Aquarian Birth Pangs

In 1991, Reb Zalman taught a class at the Kallah entitled, “Renewal Is Not Heresy:  Where we differ from the Sabbatians.”  A revised version of the original transcript is still available from Aleph as, “Renewal Is Judaism Now.” 

 Here’s the introduction to the shiur:

“Jewish Renewal speaks of paradigm shifts and reformatting our tradition.  We are rooted in Hassidism; we are influenced by the tradition; and at the same time, we participate in consciously reinterpreting our relationship to it. 

“Hassidism was not understood at its inception.  It was lumped with the movement that had been associated with Shabbetai Zvi. 

“In these sessions, we will compare and contrast the theological, psychological and cosmological foundations of our current self-understanding.”

It was an amazing class.  It was as if God had hired Reb Zalman to faciliate at a summit strategy session for Judaism.  The CEO, (HaShem, Yitbarach), invited us to participate in the creation of an updated vision statement for Moshiach.  All were invited, because God wants our input.  

There was something in the air in 1991 still left over from the sixties; a sense that infrastructure of religions, governments and institutions was up for reshaping. 

 In the first class, Reb Zalman laid out the task.  Here’s some more excerpts:

“Jews in the United States and elsewhere are hungry and thirsty for Jewish Renewal.  They don’t even know an option such as ours exists, that such conversation is happening, that there are serious people who are saying we have to move Judaism from its duality to a monistic way, from hierarchical to organismic.  We are a big secret, unknown to the masses of Jews of birth, affiliation and affinity…

“According to the new paradigm, everything happens in a system:  Christianity and Judaism are happening in a system and the system is Gaia, the system is this planet, the planet is alive, and the moment you start making that shift, to say, “The planet is alive and I am a cell of the living planet,” then you get to the place that, when you say, “Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu melech haolam,” you cannot help but speak in Gaian terms.  Melech haolam:  I’m not addressing God on the solar scale, or the galactic or cosmic God-scale:  I’m addressing at the Earth God.  That’s about as far as I can really go. 

“I know, “Es passt nicht (it isn’t proper!)” – after Maimonides I have to talk to God on the omni-omni-omni-scale every day.  But the time-scale in which we live and die has to do with Gaia.  Just look at time-scales and you’ll see what I’m saying.  There’s ‘charms,’ all those little sub-atomic particles that have a life of nano-seconds and then they don’t exist anymore.  But there’s no communication to their time-line.  And there’s other levels too with which I can’t communicate.  Take, for example the sun.  It takes the sun 360 million years to revolve once around the galaxy.  So from a perspective in the life of the star, ‘Sun’, that being, that vast consciousness that represents sun, with that I have no magga umassa / no contact.  I can’t even speak about it and call it Atzilut-  I don’t know what to call it.  It’s beyond already.  So because it’s a vast consciousness system and a time-scale to which I have really no connection, my connection in one way in which it can be good is through melech haolam to Earth. 

“What I’m saying now sounds like terrible heresy, but I want to make the case from the traditional model in which Moshiach is always against the evil side and will finally yivola hamavet lanetzach – swallow up death forever – and all the bad ones will get what’s coming to them, l’olam vaed (forever and ever), and they will enter the aish of Gehinnom (fire of purgatory) and the like.  That kind of Moshiach I can’t sustain for myself. 

“So we have to come from that dualistic place to a monistic place, and that does two things:  It keeps the messianic dream alive because we need it- it’s a live part- it also remains Jewish, and at the same time, it serves the next thing the planet needs to go through.  And to create that theology so that you [can] massage the differences between them, so that you have compatible files… 

“Can we- many say we  can’t- reformat Jewish tradition in such a way that the files will be compatible, [so] that in the 21st century people will be able to boot a Talmud and still be able to draw something out of it?  Or, do we have to junk a lot of stuff? 

“I would at least dream of the messianic spark that operates in me- the Moshiach at whose service I want to be…

“In evolution, there are stages.  The stages are when we can see abrupt differences- that’s how we notice that it was a stage…

“I want you to have Moshiach in your vocabulary- at least in such a way that that ideal that you want to forge for yourself as a mensch (good person), as a Jew, as a person in the world, as a Rabbi- that ideal I want you to be able to become…”

Reb Zalman then drilled down into the detail, identifying guidelines and criteria for a Moshiach-vision, and then had participants use it like a workshop to create the vision.  Re-reading through the original transcript, I have to say that the people in the room were brilliant. Many have gone on to become leaders of the Jewish community and the world today.

May we all continue the holy work of shaping the Moshiach-zeit of tomorrow.

Good Shabbos, Gabbai Seth Fishman (BLOG Editor)

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