A Renewed Jewish Credo

The following is from Reb Zalman’s 1991 shiur "Renewal is Not Heresy" during which participants worked on envisioning a Judaism of the future.  The shiur is now available from Aleph under the title "Renewal Is Judaism Now."  Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor Reb Zalman says:

"We have a consensus that, by and large, is tacit, not explicit.  And there is a process which fuels the consensus of who we are.  "The consensus has energy that wants the tikkun / the repair of broken things and it wants to bring these things about, the new possibilities of integration, and it wants to use whatever tools and magic it has to bring these things about.   "The agreements are formed very often by something like gossip.  There is a power-with situation that is governed by the "gossip’s" flow in a community.  And that gossip determines, to a large extent, what the consensus of the pious will be.  "The conventional wisdom underlying that consensus is taken for granted by the participants who are shaping the consensus.  There is a certain kind of agreement that floats in the air.  The agreement is the template of society.  It is a conventional wisdom through which the consensus is sort of programmed.  "Mordechai Kaplan helped us see that we are no longer operating with unconscious re-interpretation.  We are aware of what we are doing when we are doing it.   "For example, we do not tell ourselves that what Albert Einstein said is what Moishe Rabbeinu really meant when he taught us the Torah.  When we say that what Einstein said is what Moishe really meant, we add that this is a a drosh / an interpretation.  And reinterpretations happen for everyone as cosmologies change and they give us pause.   Because if our institutions don’t reflect the new cosmologies, then we are faced with a gap between our beliefs and our institutions. "I want to find out the consensus of our committed so that I can help accelerate the closing of this gap.  Rather than being implicit, I want to make the consensus of our commitment explicit. 

(NOTE:  Please share something of your implicit conventional wisdoms at the end of the article.  Gabbai Seth)

"Please review the list I’ve compiled below.  I call it, "Desiderata for an ani ma’amin" / must-haves for a credo.  "It includes the three ikorim / principles that are non-negotiables: 1) There is a God; 2) There is revelation and 3) There is reward and punishment.  These three are very old and were considered requirements for any system to be a religious one.  Then the Rambam / Maimonides took them to the Thirteen Principles of Faith.  It was the architecture, the very basis of what a Jew should know, the ground. "For me, we must ensure the possibility for at least seven stages of faith-development as Fowler talks about, that people go through this thing in growth, that an ani maamin will have possibilities for chinuch / developmental stages and at the same time for a person who is on a plane where monistic meditation is possible for him. "Read over the list.  And if there are other ingredients than these that occur to you, please share them.  Your ideas should be things real for you in the sense that you experience it as a real God-connection.  But keep in mind that we are looking specifically for Jewish experiences, so limit your sharings to things that will keep our Jewish ‘organ’ unique vis-a-vis the body of Gaia within the organism of humanity and the whole world.

Desiderata for an Ani Ma’amin / Must-haves for a Credo (NOTE:  Explanations from the original shiur have been expanded with material from "Integral Halachah: Transcending and Including," available from Aleph, plus Reb Zalman’s 1994 lecture "The Next Rung."  Gabbai Seth) 1. Epistemological.

Figure out the appropriate range. If you make the range so narrow that you can’t accommodate klal yisrael  / the totality of the Jewish people and their myriad perspectives, you’re going to have trouble. On the other hand, if you make the range so wide that there is no longer any membrane separating this organ from the other organs, you also have a problem. The truth is not contained in one degree of truth only. We all feel this in ourselves: A day truth is not like a night truth, a morning truth is not like an afternoon truth. They have different textures.

2. Multi-level.

Kabbalah is part of it. What else needs to be part of it for you in order that you should have a sense of a true ani maamin / credo / belief? What else needs to be part of it? If you have something, please share.

3. Both "God is all there is" and "All there is is God"

It can make of God not less than pantheism.  It can make of God not more than radical inorganic monism.  In the midst of radical immanence it must have something of transcendence.  Both "God is all there is" and "All there is is God." A radical monism is different from a monotheistic religion which can still have God as the out there, up there object/being and there’s only one of Him out there.  We are saying now, "No.  Monism.  We are part of That and That is part of us."  There should be a sense that a cognitive mass of monistic experience coming out of a pantheistic thing will shine through your words when you share here.

4. The Anthropic Principle / Adam Kadmon / Personhood

Anthropic Principle is a term that Steven Hawking uses in his understanding that matter couldn’t have ever existed if from the moment of its creation, it hadn’t somehow had human awareness connected with it.  The whole I-thou possibility was first conceived at the moment the notion of Adam Kadmon / ur-person occurred to God.  The nub of person-hood is that mystery of "I, person, can experience."  It brings one to the “Descartes place:”  cogito ergo sum / I think, therefore I am.  One is aware of one’s existence.  One can experience.  This arises from its very inception in ayn sof / pure divinity.  So when Descartes said "cogito ergo sum," which he claims is a proof for him of God’s existence, this is the same as the way in which adam kadmon arises in the godhead.   

5. Our time and space scale

We relate to a Gaian God, Melech HaOlam / the world’s mover and shaker.  Remember that our scale of observation is quite small when compared with a scale of all creation.  There’s only a small arena of observation that matters to us.  On the atomic level, there’s hardly a difference between feces and food; with an observation from the atomic level, one wouldn’t know which to flush and which to eat.  Similarly, moving up to the cosmic level, one could not differentiate these two things, when, e.g. one looked at each from the moon.  Only at a certain level of observation, i.e., the level we find ourselves, can a difference be discerned.   

6. the issue of Torah / Revelation

If it is going to be a revelation, it has to be an act of love.  Ahavat olam beis yisrael / An eternal love for the house of Israel.  Ahavah rabba ahavtanu, torah umitzvot, chukim, u’mishpatim / You have loved us with a great love [giving us] torah, commandments, laws, etc.  Love in Assiyah is gravity.  Two bodies in space attract each other.  The law of gravity is so basic to the universe.  Two bodies attract each other.  Revelation has to be that way too.  It is developmental.  We aren’t finished yet and we may never be finished.  We are the medium of God’s self-knowledge.  Torah manifests first and foremost in nature.   

7. Israel

We are a specific organ in the whole body of creation, but not the only one.  We are a vital organ that needs the other vital organs too.  The earliest separations were necessary for our development, but our special task as Jews is to do something with time, with Shabbos / Sabbath, with life- and year-cycles and rhythms, with how we learn Torah and the tension between our understanding and agreeing. 

8. Shabbos / Sabbath

It’s clear to those of us who have had a stikele Shabbos / a morsel of Sabbath-rest in our life that one of the crucial elements of the divine interface of the Tzimtzum / Contraction is a Shabbosdike / Sabbath-like face of G-d, i.e. observance of shabbat is an essential element of the interface for connecting with God.  Shabbos along with davvenen / prayer and meditation is a gate toward larger consciousness and transformation.  When I make kiddush / sanctify the wine on Friday night, I want to go into neshama yitera / elevated soul-space of shabbatU’vayom hash’vii shavat vayinafash / "and on the seventh day God rested and was refreshed" is a very strong part of the Jewish thing, and we want to keep it that way.

9. Kashrut / dietary laws and the proper use of the planet

Kashrut has to be in some way a part of Israel’s practice.  Israel has to model the behavior voluntarily and not through coercion.  Something about kashrut practice within the land of Israel should be there, and I don’t know what it will be.  Eco-kashrut / practices around keeping the earth’s resources renewable so we will be able sustain life on the planet too.  (Eco-kashrut is a way of thinking about all the many issues raised by our realization of the degradation we are causing to our environment.) 

10. After-life.

We must keep organismic, whole Karma in mind.  Whether or not I got it back in my face, I need to be aware that this individual is only a cell of a total organism, and if not in mine, then someone, somewhere got it back in hirs; and this is a whole other way of thinking, creating a whole different kind of ethic along with it.  It’s the level on which we have to be focused:  organismic, whole Karma. And Hasharat hanefesh / eternity of the individual soul should not be seen as less than it had been by the tradition, but more.  We’ve heard the After-life described as cramped, but I think that we have gotten much better help from those places than one would have thought we might, having heard what the tradition says, i.e., people whipping us with heated iron rods producing welts in us.  That’s not to say I don’t believe there’s a purgation process going on; I do.  I would like to explore some beliefs about the After-life, but I don’t want to oversimplify, as the tradition seems to have done in the past, because we’ve already grown beyond those accounts.  Regarding reincarnation:  I don’t believe that it’s to be understood ki-p’shuto / in the simple way it’s been told, i.e., that this individual goes through and comes back.  Each being coming into the world brings something into it that was from before, i.e. I believe we don’t come in as tabula rasa / blank slate.

(NOTE:  Please share your comments regarding a renewed Jewish Credo.) Gabbai Seth Fishman, BLOG Editor

4 Responses to “A Renewed Jewish Credo”

  1. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    More on the same:

    Reb Zalman says:

    “The story is told how a Hassid came to Reb Mosheh of Kobrin and asked him for help for he could not say the Ani Maamin / credo because, if he really believed with perfect faith he would be a different person. So the rebbe asked him, ‘What if you did not say the Ani Maamin?’ So the Hassid answered ‘Then how could I call myself a Jew?’ So they agreed that from now on the Hassid would say ‘Hal’va-i sh’ani ma’amin,’ / ‘Would that I believed,’ and the credo became a prayerful aspiration.”

  2. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    I’ve included a new ani maamin / credo from the back of

      An English Siddur for Weekday

    by Rabbi Zalman Schachter–Shalomi available from Aleph.

    At our retreat Center, Elat Chayyim, teaching about the new paradigm, I spelled out my current credo using some traditional forms:

      The Teaching of
      the Beit Midrashat Elat Chayyim:

    Each one who aligns hirself every day with these principles of the faith and lives according to them can be assured that s/he will have a role in the World to Come for us and for all the peoples on the entire world soon:

    1. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith in the God Who is infinite and the blessed light that issues from that Infinite Source, Who is beyond time and space, yet Who longs to have a dwelling place among those in the worlds here below; and Who, out of loving beneficence to Hir creatures, contracted Hir light and Hir radiant glory, in order to emanate, to create, to form, and to effectuate all that exists in the universe.

    2. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith in the Oneness of God and of all creation, a oneness of the kind of one that has no second; and that all which exists in the universe exists solely according to the will of that God, Who constantly calls everything into being – Who causes all existence at every moment.

    3. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the Creator has an intent and a purpose in creation, and that one of the aspects of that purpose is so that S/He shall become known to us by and through it; and that we creatures have a task to broaden and enlarge that knowledge / awareness until the world will be as filled with knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.

    4. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the hoped-for goal is that all of us will come to constitute one united, interconnected and organic whole, and that every living being will know that You are the One who constantly causes its existence.

    5. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that all the pathways through which the Holy Spirit is manifest and revealed are of one piece with the Torah that was given at Sinai.

    6. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith in the mission of Judaism, which is one of the vital organs of the collective being that comprises all existence, and that through God’s compassion on all creatures, it is revealed to them also how indispensible and integral they are to the health of all the species of the planet.

    7. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the universe is not ownerless and abandoned, and that every one who does good with his/her life takes part in the fixing of the world and that every one who uses his/her life for evil participates in the destruction of the world; and that every action has an impact on the rest of existence.

    8. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the amount of good in the world is greater than the amount of evil, and that the entire order of movement through the chain of evolution is designed to bring about the fulfillment of the Divine intention.

    9. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the deeds of the fathers and mothers accrue to the benefit of their children, and that the tradition that is passed on contains within it the seeds of the light of redemption.

    10. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that our prayers are heard and answered.

    11. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that the Holy Shechinah dwells within our midst and that all who show kindness to living creatures show kindness too to the Shechinah, and that all who show kindness to the Shechinah show kindness too to living creatures.

    12. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith that physical death does not terminate the existence of the soul; rather, that there are innumerable worlds within which they return to live again.

    13. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith in Tikkun Olam, that the world can be repaired and healed and that it is becoming alive; and that besides coming to life, the world will come to possess a consciousness and feeling, and as such will become a fitting vessel for a fuller revelation of the Divine will.

    lishuas’cha kivisi hashem. kivisi hashem lishuas’cha. hashem lishuas’cha kivisi. l’furkanach saboris hashem. saboris hashem l’furkanach. hashem l’furkanach saboris.

  3. Gabbai Seth Fishman (Blog Editor) Says:

    This morning, in my davvenen, I prayed through the new ani maamin provided by Reb Zalman (see previous comment in this post), and when I reached number 13, the following came up for me:

    13. May it be the Divine will that I believe with perfect faith in Tikkun Olam,

    I need to work toward the redemption of the planet, which now means figuring how to stop the destruction of the ozone, how to restructure society so that people won’t have big problems when we turn off the electricity, when the oceans rise, and help us to clean the planet, so that we stop creating poisons, things that hurt us and others, so the earth can have a shabbos. Oy. Please God, show us the way. help us. Heal us. Inspire us.

    that the world can be repaired and healed and that it is becoming alive;

    oh dear melech haolam. You are becoming alive in the body of the earth and we are in awe of you, we are so small compared to this immense planet, and we need it as a home. Please, dear God, help us.

    and that besides coming to life, the world will come to possess a consciousness and feeling, and as such will become a fitting vessel for a fuller revelation of the Divine will.

    So I need to watch what the earth does and consider it holy. Dear earth, please heal yourself quickly in such a way that humanity will move to redemption. Amen, Selah.

  4. Shimon de Valencia Says:

    Not only does Reb Zalman make a convincing case for an expanded view of Judaism, but it is one that speaks to our time. We are empowered to reach up and rise to the highest of heights. Whilst remaining grounded in this wonderful earth who needs our help so much. May our world grow green and healthy, and to the wish that we and creation may move to redemption. Amen, Selah.

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