Sunday, April 01, 2007


For the first thirteen years of my life my family identified as Orthodox Jews. Following my Bar Mitzvah the entire synagogue shifted into the Conservative camp in order to allow men and women to sit together in the sanctuary. When I entered rabbinical school I chose the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College, and when I created my own synagogue I chose to affiliate with the Reconstructionist movement. Add to this the fact that I was the editor of the Journal of Humanistic Judaism for two years, and that I am a hasid of Reb Zalman Shachter-Shalomi founder of the Renewal movement, and you have a portrait of a multidenominational Jew. Yet people want me to identify with one movement or another so they can get a handle on who I am and what I believe. Since no one denomination is sufficient for me, I have decided to start my own: Paradoxy. From this day forth let it be known that I am a Paradox Jew.

To understand Paradoxy imagine the classic figure/ground image of the goblet and profiles. Looked at one way, the image is a white goblet surrounded by a black field, looked at another way it is the portrait of two black human profiles separated by white space. But what is the image itself when no one is looking at it?

Whatever this is I will call Truth, whatever we see I will call truth. To the see the goblet and not the profiles is not wrong or false, it is true, just not the entire Truth. To the see the profiles and not the goblet is also true, just not the whole Truth. The whole Truth cannot be seen, for the act of seeing forces us into a figure/ground dualism while Reality itself is nondual. Paradoxy is recognizing that all truth is partial, and that the Truth is nondual and beyond our ability to grasp with the dualistic mind. Humility not hubris is nature state of the Paradox Jew.

Paradoxy is not totally open-ended, however. Looking at our figure/ground image one cannot assert that the image is one of dogs playing poker. While Reality is beyond reason transcends reason it also embraces reason and its truths are open to scientific exploration.

Paradoxy encourages freedom of thought and expression. The Paradox Jew is one who can hold a variety of truths (no matter how inconsistent) at the same time. The Paradox Jew cannot claim that Judaism is True, only that Judaism contains truth. Hence the Paradox Jew is not limited to Judaism in her quest for truth, and can learn from and incorporate truths from all sources: religious, scientific, philosophical, etc.

Of course you might say that one who follows the Paradox Path need not accept any label other than Paradox itself. Why be a Jew or Christian, or Muslim if these are no more than aspects of a multilevel figure/ground Reality? The answer is, I don’t know. You want a label, pick a label. You want to label yourself unlabelable, fine. The point is that no label, including No Label, really matters.

So for those who care, I am a Paradox Jew. If you would like to join my new movement great. Dues are steep: consistency, surety, certainty, and the capacity to mistake truth for Truth. Get rid of each of these and you may well find yourself a member of the Paradoxy. Welcome.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Count me in. :-)

Your description of your multidenominational affiliation makes me smile in recognition. Me, I was reared Conservative and then Reform, belong now to a Reform shul, and daven most mornings out of a Reconstructionist prayerbook -- which is why I'm a student in the Aleph rabbinic program, because I can't think of anything better than being a hasid of Reb Zalman and a talmid of his musmachim.