Archive for the ‘Reb Zalman says’ Category

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

Yom Kippur Blessings

Friday, September 21st, 2012

[NOTE:  This piece is based on a Hebrew text of Reb Zalman’s which you can read here.] 

For through the agency of this day, I will atone for you – – before YHVH you will be purified from all your sins.

This is the sentence that invites us to the work of Yom Kippur.

For through the agency of this day: There are teachings in the Kabbalah that point to God investing Him/Herself into the time of the 26 hours of Yom Kippur to effect the atonement for us.  How 26 hours?  Because we add an hour before and an hour after.  Why 26?  It is the numerical value of the divine name, YHVH.  It is love begetting a response of love, 13 + 13 = 26, (13 is the numerical value of love, Ahavah).

before YHVH: I.e., Keter.  In Leviticus, the Bible tells us that we had to take two goats of equally high quality and cast lots to decide which of them was to be offered to God and which was to be sent to Azazel.  It is a puzzling passage because, while most everything that was to be put as a sacrifice to God was very precisely prescribed, in this situation, it was undetermined; by bringing in the casting of lots, the decision was left to the very last moment.  Why this uncertainty? It seems that we wanted to reach into a place beyond any polarity of good and evil, that our esoteric visionaries realized that in order to radically transform a difficult situation it was necessary to reach so high into the infinite that the transformation would be brought about.  In the Kabbalah, such a rung is called Keter, the Crown.  The accumulation of the sins of an entire year would create a heavy burden for us were it not for our pleading with God to draw down for us an at-one-ment from a source that transcends all polarities so it could act as a source of grace.  Such a source is implied by the phrase before YHVH, i.e. a source before/beyond YHVH.  Your transgressions will be atoned for you from this source.


For Rosh Hashanah (Zeh Hayom)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Here is a translation of Reb Zalman’s Rosh Hashanah piece, published before in its original Hebrew here.

“This day is [the anniversary of] the start of Your handiwork, a remembrance of the first day.”

Much is written on these verses and to this, behold, I add, from what Hashem has graced me about this current age, as it is written, “You are all standing this day,” in our era at which time even we, who are on the level of “your water drawers” or “your woodcutters”, the entire leadership of Israel during the days of ikvata d’mashicha relies on us holding it up.

And as is put forward in sefarim, the point of Rosh Hashanah is binyan hamalchut as we pray, “reign over the whole world in Your dignity.” And besides what one needs to be in shofar blowing, (simple strain of “Father, merciful father”), there is much else that is cast our way from the level of itaruta d’l’tata / arousal from below, that is begun for us in the month of Elul which begins with [Aleph Lamed] Ani Ldodi V‘dodi Li / I am my beloved’s – in arousal from below, – and so too the month of Tishrei, i.e. they begin from the end of the alphabet – going upwards — TavShinReishKuf and after, V’dodi Li / my beloved is mine.

And what is our role? To raise Binyan hamalchut! “Pronounce before me verses of malchuyot, etc” (in order to make me your Sovereign) and through this we arouse the Divine will to be our king for another year. And some particular efforts on our part are needed to make us worthy of this service.


An Organismic Way to Reality

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

A different and organismic way to understand the Sparks and other Kabbalistic Ideas

In order to have a better reality map, I look at the terminology of the Kabbalah and then I ask – “Do its teachings relate to the quantum field?”

A [key] question [of one’s reality map] is, “What is it that the soul intuited and came to [see as] knowledge?”

The soul’s intuition (and Kabbalah’s) is of a spiritual totality which happens in the right hemisphere of the brain where representation is not done through words.  However, in order to remember what I have experienced I have to tell it to myself in the verbal/conceptual language of the left hemisphere.  For this, I have to find some words.

If I try to teach anything of Kabbalah to you,  I know that I have to use words to make myself understood.  On your part, I need to invite you to stretch from the words into what the words contained in their inner meaning. My challenge in the communication is in trying to describe something for which there is not a good vocabulary.

Therefore, to explain Kabbalah we borrow vocabulary from left-brain philosophy. Unless we learn how to hear what is behind these words and to find and attune the reality in the words to the vibratory regions of consciousness to which they refer, the words will not convey the reality that lies behind them.

Remember that  all descriptions from mysticism are translations from the experienced reality. The reality was experienced and made conscious by the right brain sensors in a simultaneous way with all the inherent paradoxes occurring to  one in that consciousness in a parallel fashion. However, the only way that theophany is forwarded to the left brain is in serial fashion – one word at a time.

Unless you, the recipient, are able to somewhat restructure the information — by emulating the parallel manner of the original intuitive experience and by making way for incorporating the paradoxes through disconnecting the censor who waylays the information with its protestations of “contradiction!”  — then the communication of the right brain will seem worthless and ridiculous.


Isabella Freedman Retreat Center Touches Us

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Click here to watch Reb Zalman’s comments on Avot 1:14.

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



Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Reb Zalman sends the following reading for Yom Kippur.  It was written pre-1989, when Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal was known as B’nai Or.  [NOTES by Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor.]

This age cries out for the need to create new God-Names and to make peace with the old ones.  We are doing binyan hamalchut, (i.e., “building the Kingdom”, establishing the God-field), not just for Rosh Hashanah, but an entire eon — to help God-Birth.  When people davven from a siddur in a thousand years time, Whom do we want the people to be addressing?  Which God-Name?

This agecf., Reb Zalman’s book, Paradigm Shift and elsewhere: Gaia, Holocaust, Moon Walk, etc., radical changes to the underpinnings of the Judaism rooted in older paradigms from other times.
create new God-Names:  God-names are created out of the idea of the holy and our holy experience, (see below).]

Rudolph Otto, who sought to understand the idea of the holy, found himself led to a traditional Yom Kippur service in a North African synagogue. Seeing the sincere prayer attitude of the worshippers, he was caught up in their fervor.  His book, The Idea of the Holy, was an outcome of his experience. He describes the attraction of the Mysterium Fascinans, something like the Burning Bush beckoning to approach God and the Mysterium Tremendum that overwhelms one, threatens to be fatal and demands that one remove one’s shoes from off one’s feet (Na’alekha – your lock that holds you captive to your regel – foot, – your habits – hergel)

Mysterium Fascinans and Mysterium Tremendum:  Different mysteries, one beckoning, the other frightening:  Aspects of holiness.
Remove shoes from feet:  From Exodus 3:5, שׁל נעליך מעל רגליך  / take your shoes off your feet, can be easily bent to match Reb Zalman’s interpretation of Kol Nidre:  “The sacred moment of Kol Nidre is our opportunity to delete habitual  programs, (מנעולך/ your lock, הרגל/ habit), those patterns and behaviors which we would do well to unleash.”]


Tshuvah: Lessons from the Computer

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

What we can learn about Tshuvah from the computer

You work on your computer and you are happy with the computer’s performance but, over time, you begin to notice that the response time has gotten worse. So, you wonder, what can you do to return the computer to its previous performance?

This has happened with its being used: You were constantly using it all year and, over that time, there was “junk” accumulating somewhere behind the desktop. You acquired several “temporary files” and “cookies”. When you were making one-time stops at certain sites, they left these files on your computer and, when you did lookups in Google, you got the answers but, you didn’t count on what else you would be getting; and when you looked at particular advertisements or, you bought something over the web, the company you dealt with also left something and, you don’t need these. Then, there were some spy-ware infestations. Some of what happened was observable; you could see some of it just looking at the sidebars your web browser presented, and perhaps even some content of your e-mail was viewed by someone other than the intended recipient: So, it is time to remove “infestations”.

And not to mention, your hard drive has become fragmented. A single file that stored something you had in your word processor has splintered. It is important to defragment the drive so that the computer will not have to keep looking all over to put your files back together: So another thing you will take care of is the optimization of your disk performance.

And there’s another reason why your computer no longer works as quickly: You’ve started using more programs and you are needing more memory to run them. So the programs have started swapping out memory and using more hard drive.  In addition, there are errors in the registry that have crept in over time.  So you want to correct these problems and defrag the registry. And filenames became corrupted, invalid and unused shortcuts should be removed.


Recalibration on Yom Kippur

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Historically, Yom Kippur is the day when we actually received the Torah, though many of us would think of Shavuot as the time. [NOTE:  cf, Rashi on Exodus 33:11.]

Forty days after the Shavuot of that first year of leaving Egypt, the first time Moshe brought down the tablets, we had already worshipped the golden calf.  So we did not receive the Torah then.  Because of our having worshipped the calf, Moshe had to intercede for forty days so we might be forgiven and then, another forty:  From the first day of Ellul to Yom Kippur, when he brought down the tablets with the words, I have forgiven salachti Kid’varecha.

So the Torah that we actually receive came with a willingness on the part of the divine attribute of justice to be lenient and to forgive.

This understanding is pivotal in our attitude to Torah and her Commandments.  [NOTE: I.e., although we have made mistakes, God will not abandon us.]

When many people think of Torah and mitzvot in terms of an unforgiving strictness here we are saying in our view of history that the Torah comes with forgiveness.

We’re dealing with two obstacles [to connection].  We think that:

  1. We will never be forgiven, [NOTE: Why try to be good because we will fail] or,
  2. we don’t need to do anything in order to be forgiven; Yom Kippur will do it all for us.

In both cases, the fact that we need to do teshuvah in order for forgiveness to work is overlooked.  So when we go this year to celebrate Yom Kippur we have to see in it:

  • The celebration of reconciliation with God.

And that reconciliation is the product of our recalibrating the course of our life to be in greater harmony with the purpose for which we were created as well as the divine willingness to receive our Tshuvah.