Archive for the ‘Deep Ecumenism’ Category

Tu Bishvat: Our Gaian Yom Tov

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Tu Bishvat / the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat is The New Year of the Trees.  This year, the holiday begins tonight, Sunday, February 8, 2009.  Here are some thoughts from Reb Zalman, on this holiday, “Our Gaian Yom Tov.” 

Tu Bishvat: Our Gaian Yom Tov
by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

I thought that I was glad to see
a beautiful Midrash in a tree…

When we sing the Torah back to the aron hakodesh / the holy ark, the sentence we use in our song talks of a tree:

Etz Hayim Hi / she is a tree of life,
lamahaziqim bah / to those who hold onto her

The “Tree of life” is generally thought to refer to the Torah. However, the context of this sentence from its source in the Book of Proverbs, [Proverbs 3:18], refers it to Hokhmah / Wisdom, Sophia.

If Torah and Hokhmah are synonymous, then it doesn’t matter which of them one has in mind.  But our Sages, of blessed memory, did not see Hokhmah and Torah synonymously:  They saw Hokhmah as something universal, something in common and shared by non-Jew and Jew alike; in contrast, Torah was seen as something only for Jews.  So first, for Tu Bishvat, I want to talk about Etz Hayyim, i.e., Hokhmah.


Renewal is not Judaism-Lite

Friday, January 30th, 2009

This wonderful and inspiring talk of Reb Zalman’s, originally given in the late 1990’s, can be found on the  Yishmiru Daat dvd, available from Aleph Resources.  It paints a picture of Reb Zalman’s role in the shaping of Jewish Renewal in our time.  Enjoy!  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.

Renewal Is Not Judaism-Lite
by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi


Tamid Echad / Always and Forever One
Not Judaism-Lite
Holocaust Losses
Kumran USA
Religious Environmentalist
The Havurah Movement and the Jewish Catalogue
Jewish Renewal Gains Momentum
My Teachers
Focus: Restoration or Renewal?
Internalizing the Renewal of Judaism
A Renewal Mashal / Analogy
Renewal Is Not Heresy
Building a Future
Loving Jews and Loving All
From Empathy to Compassion
Investing in Shaping the God-field
The lamed-vavniker‘s Curriculum
Paradigm Shift
Moral/Faith Development
Soul and Mind Development
Ger Tzedek, Ger Toshav
Recharging our Souls in Israel
Internationlization of Renewal
A Renewed Halachah
In Conclusion


Reb Zalman’s Thanksgiving Prayer

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Dear Friends:

Here’s a copy of Reb Zalman’s wonderful insert to birkat hamazon / grace after meals, for your Thanksgiving celebrations:

Tanksgiv All The Boona

It’s a beautiful prayer that will add a Jewish touch to your Thanksgiving celebration this year.  

At the same time, we need to also reinforce the notion that it would be unkosher for us to behave as some say the Europeans did as they settled in America.  

Here’s an excerpt from Reb Zalman’s book, Integral Halachah where he lists the non-negotiables, the anchors of a Halachah for our time:



Sunday, October 19th, 2008

A question answered during Reb Zalman’s Ohalah talk shows a way for us to think of mashiach-zeit / world redemption.  On Hoshanah Rabbah / the Great Please Save day (today), we will pray in our Sukkah-s asking God to bring about that which we all need, which the world needs.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“The whole mythic element of where the third Temple is and how it’s going to be dealt with…  I know there are some people who are kohanim / descendants of Aaron who are preparing to offer animal sacrifices, and after what we’ve been through with the plant in Iowa, I just don’t feel that I want to talk about a third Temple in this way.

“And if there’s a third Temple in which ki beisi beis t’fillah lichol ha-amim / For my House is a House of prayer for all people, so I would want to say, mi-mizrach shemesh ad mivo’o m’hullal shem hashem / From the dawn’s,  sun’s rising unto his homecoming past the dusk, Yah’s repute is constantly celebrated. 

The third temple is the planet sanctified and healed!  That’s the way I’d want to say it.

“And if there is that planet sanctified and healed somewhere in the future, I want to be mamshiv, I want to draw down to us right now that vibe that comes from that. 

“And when on Yom Kippur we’re going to go into the kodshe kodoshim / holy of holies it should feel like not a limited place but makom ha’aron eyno min hamidah / place of the ark which has no measure, i.e. in a place that can’t even be measured [because we will feel the sense of expansiveness in our awarenesses, and a union with all creatures, with one another, with our mother the planet and with God].

Prayers for the Ninth of Av

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Dear Friends:  The three weeks of mourning are coming and the 9th of Av.  For the 9th of Av, we read Eicha and we add a paragraph to the Mincha Amidah Bonay Yerushalayim that tugs at our heart-strings and puts us in a  mindset of a bygone era when Jerusalem lay in ruins and we were victimized.  Reb Zalman offers an alternative to this paragraph you will find below in Hebrew and English and he explains: 

“Jerusalem is not the tragic heap of rubble strewn with corpses described in the Nachem prayer of the Minchah Amidah of Tishah b’av. I also do not think that it is yet the time to recite the Hallel that would befit the Mashiach‘s birthday celebration.” 

He has found a middle place.  Stay open to the possibility of common ground.  Use this period as a time for inner work of repair and moving our world upward toward redemption, ken y’hi ratzon bimhera v’yameinu, amein.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.

Comfort, Yah our God, those who mourn Your sacred House; those who feel their own losses and the lost lives of their loved ones; those who live in Jerusalem, promised to be the City of Peace, the beginning of the total redemption. Although the Holy City is now in the hands of Israel, there is fear of violent attack in the hearts of her inhabitants. While other nations have yet to consent to her integrity, we Jews have yet to learn to live in peace with each other, with our neighbors and with other religions and peoples who claim their share in her.

Comfort us, Yah, Great God, awesome One, with that holy vision of the House of Prayer for all Peoples. Place into our hearts, feelings of respect and kinship of each people and creed for its counterpart. May we all become aware that we are Your creation and that Your Glory is exalted through diverse hymns which form harmonies to the Anthem of the Sabbath. May it be granted us that anyone entering the gates of the Holy City be fully comforted, doubly consoled!

We praise You Yah, Who, while consoling Zion, builds Jerusalem!  AMEN!

“I vividly remember the Ninth of Av after Jerusalem was reunited (5727/1967). I was at an Orthodox  synagogue.  The Rabbi was a friend and colleague.  After leading the congregation in the Ma’ariv / evening prayer, and after the reading of Eychah / Book of Lamentations, he announced he was now going home to celebrate with a festive dinner in honor of the shift that had taken place.


Psychic Cleaning for Tzoris

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Here’s another piece from Reb Zalman’s Yishmru Da’at work, from the section on Purim.  Blessings to you and yours, Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“Blot out the memory of Amalek” (Deut: 25:19),
meaning that from the memory of Amalek [having hurt you], you must be purified from all unclean pain, [i.e., pain plus lost confidence, or pain plus self-blame, or pain plus irrational fear, etc.], so that you can stay in touch with your real situation at present.  [Being more in touch] will, in turn, enable you to understand choices for further action in your struggles with the enemy.  And if there has been no introspection and examination  regarding the enemy, you must purify from complex, past pain.  It may have come from an enemy other [than your present one], or it may have come from conditions of other times or places which may not be directly connected to the present [attacks].  Since our having been attacked [means] we were in proximity with oppressors, blot out their names, and we should regard them as the Inquisition that came to remove us from society and to extinguish our spirit, (as in the example of Hanukkah), or the oppressors who came to annihilate our bodies, (as Haman on Purim).


Replacing Doubt With Clarity

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

This is a translation of the first section on Purim from Reb Zalman’s book Yishmru Da’at available from Aleph.  The Hebrew text is found after the English below.  Happy Purim.  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

“Remember what Amalek did to you…  He chilled you on the way – put you down…  When [God] will grant you rest…  Blot out the memory of Amalek… Don’t Forget.”  (Deut 25;17,18,19)

“Blot out the memory of Amalek…”  That is, no memory of Amalek shall remain with you.  And at the same time, “Don’t forget?”  It’s strange.  How can we remove our memory of him and yet not forget him?  Why it’s a contradiction!  A paradox that can’t be understood on face value.  And so it raises safeq / doubt regarding this commandment.

How to explain? Like so:  Amalek in numerical value is safeq / doubt. 

70 (ayin) + 40 (mem) + 30 (lamed) + 100 (kuf) = 60 (Samech) + 80 (feh) + 100 (kuf)

And what main doubt [is Amalek’s legacy]?  In everyone, there is a deep-seated urge for self-destruction, to sabotage oneself, stemming from [the angel’s] strong arguments [as to why mankind should not happen], and Azael, and as written in the section on Yom Kippur in the Sefer Beit Yaakov (Izhbitze).  This accusation [against mankind] is found in the Christian “Original Sin,” the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. 


Accidental Oops-es of God?

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

The following is from “For Jacob Arnold Wolf’s Festschrift” Gabbai Seth Fishman (BLOG Editor)

Reb Zalman says: 

“In the early 1960’s, before I had fully realized I was a post-Triumphalist, I wrote a sliding scale concerning participation in other religions and Kashrut / degrees of permittedness from a Jewish perspective. 

“For example, it had Sufism on the same level as eating a salad in a non Kosher restaurant served on a glass or paper plate and Satanism on the same level as eating pork on Yom Kippur. Non-iconic forms of Vedanta, Quakerism and Buddhism came out closer to the Kosher side, like a vegetable soup in regular china with non kosher flatware, while high iconic Christianity and Hinduism were more like eating non-kosher beef.  It was a pretty good attempt that still may have some mileage in it for triumphalist restorationists. 

“Then and now, I believed in the workings of Divine Providence, in the way Hassidism teach it, Hashgachah pratit / a specific Divine Providence, one that ordains even how a leaf falls.

“So I had to also entertain the idea that this same Divine Providence had produced a Buddha, a Lao Tzu. 

“Could I say that just as we consider our own Rebbes to be N’shamot Klaliyot / exalted souls encompassing the souls of many, that these were not the same?  Were they just accidental oops-es of God?


Envisioning Success in Annapolis

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

From Reb Zalman: 

“It seems to me that all of us need to exert our hope and faith for the success of the negotiations in Annapolis this week.  We should hold the image of a Middle East that has healed from its deep wounds.  On both sides the narrative has to be changed radically. 

“The atavistic reinforcement of reptilian brain reactivity cannot be changed by the mere ‘rational’ cortex language, the type of language that will be used during that conference.  

“It is not likely that the shift will happen without a spiritual transparency to the will of God and the healing of the planet. 

“There’s a missing ingredient, not to be found in any discussions of the peace issue from either side.  That ingredient is the recognition of a benefit of having the other as neighbor.

“At the moment, the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank (also, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon), do not seem to see any benefit in having the democratic state of Israel as a neighbor in their midst.  And Israel also does not seem to see a benefit of having an Arab/Muslim/Palestinian state as an intrinsic entity either.

“Until this vision is added added, the discussions will lack something crucial, negatively influencing the likelihood of a peaceful outcome. 


Jerusalem And The Complete Redemption

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

Referring to the recent move for dividing Jerusalem into two capitals, Reb Zalman writes:  “Today there seems to be a gathering momentum for various schemes to divide/share Jerusalem between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. The current political vision is somehow awkward in comparison to what I wrote in 1967 and published in my Paradigm Shift. Had we acted then, so much bloodshed could have been prevented. It would pay to keep this vision in mind and to massage it to the current situation.”

When the 1967 article was published in 1993, Reb Zalman wrote the following introduction:  “This article, not accepted by several Jewish journals in May 1967, was written in response to the gathering clouds of the 1967 war. It was written about the same time as my response to Richard Rubenstein‘s “Homeland and Holocaust” that appeared in The Religious Situation, 1968. There I wrote, among other things, a proposal that we set aside one penny per gallon of gas to contribute to the United Jewish Appeal to be earmarked for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees.

“The United Nations is today not the instrument it could have become then. Perhaps in the current conflicts about the territories, we are approaching another nexus for rethinking these issues.”

What follows is a reprint of Reb Zalman’s 1967 article:


Jerusalem must be internationalized. This is the burden of these lines. The purpose of an internationalized Jerusalem is to make it possible for the Jews to keep Jerusalem, while at the same time opening the way for the complete redemption.

There are many intoxicants in humanity’s blood. Some of them are the result of the inhalation or ingestion of foreign substances; others are the result of experiences lived through. Pride, victory, and success create such intoxicants, and the voice that tries to speak a sobering word is shouted down.

This is an attempt to say a sobering word in the service of the same objectives that most Jews hold. Perhaps all we wish to do is to extend the aims and to make more feasible a long-range view of peace in the Middle East, along with the redemption of Israel and all nations.