“What kind of rabbi are you? Seriously, I just don’t understand what you are about. A rabbi is supposed to adhere to the commandments and make Jews Jewish, but I don’t see you doing that at all. Can you explain yourself?”
This question came through my email this morning, and I am so grateful for it. Let me share my response with you.
Perhaps this will help: For me, Judaism is a means and not an end, and being a rabbi isn’t about making Jews Jewish, but about using Judaism as a tool for making meaning and discovering wisdom.
I am interested only in truth as best as I can discern it, and I fashion Judaism as a way of articulating that truth. I don’t believe in a God who created the universe, chose the Jews, gave us Torah, a Promised Land, and 613 mitzvot (commandments). I believe in a nondual reality evolving toward greater levels of complexity and higher levels of consciousness that ultimately gives rise to beings such as ourselves who can begin to understand this reality, and fashion meaning and purpose that promote justice and compassion for all beings.
The extent to which I can imagine Judaism doing this is the extent to which I feel myself commanded. The extent to which I can’t imagine this, is the extent to which I don’t feel commanded.
Because my loyalty is to truth rather than Judaism, I see myself as spirituality independent, and thus free to explore and draw from the entirety of human wisdom: religious, artistic, scientific, etc. And I want the Judaism I teach to be of value not only to Jews, but to other spiritually independent seekers as well. Just as Jews borrow from Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, and Christian mysticism, I want followers of these paths to borrow from Judaism as well.
So I guess I am what my rebbe told me to be: a rabbi to the world.
Good Answer -
Thanks - often i find you've allowed enough room for me to fit . . .
... and that is why we read your blog Rabbi. I am not a Jew but am very happy to call you teacher.
You could do a lot worse than being a rabbi to the world. Great post!
That is freedom right there.I think it is the only way to actually understand your own tradition as well. If a Christian (what ever that means!?) was to only look at the scriptures of the new testament they would miss the light that Judaism shines on them and be unable to sort the baloney from the jewels.
I would have asked him/her to explain the words:rabbi, adhere, commandments, Jews and Jewish. As with the word 'God' they all have some conceptual framework behind them and are essentially meaningless. What on earth is a Jewish Jew? This is also part of an earlier blog about whether the rising tide of Orthodox adherence disallows liberals from calling themselves Jews. In New Zealand the first nation population are called Maori. There is always this redundant argument about how 'Maori' you are depending on blood..."oh.... he's only one eight Maori on his father's side so it hardly counts" type of thing. I thought being a Jew was not a religious position but an inheritance that could be traced by ancestry...what the Maori call whakapapa. My father was married to Ruth who's mother was etc etc right back to Adam. This is just another manifestation of 'ME being the only true wonderment' and you being doo doo because you don't think like almighty God's friend Me.
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