What a shame!
I was, the other day, discussing Deuteronomy Chapter 4 with a Torah class. And I was so amazed!
Here is a proud remnant of Israel, supposedly chosen, from all the known nations, to herald a world movement of unification under the One God. Here was a proud remnant of Israel, who
because of the currents of religious history, became liberal, secular, “reformed”, agnostic or either atheist, as a counterbalance to entrenched, even superstitious religionism.
And yet, there was nothing proud about this group. Instead, they were confused; they were ashamed. Without realizing it, they were constantly trying to back-fit themselves, shamefully, into a traditional religious model— which many were raised with— because they felt that something was missing, something was incomplete about their Judaism, and they were desperately trying to tie their rational minds back into knots, and allow the simple fideism of religious devotionalism and sentimentality to dominant their lives and souls. “Lord, please bring me a cult, so I can feel whole!”
Yet, still, no matter how they tried, they were failing and the frustration was obvious. After all,
in Chapter Four, we see, quite clearly, the assertion that what came down from Sinai was the Ten Dibrot-Commandments, and not the entire Pentateuch. We also see a declaration that nothing should ever be added or subtracted from the law.
We might legitimately imagine that everything other than the Ten Dibrot-Commandments, came from personal instruction from Moses directly, so-called “oral” teachings. But, in an era of contemporary biblical criticism, that is ridiculous.
And, then, what do we do with the entire rabbinic tradition, oral and written, where they added and subtracted all the time. We have records of them doing so! Sure, they had a lot of very mystical “justifications”, as if they were taking their authority from “Moshe rabbenu”. They even pronounced their beracha formulas as if God Himself commanded us to light candles— which was simply the presumption or usurping of prophetic authority. Or, they even resorted to the Shechinah, the Holy Spirit, the Bat Kol, speaking to them, to permit their addition as non-additions.
However, the fact is, that a simple glance at Deuteronomy chapter 4 opens up a big gaping wound. The wound is the simiplicity of faith-propositions: The whole of the oral and written law was given to Moses at Sinai. The faith-proposition that everything that ever was law was law directly from God to us— and it was fixed and permanent.
To the rational students in the Torah class, they seemed to feel shame that they did not believe it. They seemed to feel shame that they were not as good as more traditionally-religious Jews.
They seemed to feel shame that something was wrong with them because they were intelligent enough to ask dangerous questions— even though what they were reading was obviously contradictory, conflicting and could seem actually insane! Truly, when was there a time when nothing was added or subtracted to Jewish law? When?
It was maybe true when we were promulgating a constitution which was essentially what Deuteronomy was, during the reign of Josiah. Not adding or subtracting might be interpreted as an exhortation to “obey the constitution” as we do in the U.S. That’s what I think it means!
But we all need to get very clear about this shame issue. It is an artificial problem! It comes from excessive claims of authority from orthodoxies. It comes from the emotional-attachment to this claim, and previous era of Jewish spiritual development, even though the intellect had been freed.
It is artificial because that is what, in essence, a religious system is, which has not been fully spiritualized and integrated bio-ontologically, with “How Life actually Works for GOOD”, i.e. God’s Order in Creation, what Universal Judaism teaches. A religious system, unspiritualized, is artificial! That’s it’s gift. That’s it’s weakness.
The shame over a religious structure or government is a debilitating thing. It teaches people to deny their freedom, their conscience, and their right to question and be, truly, what they are: made in the Image and Likeness of God. One cannot be that, and fail to look deeply at something. One cannot be that, and not discern falsities and political biases, propagandas no matter how time-tested.
I hereby BANISH THE SHAME of non-religious Jews, who are justifying themselves by the standards of their supposed co-religionists.
Instead, I believe the shame to be a badge of honor, marking human freedom of inquiry, that doesn’t permit any religious cult, Jewish or not, to dominant our thinking processes, but requires, always, that Truth reign: Rav Emet,
Abundant in Truth our God is.
I believe the pain within the shame is the LONGING and reverence to have a unified klal again. So, instead of acting in shame because of your “liberal” ways, ACT POSITIVELY, and do your share to help bring our people together! Act positively, not shamefully, bringing new insights, new discoveries and new creative additions to our ancient corpus.
Universal Judaism’s perspective is to set people free. We are different than Reform, insofar as we don’t seek a mere “rational” Judaism, which tended, unfortunately, to extract only the ethical requirements from the prophets, and ignore some of the more mystical and sublime spiritual experiences. It became an “ethical system”, which frankly, did not need God to function.
System is not salvation!
Universal Judaism seeks a fully integrated spiritual-secular life, universal and biologically-integrated, so that each and every human being graduates to being BEYOND religion, and beyond the need for religion— though need not be beyond the need of culture, with certain religious or governmental components, as part of a living texture to life. Religion doesn’t define us! It is a component.
A human being aligned, correctly, to the way they are supposed to be? Welcome back to a better Garden of Eden. Where we can pick fruit off the trees, as well as quantum processors.
That advanced alignment and integration– covenant– beyond the mere natural– is the purpose of Israel, while all the other nations were wasting their creativities in self-destructive and life-destructive processes. It still remains the defining characteristic of Israel.
Yes, of course, over time, governments were constructed, including religious governments, that helped jail these life-destructive processes, in order to preserve health and well-being. And
over time, we came to love the jail, and offer it songs and praise—especially when other nations sought to tear us down, and we attached these governments, mythically, to God— in order to anchor the pride of our identity.
But, identity is not, first and foremost religious.
Identity is born of Freedom—and Freedom is just another word for “God”; after all, it is Unlimited, Unrestricted, Unbounded, except by Itself. Identity is the awareness of self Under Freedom, or, even AS Freedom.
What a shame liberal Jews feel such shame.
It is time to free ourselves, and find a new spiritual approach to our ancient people, which can revivify the missing “hole” that a simple-minded return to orthodoxy can no longer
Free yourself from your religious shame. Be Fully Alive!
Blessings to everyone in the Universal Judaism universe, i.e. the whole world.
R’ Michael Shevack