Moshe Kibeyl Torah beSinai – ‘Moses received the law at Sinai’. Never has a phrase so challenged and retarded us in our history. It is not the phrase itself, but our reading of it that caused such a problem. There are those who hold that the entire Torah was received, including the Talmud. The problems this view has created are manifold, including stopping us moving forward. That there was a revelation that transformed our collective sub-conscious at ‘Sinai’ is a part of the mythos of our people. This mythological event was a transformative part of our psyche. It enshrined a new relationship with the Divine. Yet, was it the same revelation as the one we have now. ‘Would Moshe come to Shacharit and lay Tefillin?’ Clearly not, but we need to be aware that things have not always been as they are now.
This was the period of the Bayit Rosh, or the
It took the first exile to
With the fall of the
This pattern of challenge and change was to continue, through the rise and fall of Al Andalus (Moorish Spain), the Baal Shem Tov’s Hassidic revelation, and the Ben Ish Hai in
The pattern of history seemed set like the course of a river, but an avalanche was about to rock that course to its core. To understate the influence of the Shoah, or the Holocaust upon the Jewish psyche is to do it an injustice. It has defined our history for the entire second half of the 20th century. Our responsa to it has been varied.
The last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Schneerson established his outreach to fulfill his aim of ‘chadesh yameinu k-kedem’ –‘renew our days as they were before’. This is a society ruled by a Beth Din, or Religious Court of Law. (Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi, Renewal is Judaism Now, p28)
This mission statement meant that they [Chabad – a popular name for the Lubavitcher Hassidic Movement] sought, and seeks to recreate a world that belonged to an earlier paradigm, or model. In trying to heal the injury done by the Shoah, the last Lubavitcher Rebbe sought to ‘turn the clock back’. The reality was however that this ideal (and in his mind, Hassidic Orthodox) was beginning to crack. In a city of such deep seated orthodoxy as
This Reform shule [Yiddish for synagogue] would have followed the German Reform Movement, that beacon of Progressive Judaism was slash-burnt to the ground in the ovens of the death camps. Chabad and their ilk could claim the past, because so many of the Hassidic dynasties escaped in the early years of the Shoah. The only ‘Reform’ voices were mainly American Reform. The voices of a new consciousness rooted in a Hassidic and mystical culture who embraced a Progressive and egalitarian vision had been silenced. American Reform just could not speak this language, and Progressive visions of the future Judaism languished in a ‘rationalist’ agenda that spoke more of Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson that the Baal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Isaac Luria. Many Jews of Orthodox upbringing could not feel ‘comfortable’ in a world were halacha and chassidut were seen as quaint parts of our history.
The years after WWII where a whirlwind of activity for world Jewry. Simply rebuilding our numbers and supporting a besieged
In the 1960’s a great shift in consciousness began in the West. The wisdom of the East, and especially
As the Orthodox Rabbinate became more Haredi than Dati (ultra-observant rather than observantly religious), and these mainly Chabad trained Rabonim moved into communities unable to hire a Rabbi, with all the support structures of the Chabad Outreach arm, the discourse of Orthodoxy became increasingly fundamentalist. The rebuilding of the shtetl was happening in people’s minds. Rabonim who could hardly pass a secular high school curriculum, yet highly steeped in Talmud took up communal leadership. These poorly educated Rabonim were leading congregations that were made up of highly educated Jews, and their children who were already manifesting the Paradigm Shift in the wider community. The result, many left observant Judaism and all looked bleak.
Young people growing up in this milieu were at a crisis point. Was there a future of Judaism? What were the choices? American style Reform, or observant Hassidic Orthodoxy seemed to be the only voices coming to the table for most Jews seeking to reconnect. Conservative Judaism was undergoing a struggle between reformers and traditionalists.
But Rabbi’s Schachter-Shalomi and Carlbach were engaging in a dialogue with modernity. They offered the gifts of tradition, mysticism, song, and joy via there various gifts. Reb Wolf-Blank was creating a nascent community of brave spiritual pioneers in the Aquarian Minyan and the ideological and philosophical birth of Renewal emerged.
Meanwhile Israeli Backpackers were carrying cassettes of Rabbi Carlbach, Sephardi Israeli music and the growing Kabbalah was beginning to enter the parlance of Western Jewry. As Israelis began to move into Jewish communities a living Hebrew culture was made immediate and relevant to many young Jews, Havurot began to form. These synagogues without allegiance to any particular movement began to transform the Jewish landscape. Progressive Judaism in all its forms was beginning to flow back to
Jewish Renewal began to form, and its ideas began to imbue the consciousness of the Jewish psyche. A Progressive Judaism did not have to be secular Judaism. Some of the great voices in this new Progressivism were the new wave of women Rabonim. These women brought a world of observance back into the Jewish lexicon of Progressive and Conservative Jews.
We are now 40-50 years into this evolution. Waves of Jewish teachers, Rabonim, and philosophers have returned home. Many converts who bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and culture made the broth richer.
The Reconstructionist movement, whose founder Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan ordained the first woman Rabbi in the 1930’s as well creating an operating system for negotiating modernity joined the Progressive Union. This body is undergoing massive evolution and many of these Reconstructionist Rabonim share Jewish Renewal influences, if not outright membership. Sephardim who were also Progressive are increasingly having their voices heard creating a diverse and emerging new set of voices in the choir of the Jewish people.
Joseph Campbell stated that western Judeo-Christian myth was essentially a dialogue of divorce. (Masks of G-d, DVD from VHS 1989) Its terms of reference worked well 3000 years ago, but were worn out. What were needed were new ‘prophets’ who would breathe new life into the spiritual dynamo of Judaism.
In the Tibetan tradition, the great teacher Guru Padmasambhava was said to hide termas, or treasures. These termas where spiritual treasures meant for a future age so that the tradition could speak for a new age. These termas must meet a few criterion. They cannot refute what came before them. They must bring a new consciousness to flower. They also must gather a community of practitioners to bring life to this new spiritual paradigm. They in essence bring about a paradigm shift. These treasure finders are honored with the title to Terton. Some of these treasures included ritual objects, sacred texts and the most precious of all the mind termas. Treasures that matured in the mind of the teacher. They all shared in one quality. They provided a path to freedom. The way home!
Many faiths have their Tertons: Zoroaster, Socrates, Taliesin, Apollonius of Tyana, the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Quetzalcoatl, White Feather Francis of Assisi, and the list goes on. Judaism has had its share to Tertons. Avraham Avinu, Joseph haNavi, Moshe Rabbeinu, Yochanan ben Zakai, Maimonides, Baal Shem Tov, Mordecai Kaplan, Rav Kook to name just a few.
Grounded in Chassidut, Kabbalah and Torah learning, Rav Zalman Schachter-Schalomi found a treasure mature in his mind. This treasure was the Paradigm Shift. This revelation taught that we need to expand our model, creating a Cosmic Judaism. A Judaism that can live with Quantum String Theory, Evolution, Feminism, and GLBT rights. Instead of creating a world of the past, he conceived of a Judaism Now. Others gathered, thirsty for this new Kiddush.
With his Credo of a Modern Kabbalist (2004) and Jewish with Feeling 2005, Reb Zalman and Jewish Renewal became a part of the mainstream Jewish world. The Paradigm Shift became a part of the Jewish story. Around this time Kabbalah became part of popular culture and a Paradigm Shift Kabbalah emerged. Rav Luria, the ‘father’ of Kabbalah revealed this system in response to the fall of Al Andalus (Moorish Spain). This system was taken up to bleak Eastern Europe in the world of the Mussar Movement (a legalistic moralism that flourished in
We live in world were the old sureties are no longer applicable. We have changed, and the Paradigm Shift is here.
The Paradigm Shift is a time of birth, of renewal and of transformation. It is an expression of the universe’s yearning to ascend upwards. Paradigm Shift Kabbalah, Halacha, and Judaism are part of that vision of Reb Zalman’s for a ‘sky-like’ Judaism. With the other leaders of Jewish Renewal such as Rabbi’s Marcia Prager, David Cooper and Debra Orenstein a new wave of spiritualized Judaism is emerging. This Paradigm Shift opens up new paths rooted in the old.
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