Sunday, December 30, 2007

Student Interview, Part 4 of 4: Judaism at Its Best

ARE YOU STILL A RABBI?

Yes. I am a teacher of Torah, broadly defined as Jewish wisdom from Moses to Isaiah to Ecclesiastes to Jesus to the Baal Shem Tov to Kafka. Jewish wisdom is my primary language for articulating and sharing the universal truths I find meaningful and transformative. While I may draw from the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism to explicate a text from the Bible, it is the Bible rather than the Buddha that occupies me primarily. If it were the other way around I might call myself a Buddhist rather than a Jew, and I certainly would not call myself a rabbi.

WHY DO INCLUDE JESUS IN YOUR LIST OF JEWISH TEACHERS?

Jesus was a great prophet, rabbi, and sage of Jewish wisdom. To call oneself a Jew and discard his teaching is to ignore a very important piece of Jewish wisdom.

SO WHAT IS JUDAISM FOR YOU?

At its best, Judaism is a living, open system of transformative spiritual practice concerned with teshuvah and tikkun, return and repair. Teshuvah is turning inward and discovering the ocean as the Face wearing the mask of the wave. Tikkun is turning outward and engaging life from this perspective of nonduality.

Another name for inward turning is Tikkun HaNefesh, repairing the soul, revealing the wholeness that the isolated ego denies. The outward turning is called Tikkun HaOlam, repairing the world with justice, compassion, and peace. I love the word “tikkun,” repair or heal. When we heal we make whole; when we re-pair we put the seemingly separate parts of the world back together again, or, more accurately, we discover that they were never apart. So Judaism as tikkun, as turning, is ultimately a dance of nondual realization.

WHAT ABOUT ALL THE RULES AND LAWS OF JUDAISM?

All the rules, laws, and customs should be in service to tikkun. If a tradition helps you turn and heal, inwardly and outwardly, then do it. If it doesn’t, don’t do it. But the only way to know if a mitzvah or practice aids your turning is to try it out.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU LIKE LEAST ABOUT JUDAISM?

Judaism today seems too self-focused to me. It is as if the point of Judaism is to be Jewish rather than to practice teshuvah and tikkun, returning to God and repairing the world with godliness.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT IT?

Judaism has a unique capacity to help people live with paradox and ambiguity, the hallmarks of postmodern civilization. That is one of the things I love best about it.

4 comments:

rbarenblat said...

Thanks for this, Reb Rami. I like your definition of Judaism at its best, and the dovetailing you articulate between tikkun hanefesh and tikkun haolam resonates for me a lot.

Wishing you blessing as we wrap up 2007.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro said...

Thanks. A happy new year to all of you holy rascals out there.
Rami

AaronHerschel said...

I keep thinking about Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Does the recognition of non-duality really lead to compassion? To Tikkun Ha Olam? Arjuna, when he sees his kinsman arrayed against him for battle, consideres packing in the war. It is the enlightenment granted him by Krishna that allows him to slaughter everyone. Of course, one reading--the one on Wikipedia--goes that the war is a moral (or karmic?) necessity, and that Arjuna's participation is a form of satyagraha. I can see that. But I can't help noticing that there are a lot more corpses lying around after Krishna's intevention than before.

What moves Arjuna to compassion for his enemies is his sense of kinship--they are, after all, directly related to him by blood. As in the Biblical story where Abraham argues with God about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, human life is imbued with value and meaning by humans who insist on that value in the face of larger, more Godly, concerns.

bill said...

I started this afternoon looking at the council of Nicea, and found my way to Toto... proving there is intelligence and purpose in the universe. I am highly impressed at your ability to so clearly and cogently articulate so many of my vague musings. I will return. Yes, Tikkun and Teshuva... the very words I was looking for...
Thank you....
bill... either a heretic christian or an apostate jew.... maybe both.