Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Wrappings for God

Sunday, April 7th, 2019

Reb Zalman, a’h was asked: “When you come before God. I wonder, what is that ‘God’ to you? Who is this that you come before? And what is that like?”

Here’s his reply:

Ok. It’s such a good question!

And I want to say that at another time I was describing how William James, the great psychologist who wrote about varieties of religious experience, one day made his way and came to a town in New England and, he asked one of the wardens of the church, “Who is God for you? What do you place yourself in front of?”

He answered: “An oblong blur.”

Now he was talking to a New England transcendentalist who was very much afraid to say anything of shape because that’s a “no-no.”

The mistake is that the head has to know there’s no shape. But the heart has to have a root-metaphor.

I can be in a monistic place in my head but I can’t be in a monistic place in my heart. In my heart I have to have the other whom I love. That’s where I’m in the I/Thou relationship.

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For Leonard Bernstein’s 100th Birthday

Sunday, August 26th, 2018

As yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of the great Leonard Bernstein (a’h), I am sharing this link to his December 1989 performance of Candide:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMIzHnyuiNY

Bernstein was a “Hasid” in the sense that he helped many of us through his art and his genius and his struggles with Emunah / Faith. Please read his opening remarks, transcribed below, from this wonderful performance:

Surprise!

My dear friends, I hear you thinking, “Here comes the old professor to lecture us again!” But I promise to be brief and only [speak] by way of introduction.

The reason I feel I should say a few words… , that I ought to say something, is that for more than thirty years, (thirty-five years to be exact), people have asked me, “Why Candide; whither and whence Candide?” And I thought I might answer a little more clearly by speaking not only as the composer of this work, but as an every-day observer of history – like anyone here – and particularly of that period of history known as “The Age of Enlightenment”, roughly the eighteenth century, which was the century in which Voltaire lived, wrote, and in which he had extraordinary influence.

His masterpiece was a tough, skinny little novella, called “Candide” which inspired the playwright Lilian Helman and me to have a bash at it musically.

Voltaire’s book was actually entitled, “Candide or Optimism,” it being a viciously satirical attack on a prevalent philosophical system known as “Optimism” which was based on the rather indigestible writings of a certain Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and popularized by our own beloved Alexander Pope.

For example, in this great line from his “Essay on Man”:

“One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right.”

Now according to Leibniz, whose ideas Pope was lyricizing, if we believe in a Creator, then He must be a GOOD Creator, and the greatest of all possible Creators and therefore could have created only the best of all possible worlds; in other words, everything that is, is right.

Granted that in this world the innocent are mindlessly slaughtered and that crime mostly goes unpunished, and that there is disease and death and poverty but, if we could only see the whole picture, the divine, universal plan, then we would understand that whatever happens is for the best!

Thus spake Leibniz.

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The Fourth Turning

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

This is Reb Zalman, a’h, speaking at Naropa University on April 9th, 2014, just before his passing, sharing thoughts on updating of traditions. Whether Jewish, Buddhist, or JUBU, his words are very powerful. The “Town Hall conversation” video can be watched here on Naropa’s Youtube page. [Transcribed and Edited by Gabbai Seth Fishman]

The Fourth Turning

Table of Contents:

Welcome!

Making a Space
Remembering Rinpoche
A Fourth Turning of Buddhism
Re-Programming Tradition
Words/Experience
The Four Noble Truths
Source of Compassion
Awakening Awareness
Organismic Reality Map
Collaboration
World-Enchantment
Art, Music, Celebration
L-Chayyim!
From a Conversation with Reggie Ray
Inner Part
Imagine!
Innovate!
Tune In Subtle Vibrations
Body Types
Stories
Patience
Hothousing Spirituality
Blessings

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Why Theologians Have Trouble with Prayer

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

In the final public lecture of his life which you can read here, Reb Zalman, (a’h) said:

You will see: The more you do it, there will be a moment of the breakthrough that you will have the sense that ‘Ah! Today, not only did I talk to God; today I knew that I was heard by God and I was given back an answer!’, though not necessarily in words. So keep trying that. I wrote a piece called ‘Why Theologians Have Trouble with Prayer,’ and if you write to me, I’ll send it to you so you’ll see it’s all laid out there.

Here is the referenced piece so that your Pesach will bring some mamash DavvenenGabbai Seth Fishman

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Why Theologians Have Such Trouble With Prayer
By Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
of Blessed Memory

The more conceptually correct and abstract the notion of God is for the theologian, the harder it is for him/her to pray.

It has been my good fortune to meet and share with great theologians; with philosophers of religion. When we spoke about the conceptual, the intellectual realms, we were in great harmony. And with those who were in touch with the spirit of the times and had, within themselves, made the paradigm shift away from triumphalism and the mechanical reality map and onto a Gaian perspective, having a sense of the quantum realities, the zero point field, string theory or even developmental theologies such as Teilhard DeChardin’s evolution of creation growing toward God, or with those people who had traced the evolution of God ideas over time, when it came to discussing prayer beyond its psychological benefit for the individual, they could not meet me in a place where there was ontic facticity to the One who hears the prayer; nor could we connect on the real/empirical efficacy of prayer.

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