Monthly Archives: August 2014

Living Morality

Continuing our series on the basic practical principles behind Universal Judiaism, let me, as usual, begin with a refresher on all ten principles:

 

1.         Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

2.         Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous

 

3.         Universal Judaism avoids polarized thinking

 

4.         Universal Judaism values individuality

 

5.         Universal Judaism is primarily a “living morality”  and most, secondarily, a legal “system”.

 

6.         Universal Judaism is not faith-based but knowledge-based.

 

7.         Universal Judaism provides direct experience of Providence/Grace.

 

8.         Universal Judaism produces that experience called “God”.

 

9.         Universal Judaism can breed or re-breed a nation (or nations) of teachers to transform the world.

 

10.       Universal Judaism perpetuates a Life-based doctrine, both formal and flexible, without heavy-handed authoritarianism.

 

Now, let’s continue #5 in our series.

 

In the traditional religionist perspective, as we discussed, there is the belief in a

fixed revelation of Sinai, or some philosophical substitute such as classic “Natural

Law”, with its Reason.

 

Because the authoritarianism implied around “fixed revelation” is so idolatrous, this so-called “revelation” needs to be interpreted for particular life circumstances. Over time, the interpretations also become considered “traditional” and are even considered part of the fixed revelation:  “The Whole of the Oral and Written Law is given to Moses at Mt. Sinai”, is how the Great Rabbis of Blessed Memory put it. This is, essentially, no different than any legal system with its precedents that become embodied into the law.

 

But— obviously—- IF a revelation needs to be interpreted, and the body of the law charges through interpretation— then, what we are speaking of is really not a fixed morality but a Living Morality.

 

Murder, certainly a heinous crime, becomes re-interpreted for extenuating circumstances such as defense, insanity, accident, etc.

 

Do you see? A Living Morality is True Morality!  As individuals (previous lesson), we experience basic boundaries built into the nature of Life, and then constantly, experience reinterpretation of these boundaries as new living circumstances prod us, challenge us, to re-think “what is moral”.

 

A legal system is the secondary result of living moral insight.  A legal system is something put down, like a speed limit on a highway, after the moral insight “Don’t become unaware of the importance of life when you drive” has arisen. The religionist error is believing that the legality is the morality, and all morality exclusively expresses through the legal. This is authoritarianism disguised as often pious religionism.  Again, it is a way of keeping fixed boundaries and relationships of authority.

 

When you participate in the adventure of Universal Judaism, one takes advantage of the moral insight, and the laws, from previous tried-and-true generations that have bequeathed it.  However, under no circumstances, is there a rigidity or a “have to”, a kind of “halachic dictatorship” based upon interpretative schematas in the past.

 

Quite the contrary.

 

Through the spiritual methodology taught by Universal Judaism, one learns to culture a spiritual insight. This  spiritual insight, that Light from which True Reason, emerges, actually creates a “living revelation”— YOUR LIFE— by which you are guided to correct discernment in moral matters, as well as correct discernment in the modification of laws.

 

One discovers that the True Revelation is Creation itself, and YOU are living participant!

 

This is a mysterious, magnificent awareness which needs to be cultured. Only upon gaining this profound spiritual knowledge is one actually capable of directing moral and legal matters. The “right way to go”, the “halacha” in any situation, rather than being fixed is a living, breathing, spiritual guidance from Something Larger. It is a living “progression through the Wilderness, so-to-speak”. One senses the Guidance of Something Larger, Something Wider, moving you, ineluctably, towards a “unified” decision, i.e. the experience through which the Unity of the One God— and the experience of Harmony and Good, may be had.

 

Only with the experience of this Greater Wisdom by which a Living Morality, and consequently, a moral insight and legal system emerge, it is possible to answer correctly the question, “What is right?”  This is why it has escaped so many, and why there are so many “abstract debates”; the spiritual knowledge is vacant.

 

Universal Judaism is not about obsessive compulsive, tormenting argumentation about “what’s right?”

 

Breathe, deeply!!!

 

Yes, there is an approach to Judaism where you can actually FEEL Divine Guidance in moral issues, personally and directly, in objective relationship to All Life and Creation.

 

There is a God in the wilderness, but you’ve got to learn how to access Him/Her/It!

 

And it doesn’t make a difference whether you “believe” in God or not.

It’s just “How Life Works”, FOR GOOD!!!

 

This is not religion. This is Life.

 

Living “laws” of Life!  Not religion!

UNIVERSAL JUDAISM PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY #4 INDIVIDUALITY

Let’s now continue with #4 in this series about the practical philosophy of Universal Judaism. By way of reminder:

 

1.         Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

2.         Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous

 

3.         Universal Judaism avoids polarized thinking

 

4.         Universal Judaism values individuality

 

5.         Universal Judaism is primarily a “living morality”  and most, secondarily, a legal “system”.

 

6.         Universal Judaism is not faith-based but knowledge-based.

 

7.         Universal Judaism provides direct experience of Providence/Grace.

 

8.         Universal Judaism produces that experience called “God”.

 

9.         Universal Judaism can breed or re-breed a nation (or nations) of teachers to transform the world.

 

10.       Universal Judaism perpetuates a Life-based doctrine, both formal and flexible, without heavy-handed authoritarianism.

 

Number 4, Universal Judaism values Individuality, is absolutely critical. Do you hear me? Absolutely critical.  In fact, after we have, somewhat, been dealing with matters of non-idolatrous, unpolarized Truth— which, admittedly is very philosophical, even “airy-fairy”, we’ve got to bring this down to earth.

 

Universal Judaism approaches this earth from a critical perspective, differing from perspectives of others:  Individuality is sacred. Primary!

 

Because the tendency of many religionist perspectives to be focused on morality, and more particularly on the legal expression of morality, and because such a legal-moral perspective is often the coercion of some kind of GROUP-norm, in order to corral, coerce and cajole “acceptable behaviors” from individuals who would not ordinarily behave that way—- the individual has been sadly ignored and disregarded!

 

Because the tendency of the Rabbis, and other religionists, has been to view reality from “Moses at Sinai”, backwards to Genesis and forward to the Messiah, the spirituality of the individuality— indeed, we might say “the Original Law” of God, that law which is “built into Life”, “How Life Works”, that Living “Law” or ORDER we live in— has not been emphasized. Indeed, after piling on a ton of legal and moral restrains, they require an extreme “mysticism” in order to bring back the individual-spirituality into this equation.  An excessive mysticism to balance an excessive legalism.

 

Universal Judaism does not do this. Indeed, we see the relationship of the individual to God and Creation as the foundation of the entire moral culture, and as the critical qualifier to the excess of authoritarianism in the legal system, whether it is secular or religionist.

 

What IS a group?  Does God create groups? Sure there are species, constantly changing species, with an evolving boundary, but is this a FIXED GROUP, like a classroom of kids, or a census?  Curiously, in the Torah, only when the Israelites are preparing to go to war are they counted, are they actually turned into a fixed group, only when life is preparing to be killed, is the group FINITIZED.

 

A true group is a living group. It is composed of individuals. Individuality is the cornerstone of the group. The group includes the individual and the individuals from the groups, but the INDIVIDUALITY is primary. If it weren’t there would be replication and duplication of genes, and no evolution of NEWNESS.  Individuality— differences, divergences—- exciting, adventures of newness, of individual expressiveness that IS NOT NORMATIVE, is the miracle of the so-called CREATOR.  And yet, religionists just strip that away, and teach people to squash their individuality within the group norm.

 

Universal Judaism VALUES individuality as the CENTRAL MIRACLE of existence!

 

It is fairly obvious, from a spiritual perspective, and from a scientific perspective, that everything is connected, including any thing that we don’t know. Eventually, once we know it, a connectivity is witnessed, and indeed, we couldn’t KNOW it, if it didn’t have this connection.

 

But, the real miracle is not the connectivity. In fact, it is only when we are disconnected that that seems miraculous.  Connectivity is something we can take for granted!  The real miracle is the fact that within this inter-connectivity there is individuality and separation—- that each individual is unique, unlike any other—- that this deeply interconnected and infinitely-correlated reality, can also self-express AS INDIVIDUALITY.

 

As the Rabbis of Blessed Memory noted in Sanhedrin, when a king of flesh mints a coin, each coin is exactly the same; when the King of all Kings fashions a human being, each is unique.

 

If this is the case, where is the individual self-expression and individual creativity in Jewish self-expression?  Or in other religionist self-expression?

 

It is buried!  Buried  under group-norms, religious paraphernalia, so-called “tradition”, and a theology of moral-legality. This may have been valuable for earlier times, to create a bolster for the societal machine, but in our era, a democratic era, with freedom of rights and self-expression, it is a dangerous burial, if not a funeral of the future.

 

Universal Judaism teaches that it is ONLY through individuality that morality and legality can be properly assessed.  The fundamental spiritual EXPERIENCE of GOD—- of understanding, personally, individually, “How GOD works”, i.e. those actions that produce GOODNESS—- is an individual process, a living process.

Curiously, Kant’s so-called “categorical imperative”, which defines morality as “taking actions that can be universal laws”, breaks down completely in areas of individuality. That’s why there is a nightmare regarding abortion, sexual-differences, and other individual expressive era. One cannot define morality without primary reference to the living process of individuality. Because there IS individuality moral laws ARE NOT FIXED!!

 

This living process, after enough individuals experience it, can be generalized into some kind of a moral law, and then some kind of legal principle and structure, but it is neither the moral law nor the legal principle which is THE LAW!!!!!

 

Sinai is not about stone-tablets. Sinai is not continued by oral interpretations which modify the law. If the laws are so perfect, why interpret them?  Because they are NOT perfect, and individuality is primary, not secondary.

 

Sinai is about individual-revelation, individual experience, individual awareness, and then, only then, about principles, laws and inscriptions, whether on parchment or stone.

 

Do you see?  The very FOCUS of individual creativity which is primary, has become secondary. THIS is why synagogues and churches are becoming drained of the most vibrant, creative and intelligent minds.

 

Once, a very distinguished Haredi rabbi, considered a genius amongst his peers, asked me:  “Reb Shevack. So, if “liberal” branches of Judaism are so true, why are they losing people and why are people entering into conservative and orthodox practices.”

 

My answer:  “Reb So-and-So (Name withheld). First, Hitler proved conclusively that popularity is not the measure of truth. Second, may I ask you a question. What is the QUALITY of the individuals you are getting?”

 

He looked at me. Rubbed his face. Responded, “OY. I must admit, we’re not getting the best and the brightest;  they are leaving.”

 

Universal Judaism is about individuality. We don’t just give formulas, rules, laws, and norms. We give a living spirituality which reveals these, first hand, giving all of these very useful “boundaries”,  their REAL CONTEXT:

 

A God that is Living?  A God that is REAL?

 

Don’t believe in God?  It won’t make a difference. When you experience Life through the unbridled value of individuality, YOU become alive, and LIFE becomes alive.  “God”?  It’s a nice word for THE EXPERIENCE!  An objective, real experience of individual GOOD!

 

Call it what you will. God or not. You have that right as an individual.

 

Blessings to all.  Let me hear from you!!

 

R. Michael Shevack