In the next few months, we are undergoing a change to the Universal Judaism website. This is not coming out of nowhere, but, hopefully, out of Somewhere, that Source of Guidance that is ever-present if one were to but call on Him/Her/It.
It has been in the works for some time, percolating underneath, and somewhat veiled in its overt direction, because– and I must tell you, honestly– I have been somewhat confused.
What actually is Universal Judaism? Is it a denomination? Is it a “perspective” which is a somewhat neutral word I came across? Is it a “Natural Law” view, which was an earlier incarnation, prior to the phrase “Universal” being chosen?
I was confused, I believe, because Judaism was confused, and like a gestating mother, I embodied all these stage of development within me, covered them up with a prayers for Goodness, hoping that the birth, in spite of a little blood loss, and uncomfortable engorgement, would be joyous and well-received.
In the meantime, I was continuing to grow as a person, as a rabbi. My work has increasingly been that of a counselor, not just to people in times of crisis or confusion, but counselor to businessfolk, industrialists, and politicians, all of whom were seeking some kind of Universal knowledge to guide them in their tasks. They found the insights of Universal Judaism to be “just what the Rabbi ordered”.
So, I’ve decided to reconstruct our website. Make it very simple, and direct. Remove some of the hints that this is a new denomination.
The Association for Universal Judaism a teaching organization that will be sharing our light with all the existing denominations of Judaism. We will be sharing our light with all the historical, prophetically-inspired religions such as Christianity and Islam, which are based upon the Jewish rabbinic perspective. And, we will be sharing our light with many secular-humanist, and secular-scientific organizations, all of whom are mainstream contemporary offshoots of basic prophetically-inspired ideas and ethics.
We will be a teaching organization for the purpose of helping all the many different organizations that are all struggling to put forth a coherent World View that is both Truth-based and Tradition-inspired.
A Light Unto the Nations, in keeping with Isaiah’s profound vision!
Now many of you out there may be a little upset; many have approached me about ordination. I want you to know that I am open still to that possibility, and have not changed, for those select students whom I feel are my natural heirs.
And I am not at all closed to the possibility of Universal Judaism congregations, if not a movement, should something like this arise, of its own inspired accord, from any of the seeds that have been planted.
However, right now, I am of the mind that how I can help most, as I reach, in August the august age of 65, is to help enlighten and transform existing organizations and faiths. This is not only in keeping with my rabbinic education, but, also, in keeping with my career roots as an international creative director. This is a world-campaign! Another meaning to Gillette’s tagline: the Best a man (or woman) can get! Which I’m proud to have authored.
Universal Judaism, in this sense, is a “campaign”. It is a campaign that is meant to inspire and to ignite many existing organizations, associations and groups, to become the best they can be. This is no arbitrary, subjective goal. The best anyone can be– if they follow Universal Judaism’s teachings– is someone who helps bring out the Light that is hidden within the human soul, and make this accessible for the purpose of Peace, Justice, Compassion, and Unity for all nations, and all humankind.
Thank you so much for tolerating this short vacation, as we get to work on this new streamlined website.
I look forward to speaking to you all in person, and for rolling up the sleeves, and getting to work. You may find the website off line for a while.
There is a big world out there. The Universal teachings of Judaism are needed more than ever! Dark times require Bright Lights.
Blessings to all.
Further to the last post “appendix”, with further reading, please note that the next article in the series is now available on World Religion News.
You can find it here
Regular readers of this blog may be interested in 3 further articles by Rabbi Shevack on World Religion News: the links are posted below
We are just about to pass over Passover. We have
refrained from matzoh— that so-called “bread of affliction”,
that flat, humble, totally devoid of being “puffed up” from yeast bread, which the Rabbinic Sages equated with the human “ego” “Egypt” and “Pharaoh”.
Well certainly ego, especially “bloated ego” of the kind Emerson
spoke of, can interfere with one’s spiritual development. I do not need to do what newspaper headlines do much better (and lately, they add ego to the ego, in their cheap “journalism”).
They demonstrate all our contemporary problems of the ego, all of which, simplifying it greatly, are the result of one thing: asserting the polarity “me” over the polarity “us” or “other”. Or, the polarity of any one or two of these over the third.
However, let’s be clear. The disparagement of ego is itself a great act of ego. After all, if ego exists, and there is a God that designed our world to be GOOD, well, then ego must have a purpose, a value. And even the evils of ego must have a purpose, a value. As the Sages of Blessed Memory said, “without the yetzer ha-ra [the tendency to due evil due to lustful egotism] no man would build a house or father a family.”
“Me” is very important. And now that we’ve left the leaving of Egypt,
we need to remind ourselves of the glorious gift of “me”. Praise God for having made me, for granting me an ego.
In search of so-called “spirituality” many people these days, seeking God, are finding spirituality through Hindu or Eastern-inspired religions. The task here is often the depreciation of ego, and the removal of it. And it is quite fascinating that many of these devotees are often financially-troubled, or even poverty-stricken. Yet, they may live in wonderful ashrams. I do not think they have rid themselves of ego. I simply think they have neutralized the excess of personal-ego excessively, in favor of a group-ego, and particularly a guru-ego. But, the personal ego is not gone; it has been rendered less functional.
It is a great gift of the Jewish People to have a God who chose us
because we were “stiff-necked”— stiff-necked, that bridge between
a very hard-head and a body, an isthmus of stubbornness, where the thoughts and the body are totally-cemented, into a single-focus and directed person.
Our stiff-necked Jewish natures have served us quite well, when you consider the degree to which our Jewish-ego decimated the egos of the world largest Imperia in the world. We survived. They didn’t. Our ego won.
You see it is not ego that is the problem. It is the imbalance of ego, or the false-use of the ego, in a Pharaonic way perhaps, to enslave and debase others. Doing so denies the Presence of the Holy One
in that person. False ego asserts itself as the organizing factor of
human life, and it continuously fails—not without causing a lot of problems–– because it is a lie against God. It betrays the Nature of Life.
The words in Genesis are terribly translated I think. We are created “bitzelem v’demut”, “in the image and likeness” of God. “Bitzelem”
means to reflect the nature of God; in being creative, we do this quite well. “V’demut” means to be “cut off” in the sense of separated and distinct. It is better translated “individuated”. An individual IS an ego. It is a creature that is not the mere impulses of earthly nature through itself, but a creature that can stand back from these impulses, look at them, objectively view them, and then choose to act one way or another. The impulses of nature are under a super-natural consciousness. This is the beginning of spirituality,
and moral discretion. This is also the beginning of one other thing:
Technology is the ultimate proof of the power of the human ego. Technology is the result of being able to ingest, digest, catabolize, metabolize, and assimilate the fruit or “result” of God’s Knowledge i.e. our world, and how it’s created. Technology allows us to assert our ego, and our understanding, and grant us radah, dominion, over materia and other life-forms.
Technology allows us to not be bound to the earth, and fly to the
moon and beyond. Technology allows us to, as individual egos,
alter the human genome and change evolution, consciously, for
our benefit, or, dangerously, for our whim.
Technology, back in the ancient world, was agriculture. And also,
lest we think it was mere superstition, it was present as sacrifice. The ancient priests used to perform a technology which asserted their egoist domination over animals.
Now— it is this priestly technology that is the key to how to balance and use our blessed ego. Our ancient kohanim did not just murder animals, but sacrificed them, in a “sacred action” under God, the Creator. Thus the God of humankind, with technology, and the God of Creation, with nature’s design, co-operate: covenant. Thus, human ego and God’s Living Presence in nature, do not battle, but work together. God first. Us second. The Supreme Ego first. The human ego second. Get the order? It’s just how the world was made!
In the Hebrew viewpoint, the ego is not forfeited, dissolved into some mystical God. The ego is not bloated, asserting dominance over everything, indeed declaring “I am God”. The Hebrew view is, ego is great, in its correct place. Correct, from the Latin, co-regire: to govern together. Correct means– mindful of the statutes and ordinances by which our world is designed.
Pharaoh’s ego was bloated. And in Egypt, the Israelite ego was demoted. And both of these polarities are equally violations of the gift of individuality which is the very source of the blessing of ego.
Now that you’re out of Egypt— with Spring blossoming after the ego-devastation of winter— let your ego out! Enjoy your ego!
Perhaps a safe and spiritually productive “ego-trip” would be in order. A touch of Pharaoh is very human.
Ego is precious.
Ego is a blessing.
Ego will make you holy.
Remember the slogan of The Association for Universal Judaism. “Life is Holy. Celebrate”.
You can’t celebrate without an ego. There no celebration of life, without you!
Post-pesach blessings to all.
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
It is Chanukah. And while there are many legends associated with it, including
the most popular, and most believed-fact, that there was some kind of magical eight day
supply of oil for the Temple (There was not, according to the account in Maccabees, which
the rabbis did not include in our canon, because it was a bit too Greek), there is
I think, a FACT far more inspiring.
Greek custom had become “all the rage” in Judea, especially amongst the upper echelon
priests. All things Greek meant, truly, “cosmopolitan” in the original meaning of the word.
We were part of the world-cult of Greek culture, with its fashion, its budding philosophies,
and its delights— including the gymnasium, with its naked wrestling.
Greek culture became so biologized—or at least it was attempted so— that in order to wrestle
in the gymnasium, and not be glaringly Hebrew, because of that absence of a foreskin, a
little piece (pun intended) of cosmetic surgery was invented called an epispasm, which, quite
painfully, reconstructed the circumcised penis so that it appeared uncircumcised to the Greek eye.
These days, there are many foreign fads and foreign cults which are invading the world-consciousness.
Jews, who are now open to the world, with far less prejudice than any of our ancestors, are now
bombarded with this World Cult. The many potent and powerful and real Truths in the world culture,
are assimilating themselves into Jewish thinking— just as they have throughout the centuries when we imbibed Arabic, Christian, and other cultures. Indeed, our original Hebrew written characters,
paleo-Hebrew, is indistinguishable from Phoenician.
But, there are many true violations of the Hebrew consciousness. One of them, is that the
Cult of Humankind is not the same as the covenant, nor is it the same as the One God.
Now each, in a sense, is a “unity”, a unified humanity, a unity-of-humanity-with-God. But, our One God, is not merely the Redeemer of Israel and the world, but, more importantly, more foundationally,
more critically, THE CREATOR: The Creator is beyond the Cult. Beyond the covenant, in and of itself.
That which HAS PRIORITY (in the dual sense of importance, and possibly succession, depending on your view of “the big bang”) over any scale identifiable by our senses and mind. THAT is GOD- And even
if you do not believe in God (and I’m not certain what a “belief” is)—minimally, such a “placeholder”
for Something Beyond Us, must be held, logically and rationally, or we forfeit humility.
Now epispasm, per se, is not fundamentally different than wearing clothing that is “gentle inspired”,
and Jews are quite prominent in the clothing industry. It is no different than wearing a Turban if you
are one of the prominent Jewish advisors living in Moslem territories in the 9th century.
But— the question is, what is the value of the UNIQUE CULTURE which is Hebrew or Jewish?. Is there a
language it speaks which is different, even defiant when necessary, over the mainstream culture, and which is sacred:. an instrument by which knowledge of the One God is communicated, so that it
be known by cultures over the world, a Cosmic Entity beyond the cosmopolitan, truly beyond any
known universe, and culture which defines it for human beings, concretely!
The retention of the foreskin, when properly linked in devotion to THIS God, so that it becomes
an identity, through which the devotion of men to this God is anchored in the flesh, in their very manhood, — becomes a magnificent cultural language which communicates the unique enduring value of the Jew.
Now, you may know from other articles I’ve written, and from the “brand” of Universal Judaism,
that we do not REQUIRE circumcision. After all, so may circumcisions are just mere artifacts, and
have lost their devotional aspect or significance. To me, to allow the MERE rituals to be the SINE QUA NON of the Jew, so that we lose people, and potential new adherents (Yes, I’m not afraid of being open to converts), is an overstatement of meaning, at best. The circumcision, per se, is not the covenant.
So, as contemporary Jews, wearing our contemporary clothing, screaming with ecstasy at Hockey,
Basketball or Cricket games— we must ask the question: What is the LIMIT TO OUR FADS?
WHAT IS THE LIMIT TO THE CULTURAL AFFECTATIONS WE BORROW FROM OUR SURROUNDING
Universal Judaism adheres to the following perspective:
When there is a direct violation to the living purpose of the Jewish people by the ignoring of
a cultural ritual such as circumcision, or, because the cultural ritual, becoming lost in its significance, has become itself a violation to the living purpose of the Jewish people— we must ACT.
We must act like the Maccabees to overthrow the pig blood on our Temple Altar— not because it is
a pig. We must, like the Maccabees, reinstate circumcision, not because circumcision per se,
is an absolute-edict by our ancestral God.
We must act– whether by retaining circumicision or by finding other mechanisms– to restore the
TRUE PATH of the Jew.
I myself was recently called upon by a Russian Jewish family to provide a non-surgical circumcision.
The parents, though totally devoted Judaism, were not happy with the idea of “desecrating” the
baby’s body. Ironically, half their family, because of Soviet persecution, were uncircumcisized.
So, I created a BRIT SHABBAT, and used the other “sine qua non” of the Jew, that the rabbis
conceived of— and indeed, there is a debate which is more “Jewish”, circumicision or Shabbat.
I did not make the foreskin the criterion of the Jew, because then, I might lose the Jew,
and perhaps later on, a child who retains their foreskin. I acted with an eye for the future, not
short-sightedly, though not without significant criticism from many.
Any act, whether circumicizing, epismasm-ing, or uncircumcizing, can be SACRAMENTALIZED.
It is the consciousness of the Jew that needs to be built.
The ideal is of course that the ritual act and the purity of its meaning, should be bio-ontologized
AS the ritual that has properly distinguished us. But, that ideal is not necessary, and there are other
approaches that are sufficient to help build-up our people from the devastating effect of the World
Cult. In our era, it is not so much Greek, as Greco-Roman-Secular-Capitalist-Modern.
This Chanukah look at your life. Where have you taken the fads too far? When have you body pierced,
not for mere adornment, but as a desecration of the Holy Vessel, you were given? When have
you dressed merely to manipulate, sexually, another person, to satisfy your desires, without any
cognizance of their living souls, their sacredness as creations of God, Nature or “the universe”.
Look at your fads with the eye of Maccabee. ACT!
Light one candle, towards the reclaiming of your Jewish self.
Blessings and Light to everyone this Chanukah 5778.
Blessings and light.
I proclaim the end of religion on the Days of Awe. Is this apostasy?
Have I betrayed the Jewish People? Have I denied our history, our faith, our people by proclaiming the end of religion?
What kind of rabbi am I, to do such a thing? To disparage the countless generations of Jews who donned their tallit, and wore their equivalent of sneakers to Temple on the High Holidays?
A different one!
Did not God create, as Tractate Sanhedrin said, every human being to be unique? So please forgive me, as I proclaim uniquely my view. Whether you agree or not, whether I am “the rabbi” and you “the congregant” or not, is irrelevant, and implies no coercion of you on my part.
I proclaim the end of religion; the end of religion is the ultimate repentance of the Jewish people, if not all humankind.
Let’s start simply: Let us suppose I teach you a rule “thou shalt repent of one’s sins”. Now let me reinforce that rule, based upon the Edict of the Divine Being, Blessed Be His Holy Name. Now, let me declare that repenting of my sins is to be blessed, i.e. that one is rewarded by God for it. Now, let me declare its converse, that the non-repenting of my sins, is cursed by God, and I will be punished.
If I BELIEVE the above to be true— and one day, break the ritual of repentance—- and inwardly feel I am doing something wrongful–then, as not a few (Jewish?) psychoanalysts point out– a wrong thing may happen to me, a subconscious self-adjustment: I may sprain an ankle, or get a cold, to correct my own violation of my own inner belief, punishing myself, and believing it was “God”.
But, if I don’t believe the above to be true— and one day, I break
the law requiring repentance, then, I might discover that I have a perfectly glorious day, with no problems, and in fact, the law to repent, when broken, had no effect upon me whatsoever. In fact, I may hit the lottery that day. Then, religion has ended for me. I am no longer a puppet of God through religion’s requirements; God is no longer a tool of a religious elite establishment.
Then, I am left with God. I am naked before Him. Not the God of religion. The God of Life, Who IS, Life.
Does religionism bring one closer to God? NO! It brings one closer to religion. It brings it closer to the authority system that framed the particular religion we call “Judaism”. It is, when unkempt and overly-authoritative, dangerous. It needs to be repented of.
This harkens to what the brilliant philosopher Emmanuel Kant declared, when he asserted that the “categorical imperative”— acting as if your actions determined the destiny of a world— was deontological, that it had no relationship to cause and effect, and that it was to be done out of a sense of duty, religious or otherwise.
If indeed, there is no intrinsic reward or punishment, let us say to an act of repentance, then, such an act is a duty; one does it for a reason beyond receiving God’s blessings or curse. This was Kant’s position. Moral imperatives are duty— “mere” duty?
Consider the truly critical law, like “thou shalt not steal”.
Is the confession of such a sin, and the vacating of no longer stealing, just a religious duty, and has no intrinsic reward? A mere duty? Obviously, it is not. If one has been stealing, and ceases (repents) to steal, and commits to that within one’s community, the world is quite improved by one’s resolve.
I don’t believe obedience to a moral imperative is merely deontological. I believe it is more ontological: built into the cause and effect design of “How Life Works for Good”.
All this is why, it is critical to separate “religious law”, such as a law that requires repentance, from true “spiritual law”, which is the very act of repentance itself. Do you see? Religion teaches the reward for the behavior of performing the religious law, whereas true spirituality teaches the reward which comes from the actual behavior mandated by the law. Do you see the emphasis difference?
This is the cultic problem that the early Reformers understood, very intelligently, when they elevated the ethical as being universal law, and depreciated the ritual, as being formal, particularist, and not being binding.
They were not wrong; they were right. But, they were excessive.
Remove the Rabbinic cult of God’s reward or punishment in the olam ha ba, the world to come, for the performance of a mitzvah-–the Divinely-meted punishment for not performing the “duty”, and one still has something of tremendous value:
The reward for repentance of theft is an improved Life, i.e. blessings of good, i.e. “God”, to both you personally, and the entire society in which you participate. What’s left is something REAL! Beyond the excesses of authoritative religion! Not beholding to it, either. Obviously this is so— which is why non-religious secular societies affirm the value of “ceasing (repenting) to steal”. Even dislocated from the religious “God”, it has value under the REAL GOD, the God of Reality: “How Life Works for Good”, as we in Universal Judaism, proclaim. It has value even to the self-professed atheist! Belief has nothing to do with it! Religious doctrine does not define it. It is ontological: built into the structure of Reality, on our human scale.
If you don’t remove the cultic reward of heaven and earth, what you have is the worst aspect of religion, pure obsessive-compulsive disorder. You are told what to do. You believe it. You do it. You become enslaved by it. You lose your freedom. You punish yourself when you attempt to regain it. And a vicious cycle— like Lady MacBeth washing her hands— continues.
One loses God, because one has become so identified God with religion, that the loss of religion is the loss of God.
This Yom Kippur I proclaim the end of religion— AS WE KNOW IT!
I proclaim a Judaism which has not removed the value of repentance, for its positive cause and effect— ontological— to REAL human Life.
I proclaim the de-ontological DUTY of teaching that positive effect— by encouraging each and every person to repent of sloppy habits, to grow and to change. And here TRUE religion has value, but, it is not, ever its own value.
The punitive, dangerous psychologically-defective guilt-god, I do not proclaim. I repent of this god.
I fast from this god. A complete fast! It is not a fast of affliction. It is a fast FROM affliction, which is what a TRUE fast should be.
May each and every one of you have a light fast, if you still choose to do so.
Blessings and happiness for the New Year, and for your long, long Life ahead.
Are White People Superior?
As I sit in my armchair, completely amazed by the fact that the Nazi Swastika, and all its values, are still being seriously considered as human truth— and as I hear grown adults shouting “Jews cannot replace us”—- I must reflect a bit on the Swastika.
First let me say, all the shenanigans in Charlottesville, have indeed convinced me that White People are absolutely superior— when it comes to making fools of themselves.
Also, I’m not worried about Jews replacing so-called “White people”. After all, at a mere 1% most of the population, there are not enough of us go around. I’m more concerned about the fact that there are a lot more non-Jews around, and in fact, we can more easily be replaced. This is commonly called “assimilation”. So, “Gentiles cannot replace us”, I think is a legitimate chant, however equally-undignified, and bigoted, it might sound.
So, back to the Swastika. And the claim of the superiority of White People.
I’d like to reflect upon the Indian/Vedic legend of there being, at one time– in the oldest religious culture on Earth– a race of blond haired, and blue-eyed, Aryans. Yes, that’s where Hitler got it from, with a little help from Madame Blavatsky, and all the theosophists and occultists from the 19th century.
That’s also where Hitler got the Swastika, however, his Swastika went clockwise, not counter-clockwise.
Now, these things are very significant, and the place of the Hebrews on the religious historical continuum is critical here. It is, no doubt, why we continue to attract “Aryan” issues, as if we are a “FIRE WALL” against them.
The Vedic (pre Hindu) culture was very much naturalist. Nature was considered to be God. Since form follows spiritual, it would be perfectly understandable, if not predictive, that the height of natural evolution on the earth, might APPEAR to be, the blond and the blue-eyed. After all, the hair would mirror the sun. The blue would mirror the sky. The heavens would appear to be concentrated in the blond-blue-eyed human, as opposed to the darker-toned, who would be more earthly.
This is, of course, if “sky” is heaven, and “earth” is ground”. It’s a bit of a primitive notion.
But, cobble this with the fact that Western Civilization was often
white— it might easily have seemed to poor Adolph, that the natural TELOS to which human civilization is tending, which is the re-integration of ego-mind and nature (i.e. the Garden of Eden, healed), would therefore tend to the Teutonic/Nordic— as the actual healing of the world, if not, conceptually, “Christ”. Darker people would be subhuman relative to the “Aryan”.
And of course, since Hitler’s vision was not merely naturalist, but also historical, which he inherited from his Christian-Jewish roots, it made perfectly logical sense to reverse the counter-clock wise motion of the Swastika, and make it conscious, not unconscious, historical, not merely naturalist.
This is a lot of strange mythic “truth”, if you can call it that— for no one has ever actually SEEN an Aryan, or met one. It is almost as though there was a vision of the “hosts” concretized as “gods”, from which all the other varieties of mere mortals descended in a “fall from Grace”. It’s like Adam was blonde and blue eyed, and everyone else was a fallen-shade darker.
The important thing— indeed the critical thing is this:
The Hebrew viewpoint stands as the BASTION against this kind of racist naturalist-mythology. First, we do not worship the hosts. We are forbidden to. The sun and the moon are not gods and goddesses, but are simply luminaries placed there. Genesis demotes them.
Secondly, we do not worship earthly nature as the singular expression of Divinity on earth. Our culture is not merely naturalist.
Our culture is also materialist, ego-based, and historical. This does not deny the value of the natural: indeed, we retain our Shabbat. We have our solar calendar INTEGRATED with a lunar calendar, both male and female aspects. Hebrew culture simply requires that the natural, although a creation of God, must give way to human nature and our free will and dominion, radah, in Hebrew.
In short, we are not sub-ordinated to nature, nature is sub-ordinated to us.
Now, in this era, when the popular culture is calling for a “return to Nature”, with a depreciation of material industry, and all the “male” advancements of civilization— so called “tree hugger” mentality— that there might be an attempt to bolster (however ignorantly and violently) the Western-white-egoist force, against the excessive “hippie” naturalist element is understandable.
That the Jew would get messed up in this is understandable, since in the Pauline dialectic, Jews are identified with “the body”, i.e. nature.
But, we are not “of the body”. This is a lie!!! Our covenant goes way beyond the body.
The fact is, all these ideations are borderline psychotic, and yet, there is a certain measure of a larger truth that these ideations represent.
The fact is, human civilization longs to have its full play of ego, so as not to be merely restricted to the natural, like birds and bees. But, the fact is also, human civilization also must have the full support of nature on earth, or, we will destroy the air, the water, and the food supplies that keep our physical body fit and healthy.
The fact is also, that it is not the mere “naturalist criteria” of “sunlight” and “sky”, that measures the illumined man. We Jews
maintain that there is a SOUL, from a God that may include but is not merely earthly nature.
The SOUL of a black person or a white person, doesn’t have a pigmentation. The SOUL is not the SOL (i.e. the Sun).
What we are dealing with in this Nazi resurgence is a dangerous confusion of earthly naturalist criteria with spiritual imagination, and a terrible mixture of this with Western arrogance and economic militarism— once again— tied back to the dangerous myth of Christianity, that the Jew is the enemy (or primitive remnant) of Christendom, i.e. all civilization.
Yes, indeed, White People are superior. At being dangerous fools.
Let me be frank and cut to the point: If this movement strengthens— I hope we will take a lesson from history.
Take up arms, and in the name of God, wipe out
these “inferior souls.” (LOL!!!)
Blessings to all.
Let us ask a terrifying question. It is a terrifying question to many Jews, because
it goes to the very heart of the system of beliefs that constituted “Judaism”, as it was framed by the Blessed Rabbis of Memory.
Now, this is not to deny the gift of these Rabbis, nor is it, at all, to disparage the astonishing spiritual legacy they gave us, without which– and of which we cannot have doubt– the Jewish People would not have survived; we would have been absorbed into the currents of history, dissolved, indiscriminately, into “diaspora” of the world genome.
For so many millennia, Jews have held out for the rebuilding of the Temple,
and the reinstitution of animal sacrifice. This is ostensibly because many of the biblical mitzvot concern sacrifice and the Temple cult, and cannot be fulfilled unless the Temple is rebuilt. So, if the Temple is not rebuilt, and the mitzvot are not accomplished, there cannot be salvation, either for Israel or the entire world.
This is how the thinking goes.
This is the biblical “program” developed by the ancient Rabbis. The performance of the mitzvot led to salvation in the world to come. But, the performance of all the mitzvot could not take place until the Temple was rebuilt, animal sacrifice became revivified, and then, Israel could continue its history, and its role as a leader, in universal history.
This “program”, obviously, required us to return to Israel from our Diaspora, or, we could not rebuild the Temple. It was a brilliant, and defiant, insistence, that the insult of the Romans- (and earlier, the Babylonians)— would be thwarted, and rectified, and that the Jewish “moment” in our history, would be picked up upon and continued.
Alas, however, in the 2000+ years since the Roman invasion, times did change quite a bit. Christian culture evolved, and expressed what was essentially a Jewish Universal message, in the form of a “Roman-derived” and later Enlightenment culture, called Western Civilization. In this era, there were dramatic advances in philosophy and science, as well as human political rights, and, overall, an enormous convergence with essential Jewish beliefs. Jews participated in this movement, and in fact, the movement would have been unthinkable without Jews.
During this time, we considerably advanced beyond the sacrificial stage of needing to sanctify our dominion over the beasts, under God. Now, in our current age, we need to sanctify our dominion over matter itself– and correctly tame our instincts to self-sacrifice in nuclear annihilation.
Now the problem is, Western thought, although foundationally Jewish, is still alien. Many Muslims, who experienced similar Crusades as we, also feel the imposition of Western (i.e. foreign) thinking upon us. On some level, we were both “raped” into accepting it, and there is a part of us both, that refuses, out of self-respect and legitimate defiance, to fully “buy into” modernism.
So— it is perfectly understandable, why many of our Orthodox brethren insist, and keep insisting, to rebuild the Temple, and that they would refuse to accept the effect of alien cultures upon us. But, I do remind many here: Even the names of the months, as “Av”, are Babylonians. The purity of purity which we imagine we are, is not quite so pure if you look deeper.
For Universal Judaism, Tisha b’Av, is a remembrance of both the ancient Temples, because it is a remembrance of the Critical and Sacred Idea of Sovereignty. Each nation, like a collective individual, has its right to exist, to be itself, to have its own uniqueness under God. The sanctification of Sovereignty, which is no less than the notion of “free will” on the order of nations, is a sacred idea which we, during this sacred holiday, will explain and expound upon.
However, sovereignty does not require, defiantly, that we need to go back to a more primitive early stage of development, when torching the fat of kidneys
was the way to provide a “pleasing odour” to God.
All contemporary Jews need to strongly re-look at their reverence for the rebuilding of the Temple. Some may choose to keep this longing, as part of their cultural and emotional inheritance. But, I think, it is time to basically set it aside, and move forward into a different kind of future.
This does not mean we need to ignore, or desecrate the Temple Mount, nor
relinquish the meaning of the Kotel, let alone merely permit it as a Muslim shrine, since they are the dominant occupants there. No one’s memory and spiritual activities needs to be violated.
But, do we literally, factually, in real-three-dimensional time need to rebuild the Temple and start animal sacrifice again? Can we please remove some of the extreme biblicism that was part of the rabbis’ “program” to preserve us?
Sure, this Torah was back then, our “constitution”, and it still is— of sorts.
But today, this Torah is the inspiration for our constitution, as well as some other inspired ideas which we brought in from Greek, Ottoman and British legal insights as well. Israel today is a different Israel. Shouldn’t it be?
What is important– and it is a critical aspect of Sovereignty– is that every nation should Reign in Truth! And while Truth can be expressed through a scripture, and can be expressed by Illumined Rabbis of ages past and present, Truth cannot be contained by either one.
The fixity, and unrelenting desire to rebuild the Temple, is something that need no longer be a fixed-doctrine in today’s Judaism. It is time for it to be gently released, and go the way of killing someone for breaking the Sabbath.
Yes, this means retaining and reconceptualizing “Judaism”, in a way that retains the Essence of the great rabbinic “program”. Yes, this means CHANGE!!!
As my great teacher, Professor Ellis Rivkin, often said, “It is because Judaism changed that we survived. If we hadn’t changed, we would have died.”
Temples are built. Temples die. All things mortal change. The Temple, however
revered, is mortal. Change changes change.
Blessings to everyone; may we pray for the Sovereignty of Israel, as we
approach Tisha B’Av.
Shavuot, once a harvest festival, now represents the so-called
giving of the Torah. In synagogues all over the world, there is great joy and excitement, with Torah study going on all through the night, into the dawn– re-enacting the biblical tale of the Jews waiting at Mt. Sinai for the Torah to be revealed.
Such poetry is, of course, part of the Jewish experience, and I’m never one to shun the beauty of legends, even if factually untrue. The “rational” inheritance in modern branches of Judaism, such as classic Reform which is my formal legacy, sometimes did get a little overboard, stripping away sentiment, the heart-view of an event, and the mysteries of human interpretation, which become legends–. even legends treated, over time, as fact.
Now, if you’ve been following our little blog, you will know that I am not Orthodox. I am observant in the literal meaning of the world: I look. I observe. I see how Life works. I study it. I study myself. Over time, it is actually possible– and prolonged meditation can help– to actually begin to discern “How God Works for Good”, i.e. to have an experience of God.
This is the result of being truly observant. One learns the laws from Life!
Indeed, one can have a personal revelation, and begin to fathom, personally, some of the spiritual experiences that are underneath the recorded Torah. This is possible! The proof of this assertion is only in the under-taking of this.
However, this kind of personal revelation, which is very real, and which can dawn upon anyone who chooses to be diligent enough to pursue it, is not the kind of “bells and whistle”, or rather “lightning striking” revelation of the legend of Sinai.
I am not, at all, a believer in the facticity of this event. To believe this event, use it as a justification for the transmission of authority, eventually to the rabbis, sets up “religion”. And, while it may seem a contradiction, I am not a religious rabbi. Religion, to me, is a secondary phenomena! Life is first.
The true revelation of Life, the ability to actually raise one’s consciousness, as if on a mount top, and begin to glean the deep, astronishing order of how Life works, the intricate workings of middah kneged middah (measure for measure, sowing or reaping, karma, if you prefer), IS Sinai. And because such an experience may be had, one need not, in principle doubt that there might be prophet, such as a Moses, who could possibly have gleaned this knowledge and promulgated.
The legend about revelation may be exaggeration, but, it has a basis in spiritual experience, in spiritual FACT.
The story of the receiving of the Torah on Sinai, may not be fact, as we record it, but, this does not mean it is empty of TRUTH.. It is unfortunate, that the distinction between Truth and Fact, is all too readily blurred.
There is Truth in fiction, sometimes, in fact, more than in fact! Because embedded in the hearts of writers, including redactors of the Torah, is a spiritual power– of human insight and meaning– which, released from the prison of fact, can take flight, and sometimes fancy, and transfigure the mere event into a living symbol, something worthy of veneration, such as a Shavuot “all nighter”, even if it is “rationally” not rational.
This brings me to the point I want to make.
It is extremely sad that many liberal religionists wish to strip away all the beauty and poetry, and attempt to reduce Judaism simply to what is knowable, quantifiable as if that is what so-called “science” is.
But— that is NOT science. Science too has inspiration. Science too can have sudden “AHA’S”.
It is the opening up the depth and breadth of the human being that is the foundation of both religion and science.
Universal Judaism teaches a scientific spirituality. It is taught systematically. It is taught by putting Life first– because we know THAT is REAL (and if we don’t believe it to be real, what is the point!)— and then traditional teachings second. But, that being done, the traditional teachings are looked at for the meaning, the insight, and the tool that they can be for the transfiguration of the baser elements of the human nature, into more exalted natures: To raise us from the dust of the desert, to the top of a mountain!
If Moses can have a halo— if that is truly possible— then, WE can have a halo, or halos do not exist, unless we are not human, or Moses isn’t one too. The test of the truth of religion, no less than the test of truth in any scientific experiment is repeatability of experience— the ability to repeat a spiritual experience recorded, systematically, and consensually (meaning multiple people, multiple viewpoints in agreement).
For practitioners of Universal Judaism, Shavuot is a Yom Kabbalat, a day ofenlightenment, a Yom Chochmat, a day of Wisdom. It celebrates the human
facility to study the mechanisms of life, and clean general principles, be they some scientific “law”, like E=MC2 or some kind of a moral “law”, like Thou Shalt Not Murder.
So, in this sense, it is very fitting that Shavuot began as a harvest festival.
But, in a more abstract, more rarified, way– the harvest is now KNOWLEDGE.
It can take quite a lot of toiling in the field-of-mind, to bring back a harvest of knowledge. But, it is upon knowledge that any ESSENTAL Judaism must be
based. Not mere reverential knowledge from the past, but, Living Knowledge.
Please do not seek religion. SEEK KNOWLEDGE which is the foundation
of any religion worth its truth-claims.. If they don’t have knowledge, don’t go
Blessings to everyone,