Archive for the ‘Deep Ecumenism’ Category

For Tisha B’av

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Click here for Hebrew text. Please consider this prayer composed by Reb Zalman for your Tisha B’av (freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman).

[During the time before there was a State of Israel, those ideals in our hearts which we tried to practice and which we wanted others to practice seemed not achievable where we were because, we felt we had no influence over our world where we were. And so, the longing for our homeland was tied into the longing for our dreams and our vision.

Now that the state of Israel is with us, our dreams and our visions still remain distant from our lives and therefore when we say the Tisha B’av prayers we need to remind ourselves of the distance between that which we would have in this world and that which we do have.]

May the One who knows of our wishes for a better world, and Who sees the longing and sadness that we hold in our hearts and the brokenness that we encounter in our lives, dear Yah our God, please comfort us. We are in mourning for the loss of Your chosen House, special place. We grieve the holiness that once could reach to us from without and which held us up as we lived our lives. Dear Yah, comfort especially those who are so broken by the world that they’ve become bitter and alienated from the holiness they could love, but have lost touch with because of its remoteness from them. And comfort those who reside in Yerushalayim because they feel these things more acutely and basically than we; residents of Yerushalayim, the capital of the state of Israel which is the place from where the first signs of our redemption begin; the city also called Al Quds, the holy place for Palestinians. Please may there be quiet and ease. Please assuage their anger and reduce their terror of being attacked. Please pour down to them a spirit of wisdom and the wherewithal to support one another, that one reaches out one to another with words of respect and honor. Please establish in support of them the bringing about of a government of ease and calm in which the representatives of the people treat one another with honesty and integrity.

Please comfort us Yah, haEl haGadol haGibor v’haNora, with that holy vision of a House of prayer for all peoples. Place into our hearts, feelings of respect and kinship for one another, one Law, one nation with everyone joining and being aware that they are Your creation, oh Yah, and that You are their Creator and, may Your glory be entreated, may it come about that we are all entreating and praying and hoping through the various hymns which will be united into a psalm, a song for a time that is completely Shabbos / full of peace and calm. May it be Your will, dear God, that the souls of all who enter the gates of the Holy city may be refreshed with complete ease, doubly consoled. Baruch atah yah, who comforts Zion and builds Yerushalayim, Ir Hashalom, Yerushat haolom / Jerusalem, city of peace, world’s legacy.


Balak: Alienation and Curses

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Click here to read original Hebrew text.

The Israelites had recently destroyed the two Amorite kingdoms of Sichon and Og and were coming to the Land. The Torah says,

(‘ויגר מואב מפני העם מאד כי רב הוא ויקץ מפני בני ישראל, (במדבר כ”ב ג  / And the king of Moab felt like he had become an alien in his own land as Israel advanced and, he was stressed and felt that the end of his culture and traditions was imminent because Israel, that nation which had recently received the Torah, was nearby (Numbers 22:3). They had some new and powerful energy they were bringing with them.

The word used to describe how he felt, ויגר, is typically translated as “he became terrified“, but in terms of its root, it is also connected to the feeling of an outsider. One who experiences himself as an outsider is apt to feel paranoid or disoriented. One feels excluded from an inner circle. This is the feeling that Balak may have had.

כי רב הוא  / For they were numerous. Another interpretation is that their energy was powerful, that Israel was on its way and its culture and traditions were so great that those of Balak would be overrun. Balak was afraid of being invaded on many levels and he was concerned that he would feel as a marginalized non-Jew might feel in a Jewish land.


Paying Teshuvah Forward

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The following is based on a Hebrew Text from Reb Zalman’s Sefer, Yishmiru Daat.  Click here for Reb Zalman’s text in Hebrew.  Rebuking a person can help him onto a path of Teshuvah, which begins to effect repair for the sin.  (Freely translated by Gabbai Seth Fishman)

The Torah states: “Be sure to rebuke et amitecha / your fellow group member and don’t bear a sin through him.” (Leviticus 19:17)

When a person does something wrong and we witness it, then the person is to be rebuked.  When we close our eyes to the sins of others and avoid dealing with the anxiety or stress we may feel in taking a stand, then we are being passive to the situation.  The rebuking can be a very important thing to the person, the group and the world. Let’s look more closely at how it can help.


A More Historical and Universal “Al HaNissim”

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

For a copy of Reb Zalman’s Al HaNissim:  Click HERE.  For a copy of Reb Zalman’s Maoz Tzur: Click HERE.  

Reb Zalman explains:  “The way the story gets told, we Jews and the Helenists are implacable enemies even to this day. As we are to understand it, the Maccabees were the good guys and we must still pursue their path of unremitting warfare against the spirit of Helenist assimilation just as our ancestors. Had we not then resisted the pressures of the Helenists and the culture of the Greeks, we would surely by now have ceased to be a people and a religion. Those were the impure ones and we were the pure, those were the wicked ones and we the good.

“Therefore, consistent with the way this story has been told, we long ago set the following into our traditional Siddur and have recited thus for centuries:

בִּימֵי מַתִּתְיָֽהוּ בֶּן יוֹחָנָן כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל, חַשְׁמוֹנָאִי וּבָנָיו, כְּשֶׁעָמְדָה מַלְכוּת יָוָן הָרְשָׁעָה עַל עַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהַשְׁכִּיחָם תּוֹרָתֶֽךָ, וּלְהַעֲבִירָם מֵחֻקֵּי רְצוֹנֶֽךָ, וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶֽיךָ הָרַבִּים עָמַֽדְתָּ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם, רַֽבְתָּ אֶת רִיבָם, דַּֽנְתָּ אֶת דִּינָם, נָקַֽמְתָּ אֶת נִקְמָתָם, מָסַֽרְתָּ גִּבּוֹרִים בְּיַד חַלָּשִׁים, וְרַבִּים בְּיַד מְעַטִּים, וּטְמֵאִים בְּיַד טְהוֹרִים, וּרְשָׁעִים בְּיַד צַדִּיקִים, וְזֵדִים בְּיַד עוֹסְקֵי תוֹרָתֶֽךָ. וּלְךָ עָשִֽׂיתָ שֵׁם גָּדוֹל וְקָדוֹשׁ בְּעוֹלָמֶֽךָ, וּלְעַמְּךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל עָשִֽׂיתָ תְּשׁוּעָה גְדוֹלָה וּפֻרְקָן כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. וְאַחַר כֵּן בָּֽאוּ בָנֶֽיךָ לִדְבִיר בֵּיתֶֽךָ, וּפִנּוּ אֶת הֵיכָלֶֽךָ, וְטִהֲרוּ אֶת מִקְדָּשֶֽׁךָ, וְהִדְלִֽיקוּ נֵרוֹת בְּחַצְרוֹת קָדְשֶֽׁךָ, וְקָבְעוּ שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי חֲנֻכָּה אֵֽלּוּ, לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל.

Traditional Translation: “In the days of Mattisyahu, the son of Yochanan, the High Priest, the Hasmonean, and his sons- when the wicked Greek kingdom rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and compel them to stray from the statutes of Your Will – You in Your great mercy stood up for them in the time of their distress. You took up their grievance, judged their claim, and avenged their wrong. You delivered the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton into the hands of the dilligent students of Your Torah. For Yourself You made a great and holy Name in Your world, and for Your people Israel you worked a great victory and salvation as this very day. Thereafter, Your children came to the Holy of Holies of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified the site of Your Holiness and kindled light in the Courtyards of Your Sanctuary; and they established these eight days of Chanukah to express thanks and praise to Your great Name.

Reb Zalman:  “This, then is the traditional text, but I can no longer recite them in this form and have revised the prayer as follows:

עַל הַנִיסִים וכו’
בִּימֵי מַתִּיתְיָהוּ כֹּהֵן גָדוֹל חַשְׁמוֹנָאִי וּבָנָיו כְּשְׁעָמְדָה עֲלֵיהֶם מַלְכוּת אַנְטִיוֹכוֹס הָרָשָׁע וּבִקֵשׁ לַעֲקוֹר אֶת אֱמוּנָתֵינוּ וְדָתֵינוּ וְהֵצֵרוּ לָנוּ וְכָבְשׁוּ אֶת הֵיכָלֵנוּ טִמְאוּ אֶת מִקְדָשֵׁנוּ: אָז קָמוּ נֶגְדָם הַסִידֶיךָ וְכֹהֲנֶיךָ וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים, עָמַדְתָּ לָהֶם בְּעֵת צָרָתָם, רַבְתָּ אֶת רִיבָם נָקַמְתָּ אֶת נִקְמָתָם וְהָיִיתָ בְּעֶזְרָתָם לְהִתְגַבֵּר עֲלֵיהֶם וּלְטַהֵר אֶת הַמִקְדָשׁ. מִּתוֹךְ גַעְגֲוּעִים לְהַשְׁרָאֲתְךָ רָצוּ לְהַדְלִיק אֶת הַמְנוֹרָה הַטְהוֹרָה וְלֹא מָצְאוּ שֶׁמֶן עַד שֶׁהוֹרֵתָ לָהֶם שֶׁמֶן טָהוֹר לְיוֹם אֶחָד. בְּבִטָחוֹן הִדְלִיקוּ אֶת הַמְנוֹרָה וְאַתָּה עָשִׂיתָ לָהֶם נֵס וָפֶלֶא וְהַשֶׁמֶן לֹא הִפְסִיק עַד שֶׁעָשׂוּ מֵחָדָשׁ. וקָבְעוּ שְׁמוֹנַת יְמֵי חֲנוּכָּה אֵלוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵרוֹת לְפִרְסוּם הַנֵס לְהוֹדוֹת בְּהַלֵל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָדוֹל וְהַקָדוֹשׁ עַל נִיסֶיךָ וְעַל נִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ וְעַל יְשׁוּעָתֶיךָ.

In the days of Matityahu, High priest, and his sons, when there arose against them the reign of wicked Antiochus who sought to uproot our faith and law, oppressing us, they conquered our Temple and desecrated our sanctuary: Then there arose, against them, Your devout priests, and You, in Your great compassion, stood by them, in their troubles, waging their wars, avenging their pain, helping them to overcome Antiochus’ forces and to purify the sanctuary. Amidst their longing for Your Presence among them, they sought to kindle the pure lamps and, not finding enough pure oil, You led them to find some, just enough for one day. In trust, they kindled the Lamp, and You miraculously made the oil last until they could make some afresh. Then did they set these days of Hanukkah to lighting candles, to chanting the Hallel, in gratitude to Your great reputation for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvation.

“In the meantime, we have learned some things that have committed us to a more historical and universal outlook. We realize that the Maccabean victors usurped the high priesthood of the Zaddokite priests, who then had to flee the Maccabees and retire into the Judean desert. The grandchildren of the Maccabean victors bore Greek names. During that time, a flourishing community existed in Alexandria and Greek words crept into the Midrash and much else into our Jewish consciousness.”

Or Chadash Siddur (1989): From the Preface

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Tamid Echad / Always and Forever one.  There is a unity that extends throughout creation.

Our teacher, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Shlita launched the Jewish Renewal Movement in line with this ancient principle of unity among creation.

Reb Zalman:

“Often, when people begin conversations and they want to say ‘Our community does Judaism like this,’ and others say, ‘Ours does it like that.  Ours is different,’ and I want to say, ‘No.  Tamid Echad / Always and forever one.’ …  This oneness goes through history and it goes through Klal Yisroel / all the God wrestlers with whom we feel we share. [It goes through our connection to other religions too,] and the commonality also extends beyond human beings:  We share with the birds, we share with the mammals, [with] the chimpanzees (who [have been shown to be able to] learn how to speak to each other in American Sign Language and then pass it on to the next generation).  And when I watch the geese and the little goslings down at the lake, they also connect me with the oneness of it all.”  [From Reb Zalman, “Renewal is not Judaism-lite“, 1998]

There is an attitude in many communities, (and into which, I’m sure, each of us may sometimes lapse), which says, “We think our way is better than others’ ways.  We prefer ours.  We do not agree with the others and the way they do things.”

In 1989, Reb Zalman took aim at this way of thinking and wrote a wonderful text to encourage detractors to the Or Chadash Siddur to look with a right kind of understanding and attitude.  It was included as a Preface in the Siddur which was first published that year by ALEPH–Alliance for Jewish Renewal, (then called P’nai Or.)

Here is a freely rendered English translation from Reb Zalman’s original Rabbinic-style Hebrew.  The text was targeted at Orthodox Rabbonim and skeptics everywhere.

(NOTE: A link to the original Hebrew text is included here.
Introduction and Translation by Gabbai Seth Fishman BLOG Editor):

For Intolerance Regarding New Practices In Prayer

It is the responsibility of leadership in every generation to remove stumbling blocks from paths provided for seekers of Hashem.  The needs of the faith community have dramatically changed.  In our generation, many of the paths to Heaven that used to work very well in the past, don’t work any more.  Why is that?  For several reasons:

  1. The holy souls who perished in the Holocaust didn’t have their prayers answered by God.  How can we expect that God will listen to our prayers, especially if those who were more observant than we were killed?
  2. Great changes have come about in life principles we hold dear, in our ways of thinking, in the ways we see reality and in the qualities of our existence.


For Thanksgiving from Reb Zalman

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Thanksgiving is just about here. Many of us will have a festive meal.

But the important part is that at this dinner we should invite some needy people so that we might feed them.

It is also important before Birkhat Hamazon, the grace after meals, to count our blessings and to give thanks to God.

Based on the model that we have for Hanukkah and Purim I have written an insert prayer to include both in the Amidah (click here to download) as well as in the Birkhat Hamazon (click here to download) and I offer this as a suggestion for your Thanksgiving celebration.

Blessings for health, peace of mind and prosperity,

Reb Zalman

Reb Zalman on YouTube

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

A quick survey of YouTube returns a long list of videos featuring Reb Zalman.  They are listed here in the following categories:

Jewish Renewal, Organismic Paradigm, Reb Zalman Davvenen, Inner Life, KavvanahCalendar/Lifecycle,  Intimacy and Spirit, From Age-ing to Sage-ing, Deep Ecumenism, Tshuvah,  Reminiscences, Psychedelics, Communities.

With gratitude to the many videographers, (most notably, Rabbi Sarah Leah).

Jewish Renewal

Hello Renewal
Reb Zalman reviews his legacy
What is Jewish Renewal?
Renewal Visions for future
Renewal Visions for future 2

Organismic Paradigm

We are just a cell
Shifting toward healing the planet


Tour of Reb Zalman’s davvenen space
Putting on the tallis
Praising with Heart and Flesh
Andalucian Zikr

Inner Life

In Your Blessed Hands
Covenant is unique to yiddishkeit
Rosh Hashanah inner work
Rosh Hashanah inner work 2
Freeze-dried Psalm 23 as Reb Zalman heats it up
Affirmations and Jew-ing
Interpersonal aspects of the inner life
Reb Zalman’s legacy of increasing attunement
Using the imagination, Baal Shem Tov and Star Trek
On relating to God during prayer and role of ego
On Avot 1:14
The Baal Shem‘s Spirit

  • Kiss of God, shmooze with Father Thomas Keating, descriptions of closeness with God that they share

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5


Reb Zalman’s Thanksgiving Insert

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I have always thought of Thanksgiving as a Jewish holiday.

Each year, I have made a pilgrimage to my family and gathered with my extended family and friends for a joyous celebration. 

And so, it feels like a blessing to me to have Reb Zalman’s new texts for the prayers of this day.

It is his suggestion to us for our Thanksgiving day, which he bases upon the formula of the insert-prayer we already have for Hanukkah and Purim.  It is to be included in Hebrew or English as part of the Amidah / eighteen benedictions and in the Birkhat Hamazon / food blessings to be recited after the festive meal.

An additional text provided in the link above is a hymn which, it seems to me, can be sung in a spirit of deep ecumenism with the traditional Christian melody at our Jewish celebrations (“We gather together,” etc.).  Or alternatively, it will also work sung to your favorite Yigdal.

Giving thanks is very Jewish.  Please consider these texts as part of your celebration this year

Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

A Whole-Hearted Retreat

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Dear Friends:

I want to let you know about a wonderful four-day event that will be coming to Boulder, Colorado this October, 2010.

Reb Zalman Schachter, Rev Matthew Fox and Reggie Ray “will engage us in in-depth conversations and practices that offer new life to the spiritual journey.”

Referring to the upcoming event, Rev Matthew Fox writes,

“I look forward to this experience to plant real seeds for the future evolution of humanity and spirituality and the gathering of deep wisdom from three of the world’s great spiritual wells.”

To learn more, and to register, please visit

Here’s the brochure:


Mah Tovu: An Organismic Whole

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

The following comes from Reb Zalman on this week’s Torah portion, Balak.  [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman

When Balak called on Bilaam to come and curse the people, 

Balak, as we get it  from the Torah, was an Aramean, because Pethor, the city where Balaam was, was near the Euphrates and not quite where the Moabite country was.

[NOTE:  Numbers 22:5, “Balak sent messengers to … Pethor, which is by the river of the land of his people.”]

now there are several words being used for curse:

The Zohar has a remarkable thing about how Balak was a magician. 

[NOTE:  Zohar Balak (3:184b) states that Balak was called “ben Tzipor because he would use a bird as a means to perform his magic and he also understood wisdom by way of a bird.]

For Balak, there was something impossible at that point about handling the Jewish people’s presence, and therefore, he wanted to have a kind of curse put on.  Not everybody believes that verbal curses or magic and voodoo can really influence things, but this is exactly what Balak wanted; he really believed that curses work.

The lightest curse is kal, l-kalel, which comes from “making light off,” and just sort of like, “insulting.”

The next one is arur which is really much stronger.  And it was this second kind of curse, arur, that Balak wanted to do. 

Aror is to remove the protection from somebody.  A person under the influence of a curse of Arur will not then be protected.  Then, the karmic power that was to have taken vengeance on a person is able to do so.