Sunday, January 01, 2006

W(h)ither(ing) Judaism

How to kick off my blog in 2006? How about with something confessional?

As I walked with God this morning talking about the drama that is my life She made it clear to me that I am lousy rabbi.

I don’t care about intermarriage rates, synagogue membership, conformity to halacha (Jewish law), or even Jewish survival. I care about God-realization, and get more out of Ramana Maharshi than Rabbi Akiva.

I am post-tribal, post-theological, and post-covenantal. I find conventional worship boring, most Torah-apologetics (one can hardly call it study) insipid, and our obsession with tradition a waste of time. I don’t want a second-hand god fashioned by theologians to fit a flat-earth model of reality. I want the One Who is beyond theology, the One Who is you and me and all reality here and now and always. Why settle for reading ancient revelation when God is revealing Herself to us every moment?

Modern Judaism, regardless of denomination, is imitative rather than innovative. It is made for the History Channel rather than CNN. There are no new stories, only clever retellings of old ones. We have replaced hand wringing with hand clapping, but neither gets beyond the jingoism of self. We are hip and ironic, when we used to be radical and iconoclastic. We have made a fetish of the past and reduced our rabbis to priests when they should be prophets.

I would like to turn things around, but I suspect it cannot be done. I am not optimistic about the future of Judaism. I don’t think it will disappear, I just think it will become increasingly irrelevant. It will survive but not thrive; the Jewish creative class is not fed by nor is it feeding Judaism. Rabbis are trained to conform to the past, not innovate for the future.

Where are the 21st century Baal Shem Tovs, the postmodern Martin Bubers and Mordecai Kaplans? We had Shlomo, and we still have Reb Zalman, but whose next?

We have wealthy and generous funders in the Jewish community, but the projects I hear about are so very retro. We are funding 20th century solutions to 19th century problems, while the 21st century is slipping through our fingers.

Maybe I am just out of touch. I hope so. I hate to give up on Judaism. I hate to think that we have nothing more to offer the world, when in fact I believe that the world needs us and our prophets more than ever. I just don’t know what to do about it. If you do, let me know. I could use the boost.

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