the.

Lee Weissman (42:54.678)

Yeah, well.

Lee Weissman (43:04.526)

Honestly, honestly, I, I, we moved to California. My former, my former wife, is a big, became a full professor at the university of California Irvine and went and really, you know, excelled, at the academic thing and really did very well. And, but I realized it was not for me. I was, it was not, I, I, I didn't like the lifestyle. It was not, it.

was not, it was not really for me.

Bad Hijabi (43:35.911)

I know several people in academia and know like, you know, some, you know, journalists and editors who, you know,

sort of have friends in that world and like they get like private messages from like you know full professors and from academics and stuff and the culture of like universities right now and stuff is so stifling and so awful for anyone who's like a free thinker who just wants to you know just do their thing and not. You said to me once groupthink is really dumb so I think some people that can't handle the groupthink thing probably won't wouldn't

do well in the academia world. I don't know.

Lee Weissman (44:19.182)

Yeah, I think, in any case, it just wasn't, it wasn't for me. I was also, I had a brief moment of fame, you know, like I had a very, I'm gonna get complaints about this word. I had a very sexy topic, right? My topic was, yeah, my topic was very sexy because it was about women and it was about goddesses and it was about, you know, and there was also very colorful, there was a lot of red in it.

Bad Hijabi (44:36.455)


Lee Weissman (44:47.566)

It was like very visually striking and people really enjoyed, you know, my talks and stuff. And for a while I was like a graduate student star. And it was interesting experience. But also, well, you know.

Bad Hijabi (44:47.815)


Bad Hijabi (45:01.639)

How did that affect you? How did that affect your relationship with yourself and your spiritual journey? Because sometimes I think you can't have both.

Lee Weissman (45:07.598)

Yeah. Well, I said at one point, I sort of, at one point I sort of thought of it and I thought like, this is so fleeting. It's just going to be over. You know, like it's, it's not about me, right? It's not about me. It's not about any quality that I actually, that I actually possess. Right. It's about something. Right. To something, you know, that I, I'm titillating people's interest in something, but.

Bad Hijabi (45:27.783)

It's about you being a conduit.

Bad Hijabi (45:36.231)

That's how like that's personally how I see you. Why you're so valuable is because you are a conduit and you're aware of that and you welcome that. And I don't mean that like in like a using way, like, a road is a conduit and we don't think about it, but like, you know, like, like, like a portal to some more things. You know what I mean? So like in that way, you sort of have to like get out of your own way and you do that. So anyway, keep going.

Lee Weissman (45:36.59)

But I'm not really.

Lee Weissman (46:05.646)

But one of the things I liked about teaching, especially teaching religion, I taught history and I also taught religious studies. And one of the things I liked about it was that at some point I understood that my students were not studying my topic, right? They were studying me. I meet my students many years later. Sometimes I, thank God,

you know, for the internet, Facebook, all these things. Cause I, you know, I sometimes hear from students, you know, 20 years later, you know, 30 years later, they have kids, everything else. They'll just message me and say, and if, and, and if they're going to remind me of something that they learned from me, it will never be on the topic that I was teaching. Okay. They don't remember anything about American history. I taught European history. Okay. I taught, I taught Jewish history. I taught.

all sorts of things, right? I taught Mishnah, I taught all of these things, they don't remember anything. All they remember is some stupid story I told them, right? Because they -

Bad Hijabi (47:13.671)

because they remember the connection that you made with them, then the lesson that brought them. I think about, like, you know, I graduated from high school in 1986. I still think of teachers, like, and I still, you know, once in a while there might be like some, you know, teacher on Facebook or something, and like, I'll still be like, yeah, and I'll remember like a teacher. Sometimes I remember teachers from like when I was eight years old. I don't really think teachers can have any idea.

Lee Weissman (47:16.941)


Lee Weissman (47:39.342)


Bad Hijabi (47:42.375)

I don't think anybody really can, but I especially think teachers cannot have a clue how much they influence other minds. I don't think you have a...

Lee Weissman (47:53.07)

they have no idea. I'm sure they have no idea because I think my teachers also, yeah. But also, but as I said, you know, like I feel like that, you know, your kids, especially when teaching religious studies, because religious studies, it's kind of like, look, if this person is not actualizing what it is they're teaching,

Bad Hijabi (47:57.415)

If you did, like you would never feel. Yeah. Yeah. It's like it's too gravel though.

Lee Weissman (48:23.054)

then really there's nothing to this. Right? And...

Bad Hijabi (48:25.639)

I find I want to stop you because that's the journey I've been on. And that's the problem I've had. I've been through two religions. I don't know where I'm going now. I'm not even going to even say. But that's the problem I've had, that the disconnect or the disruption or the misalignment between the teaching, the person doing the teaching and the way they're manifesting their own faith, you know,

relationship and like what I'm supposed to learn. Like you're saying a thing, like not you specifically, but the teacher, whoever, priest, whatever, imam, whatever, they're saying a thing and they're preaching all this stuff, but then they're living their life in a different way and they're connecting with people in a different way. So like, you know, actions and words. So that's always the, so that's always the problem that I have, the community or the people don't manifest.

thing that's supposed to be taught. So I find that's why like in your work in your little world where you don't care if everyone has the membership, you just care that people are genuinely seeking and people show up like, and they just show up sometimes. And they don't say like, I was in your I was in the duties of the heart thing. I don't know for how long like a long time before I said a thing, right? Like said anything. But anyway, I just feel like it's important for the teacher to really

People can tell if you are full of shit or not, right? It's very obvious. You can't really hide that. So I don't know. I just really think that this self journey and journey to God are sort of like the same thing. And you can't be ignorant of yourself and shut off from yourself and not connected and then say, I'm going to teach everyone about God. So anyway, keep going.

Lee Weissman (50:17.39)

And at least, you know, listen, at least, you know, I don't think of myself as, you know, I've become very, over the years, I've become very like wary of all these guru types and all this stuff, you know, like I'm a struggler, you know, I definitely have to work very hard just to be like bottom line decent person. I have to work really hard, you know.

Bad Hijabi (50:35.431)


Lee Weissman (50:45.838)

to maintain a decent standard, a big decent human being, I have to work pretty hard. And I think that that's what I have to share, and to be honest about that, to just...

Bad Hijabi (51:01.511)

and that's exactly what Justin said. He said that, says that in his Instagram, there's no hack. There's no shortcut. There's no magical pill and there's no like magical solution. There's no anything. There's just like every day there's just struggling. And some days we do better than others. And just to be honest with that and, you know, also like ask questions. Like I, you know, no one's perfect and you're not like, no one's making you, I'm not.

you know, I hate gurus and influencers and shit. I think, as soon as you're an influencer, okay, you're a clout chaser and I'm out the door, you don't have anything to teach me anymore, right? So, but you know, like, I don't know, I just think that like, yeah, like it's the two go together. I just continue to think that you cannot know God if you don't know yourself. And you know, if you're like, like it's like a, like it's hard because we need to belong to a faith.

community in order to fully know God, but also we need to also belong to ourselves. So where's the, maybe that's where religious life and all these ritual practices and things come in is help you find balance, right?

Lee Weissman (52:16.782)

And well, and I think also, I think they're living in a religious community and I live in a lovely community, but I live in kind of, I've lived in different kinds of religious community over the course of my life. Sometimes more insular, sometimes less insular, now less insular. I made that choice.

Living in a community is, I think, really important.

You know, we're not here for ourselves. I mean, I don't know if that's a nice thing to say, but like, we're here for each other. You know, when God created...

Bad Hijabi (53:06.535)

We don't own our life. Have you ever seen Cloud Atlas?

Lee Weissman (53:15.054)


Bad Hijabi (53:15.847)

Okay, it's a really long movie. It's really weird and it seems like it's a bunch of different skits from different time periods, but ultimately it's all about how there's a common thread through life. And at one point, and it's based on a book, and the book, at one point he's like, our life is not our own from womb to tomb. We serve others and we are connected to others and we're meant to connect to others. So we're not just here to like, you know.

Lift ourselves up at the expense of everyone else like when others are hurt at our expense like we are hurt too, right? Like I like I don't know why that's so So difficult to understand that we are here all together, but we are individual units But we are here to help each other and to be connected

Lee Weissman (54:03.214)

Well, one of the things that I learned in India is I was at a friend's house and they had three rooms in the house. And basically what would happen is every time one person would move to one room, everybody would move into that room. And I once asked him, I said, why do we do this?

Like why is it whenever your house were all in one room? And he said, because that's the way it's supposed to be. And I said, what do you mean? He says, if I had my dream, I would have a house with only one room and everybody would be in there all the time. And I said, why is that? And like I said, in America, he says,

I described my cousin's house. My cousin had a house and they had upstairs, they had a suite, they had a bedroom and a sitting room and a bathroom just for the master bedroom. And the children each had their rooms and they had a playroom downstairs and a den and a living room and all this. And I described this and he said, the difference is you people are individuals.

says we are dividuals, you know? And...

Bad Hijabi (55:33.67)

I think that's really important. We've talked about this a lot before and I think that's really important. And we talked about this too in the context of like the conflict in the Middle East and how like I've heard it said, I think I said this to you in a DM that like sometimes people look at that way of living like because my dad, my dad's family was like that and my dad was a bit like that, that everyone should be together. Like why do you need to move out on your own? Like that was so not the culture of she's 18 and she has to leave now.

Like that's kind of like when you think of it, it's dumb. Like, why do you, why, why did I like, okay, like there's all this independence and stuff, but like, you know, that's the cultural choice. So anyway, my point is like, you know, seeing how like there are cultures and worlds where people do live all together. So like, I don't think that that's like anything except that people just live together because that's how like some cultures are. They don't move away. They just stay and they just.

you know, they just build their compound, right? Yeah, because that's how we're meant to be. We're meant to help each other. We're not meant to farm out, you know, all these things. So like, you know, if you live with your cousins and your sisters and you're like, whatever, if you have to go to the store or, you know, if you have to like go out overnight or something, you don't have to hire like a stranger to have to come into your house. You can be like, hey, I have to leave. Can you look after the kids? Like, this is like...

Lee Weissman (56:33.678)

Well, I think it's healthier. I think...

Bad Hijabi (56:59.591)

you know, we're meant to be community, like we're communal creatures, right? So, but I just, you know, this thing of like, you know, the collective punishment and we're going to like, you know, bomb someone's house and well, you know, this is a culture that uses their, you know, children as human shields and stuff. And it's like, it's such a, like a cynical way of portraying how people live differently than you. So I see both sides, like I saw the side of, okay, yeah. But then it's like, okay, it's really kind of.

Lee Weissman (57:03.886)


Bad Hijabi (57:28.455)

It's kind of arrogant to be like, all these people are living that way just to spite us and stuff. I know this is a bit off topic, but since you mentioned that, and you've mentioned that a number of times, we've just had this conversation. And every time I mentioned this, you always are like, okay, well, that's just collective punishment. And I have thought about that. And I've thought about this a lot because I hear the other side being like, look, they're using their family as human shields. And it's a very cynical way of portraying.

a different way of connecting to other people and to justify bad behavior. So I know like, you know, we weren't talking about that. We're talking about, you know, spirituality and stuff. But I really like think that this is like, you can't get away from that because like, when you start to like see that, okay, like when you and you're nervous, because this is really what this is about. Ultimately, underneath all this is like,

finding your safe social spot in your nervous system where you can think with your like higher brain and you're not thinking with your like brain stem and your reptilian brain, right? So because everyone's out there thinking with their croc, like you said, you're the crocodiles, everyone's crocodiles like out and you got crocodiles sitting at the table, you know, so like, I think that's kind of important as kind of like why I wanted to have this conversation because you know, like at some point, like my struggle has been like group think like,

Lee Weissman (58:33.902)

Mm -hmm.

Bad Hijabi (58:53.447)

is making like it hard for me to find God. That's ultimately where I end up. I end up in the group, you know, because like to belong to the group, but then ultimately like there's like at some point, like the group doesn't serve God anymore. And so then that's like, you have to know for yourself what your journey is. You know what I'm saying?

Lee Weissman (59:12.782)

Well, this is going to have to be a topic for another day because my hour is up and I have to go run and get ready for Shabbat. So I am on my, my Shabbat preparations are do a wait for nobody.

Bad Hijabi (59:15.751)

because we're at the hour mark.

Bad Hijabi (59:31.271)

Woohoo. So who is, what's the topic this week? Last week it was like the whole thing with the land and stuff. That was interesting.

Lee Weissman (59:37.454)

Yes, so this week this week the topic is the topic is God's curses and the sin of apathy

Bad Hijabi (59:47.463)

Ooh, do you have like a thing? I'd like that last week to read that. I don't know. I like your lessons. So can you send that to me? Okay, so this is really great. And we'll continue this like next week or something. you run off. Thank you so much for your time and have a good preparation and a good Shabbat and everything. Okay, bye.

Lee Weissman (59:49.198)


Yeah, I'll send that to you. Yeah, I'll send that to you.

Lee Weissman (01:00:01.39)

Okay, very good, perfect. Okay, thank you … Thank you so much. Okay, bye bye.

Adventures of Bad Hijabi is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. We appreciate your support.

Adventures of Bad Hijabi
Conversations Podcast
can religion be a solution to, rather than the cause of, human suffering? a blog and a podcast about dehumanization, spirituality, and religion.