29 abril 2009

What Is Jewish Renewal?

Tomado de Makom Shalom

Jewish renewal is a worldwide, transdenominational movement grounded in Judaism’s prophetic and mystical traditions. 
Jewish renewal carries forward Judaism’s perpetual process of renewal. 
Jewish renewal seeks to bring creativity, relevance, joy, and an all embracing awareness to spiritual practice, as a path to healing our hearts and finding balance and wholeness—tikkun halev. 
Jewish renewal acts to fully include all Jews and to respect all peoples. 
Jewish renewal helps to heal the world by promoting justice, freedom, responsibility, caring for all life and the earth that sustains all life —tikkun olam. 

Where does Jewish Renewal come from? 
Paradigm shifts in Judaism go back as far as the destruction of the Second Temple and the birth of the Rabbinic tradition that has evolved up to present time. The current phenomenon called Jewish renewal traces its roots to the Havurah movement, feminism, the civil rights movement, and other late 20th century phenomena, but primarily to the work of Rabbis Shlomo Carlebach (z'l) and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Is Jewish Renewal Orthodox Judaism? Reconstructionist? Reform ???? 
Jewish renewal is non-denominational Judaism. It honors the important and unique role of each denomination, but does not seek to become a denomination itself. Because of its emphasis on direct spiritual experience and mystical or Kabbalistic teachings, Jewish renewal is sometimes referred to as Neo-Hassidic or Four Worlds Judaism (a reference to the "four worlds" of Jewish mysticism). While we seek to restore the spiritual vitality characteristic of the Hassidic movement of pre-war Europe, we believe that Judaism is an evolving religious civilization. 

Is this "New Age" Judaism? 
Not really. Jewish Renewal is sometimes disparaged as "New Age" by people who don’t know that meditation, dance, chant, and mysticism have been present in Judaism throughout the ages and not, as some mistakenly believe, patched on to Judaism from other cultures or made up out of whole cloth. Sadly, some of our authentic, time-honored beliefs and practices have been lost to assimilation, leaving many contemporary Jews largely unaware of them. This is a major reason why so many spiritually sensitive Jews have sought spiritual expression in other faith traditions. It is an important part of Makom Shalom's mission to make the "hidden" treasures of Judaism known and accessible to these seekers. 

28 abril 2009


Tomado de http://www.forward.com/articles/5023/

By Jay Michaelson

If you’ve seen “The Chosen,” or just tried to buy a digital camera on 47th Street in New York City, you know who Hasidim are: the black hats, the Yiddish accents, the “ultra-Orthodox” religious practice. Few, however, know that Hasidism was a radical movement originally, provoking outrage, bans, even book burnings because of its revolutionary teachings.

Founded in the late 18th century by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (literally, “Master of the Good Name,” a twist on the traditional title of a magical folk healer), Hasidism popularized and psychologized kabbalistic and other Jewish mystical wisdom. It taught that God can be experienced here, now, in our bodies and souls; that God is everywhere; and that the purpose of human life is to cleave to God in holy, joyous love.

Eventually, Hasidism became much more conservative, primarily in response to the threats of assimilation and reform. Although there remain important differences, Hasidim appear to outsiders as scarcely distinguishable from their once-bitter opponents. Now, they are the right wing.

Enter “neo-Hasidism,” a decentralized movement that has emerged from Jewish Renewal, the chavurah movement and other spiritual streams of Judaism that arose in the wake of the 1960s. If traditional Hasidim now stress strict Torah observance and separation from modern society, neo-Hasidim are the opposite: their Halachic observance varies widely ,and they embrace not just the technological but also the ideological innovations of modern and postmodern society, from feminism to the academic interpretations of sacred texts. Neo-Hasidim put on tefillin and vote pro-choice; we daven and we meditate (I learn and teach in various neo-Hasidic communities). While lineage is central to traditional Hasidim, neo-Hasidim do not pretend to be continuing an uninterrupted tradition; we wouldn’t want to do that anyway, and we know that much of what we do would terrify or infuriate many early Hasidic masters. So we willfully pick and choose among the tradition. The revival is about spiritual search, not historical re-creation.

To some critics, neo-Hasidism is nothing more than an appropriation of Hasidic literature and language atop a ‘spiritual’ lifestyle that has more in common with self-help and the 1960s than with traditional Judaism. In my own experience, however, the literary explorations pioneered by Martin Buber and the Orientalizing Romanticism of films like “The Chosen” have very little to do with how contemporary neo-Hasidim regard themselves and their religious practice. It’s not about, in the words of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a founder of Jewish Renewal and perhaps the first neo-Hasidic rebbe, “meditating in a Tallis.” Rather, for Reb Zalman (as he is known by his followers), neo-Hasidism is a translation of the ethos of another time into the religious vocabulary and social mores of this one. “If you can understand what feminist Hasidism would really entail, in terms of ritual, community, and god-language,” he said at last year’s neo-Hasidic conference in New York, “that’s neo-Hasidism.”

Rabbi Arthur Green, one of the founders of the movement, has long called for the creation of a “neo-Hasidic bookshelf” that would translate, package and interpret the teachings of the Hasidic masters for a new generation. The bookshelf would have to recognize that many come to neo-Hasidism without the formal Jewish background essential for reading and understanding Hasidic texts. It would have to sort, distill, translate and explain.

Recently, two major steps have been taken toward fulfilling Green’s vision: Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s translation of “Hasidic Tales,” and Or Rose’s translation, with Ebn Leader, of Hasidic hanhagot, or spiritual practices, published as “God in All Moments: Mystical & Practical Spiritual Wisdom From Hasidic Masters.” The books, capably translated and thoughtfully presented, reflect both the strengths and the weaknesses in this emerging trend of Jewish spirituality.

The works have a common format: translation of the Hasidic source on left-hand pages, commentary and explication on facing pages. In Shapiro’s book of tales, the commentary takes the form primarily of a glossary, explaining terms as common as shofar and as esoteric as kli elohim (godly vessel). In Rose’s book of spiritual practices, the commentary is more freewheeling, consisting of Rose’s explications of the practices in their theological and cultural contexts, together with texts from other sources that illuminate the teachings inside.

This format is meant to make the teachings accessible to an audience unfamiliar with Hasidism — or even, in the case of Shapiro’s book, Judaism. The books both succeed and fail: They succeed for the contemporary spiritual seeker, fail for those concerned about historical fidelity.

“We have selected those texts that we believe are both representative of the genre as a whole and resonant with contemporary spiritual sensibilities,” Rose wrote in his introduction. This means not only that Rose and Leader “have consciously omitted materials that are egregiously sexist, racist, or offensive in other respects,” but also that they chose sources illuminating those teachings that would resonate with a contemporary audience: seeing God in all things, embracing the value of every person and so on. Values that seem less appealing today (at least to Rose and Leader) are comparatively minimized. For example, there are few stories and hanhagot in the two collections regarding the authority of the tzaddik, even though the tzaddik –– the righteous rabbi who leads the Hasidic community on Earth and prays on its behalf in heaven –– is a fundamental pillar of traditional Hasidism.

For better or for worse, this is the difference between Hasidic scholarship and neo-Hasidism. Neither Shapiro nor Rose’s book is a representative sample of Hasidic literature. They are resources for those who wish to make some of that literature relevant today. Of course, relevance is subjective. A Satmar Hasid living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, would select the stories that emphasize the importance of scrupulously observing the commandments; a Chabad Lubavitch Hasid in Crown Heights would highlight stories of messianism; while I, a neo-Hasidic Jew living in Park Slope, might choose those emphasizing precisely the most subversive, enlightening truths of the Hasidic tradition: that this moment, with you reading these words, is filled with nothing but God, and that it is possible, with the right practices, to experience this Divine moment fully and clearly. The literature accommodates all three perspectives, and many more.

What, then, are these anthologies’ primary areas of focus? Largely, they are about living in day-to-day, here-and-now reality with an expanded consciousness of the Divine. Hasidism teaches that God is everywhere . In one story of Reb Elimelech of Lyzhansk translated by Shapiro, we are taught that “the whole universe is filled with God; wherever one eats, one eats in the Divine Presence.” But this does not mean that one should meditate on a mountaintop; quite the contrary, Hasidic teachings are very much grounded in this world. There are far more practices and tales in the two books about charity, humility and good health than there are about kabbalah or meditation. Most importantly, the warmth of the Hasidic masters seems to radiate from the pages of these books. There is a sense of real inspiration that has been well rendered by Shapiro and Rose, inspired teachers themselves.

This is why Hasidism was so successful, and why neo-Hasidism is so appealing, as well: They unite the spiritual search with the day-to-day business of living.

“Attach yourself to the blessed creator,” the Baal Shem Tov says, “and in that state of devekut [connection to God], pray for some household need…. Do this in order to train yourself to keep your mind connected to the blessed Creator, even when it comes to mundane matters.” Normally, we might pray for something (or someone) we desire, or deliverance from illness or misfortune and, if the wished-for comes to pass, suddenly we are filled with gratefulness, God-consciousness, you name it. But the Baal Shem Tov wants us to pray that our laundry gets done, or that we wash the dishes successfully.

Some of the teachings seem even more relevant today than, we imagine, they would have been 200 years ago. “We tend to make idols out of the easy and to worship convenience rather than truth,” says a rebbe in one tale, written two centuries before the Internet or McDonald’s. The Baal Shem Tov, 230 years before the fitness craze, said: “When your body is ailing, your soul is also weakened, and you are unable to serve God properly, even if you are free from sin. Therefore, guard the health of your body very carefully.”

Of course, any spiritual path has the danger of banality, and this one is no different. If there is one fault to be found with the excellent Jewish Lights/Skylights series, it is the insistence of the publisher to put pages of corny advertising at the back of each volume and to opt for cheap, “inspirational”-looking covers instead of the wonderful range of sophisticated Jewish mystical art, and typography, being produced today. In addition, some of Shapiro’s explanatory notes seem to cheapen rather than enliven the stories. “How do you handle the mud in your life?” has a clichéd, New Agey ring to it, especially compared with the tale itself. In it, a poor Hasid says to a rich one: “Because I travel with this horse, that cannot free this wagon if it becomes stuck in the mud, I am very careful to avoid the mud in the first place.”

Then again, other notes are quite useful. When Reb Aharon of Karlin says: “I gained the knowledge that I am nothing,” most readers need a scholar like Rami Shapiro to explain not only the wordplay — ani ayin, two words with the same letters, in different orders — but also the deeper cosmological truth.

Why does Hasidism, a popularized mysticism that began among the peasants of Eastern Europe, inspire a new generation of scholars and spiritual seekers? Because the Hasidim care. They are “on fire with love of God,” as one contemporary (non-neo-) Hasidic rabbi teaches. “Attach yourself to the Creator with complete love,” says the Maggid of Mezrich, translated in Rose’s book. “This love must surpass your love for any worldly good, because everything is rooted in the Divine.” The Hasidim operated in a world in which large numbers of Jews were leaving Judaism entirely, and many who remained were attached to a rigid path of pure obedience. They rediscovered, and half-invented, a Jewish way of experiencing the Divine love embracing us at every moment — one grounded simultaneously in a mystical theology and an affirmation of worldly, “down-to-earth” concerns. Are things so different today?


Tomado de Gal Enai
iesod es la novena de las diez sefirot, y el sexto de los atributos emotivos dentro de la Creación.

iesod es asociado en el alma con el poder de contactarse, conectarse y comunicarse con la realidad exterior (representada por lasefirá de maljut). El fundamento (iesod) de un edificio es su inserción en el suelo, su unión con la tierra, (maljut).

Tomado de Jabad



La vinculación es la máxima conexión emocional. Mientras que las primeras cinco cualidades (amor, disciplina, compasión, persistencia, y humildad) son interactivas, todavía manifiestan dualidad: hay alguien que ama y alguien que es amado. El énfasis es puesto en los sentimientos del individuo, no necesariamente en la reciprocidad. La unión, por el contrario, es una fusión plena de dos.

Sin unión ningún sentimiento puede ser genuinamente concretado. Vinculación significa conectarse; no sólo sentir por el otro, sino estar ligado a él. No solamente un compromiso parcial, sino una total devoción. Crea un canal entre el dador y el receptor. Vinculación es algo eterno. Desarrolla una unión duradera que perdura viva por siempre a través del fruto perpetuo que rinde.

Vinculación es el fundamento de la vida. La columna vertebral emocional de la psiquis humana. Toda persona necesita de vinculación para florecer y crecer. La unión entre madre e hijo; entre marido y mujer; entre hermanos y hermanas; entre amigos íntimos. Unión es afirmación; le brinda a uno un sentimiento de pertenencia; que "yo importo", "Soy significativo e importante". Establece confianza — confianza en ti mismo y en los demás, Inspira seguridad. Sin vinculación y nutrición no podemos realizarnos ni ser nosotros mismos.

La vinculación canaliza las cinco cualidades previas en una unión constructiva, dándoles el significado de "fundamento". Mientras que todos los otros sentimientos humanos son emociones individuales, plantas separadas de un mismo edificio y cada uno de ellos un componente necesario de la experiencia humana, la vinculación los comunica e integra a todos en un solo lazo que crea un fundamento sobre el cual se alza firme la estructura de las emociones humanas, Unión es entregarte por entero, no apenas una parte; no es una única emoción, sino todas. De modo que Iesod completa el espectro de las primeras seis emociones.

El fundamento de Iesod es diferente de uno ordinario. No descansa meramente bajo los niveles superiores de la estructura, sino que los abarca a todos. Un efectivo lecho de roca para la psiquis emocional no puede quedar separado, debe incluir y permear todas las emociones. Sólo entonces la vinculación puede ser constructiva y duradera.

27 abril 2009

God's Hidden Name Revealed

by Mark Sameth
Tomado de Reform Judaism Magazine
The secret that’s been hiding in plain sight for almost two thousand years.

As God begins to create the first human being—the Adam—he says, “Let us make the earth-creature in our own image.” The text goes on: “Then God created it in God’s own image. Male and female God created them” (Genesis 1:26–27).

The text seems to be saying (and the rabbis of the Talmud and Midrash understood it this way) that Adam was created by God as male and female. The rabbis spoke openly about this, and even composed elaborate speculative stories about the separation of this hermaphroditic creature into the male and female characters that we know as Adam and Eve. What the rabbis were less willing to openly discuss was the extent to which this earth creature was created b’tzelem Elohim, in the dual-gendered image of God.

Study and discuss this article and two others with RJ’s God: Outside the Box Study & Discussion Guide.

But if we read the text as a mystic might, paying extremely close attention and assuming that the biblical text conceals more than it reveals, we may find hints regarding God’s androgynous nature. Consider, for example, that the Torah:

* identifies Moses as a nursing father (Numbers 11:12)
* tells us that Adam named his wife Eve ki hu hay’tah eim “because he was the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20)
* recounts that Abraham instructed his servant to be on the lookout for a woman who will offer to water the camels because hu ha’ishah, “he is the woman” for my son (Genesis 24:44)
* And the list goes on.

Why is the Torah repeatedly conflating the genders of its main characters? What is the Torah hinting at?

I believe these are not mistakes/scribal errors, but the very key to unlocking one of the Torah’s most enduring mysteries.

But first a note about the many strange occurrences in the Torah regarding names. Our patriarch Jacob’s name is twice changed to Israel. Pharaoh is not a name. And Moses is not a name. Moses, in Egyptian, means “born of”—as in the name Tutmosis (Born of Tut).

Consider: if the name of our great leader Moses is not really a name, might it mean something else? Interestingly, if we spell Moses’ name in Hebrew backwards, Moshe becomes HaShem, which literally means “The Name,” one of the ways some Jews refer to God.

Then consider: if Moses’ name spelled backwards becomes HaShem, reflecting the Godly nature of the human being, might not God’s name spelled backward similarly reflect something essential about humankind? Indeed it does.

Look at Yud–Hay–Vov-Hay, the ineffable Name of God. Known as the Tetragrammaton, the Name was permitted for everyday greetings until at least 586 B.C.E., when the First Temple was destroyed (Mishnah Berakhot 9:5). In time its pronunciation was permitted only to the priests (Mishnah Sotah 7:6), who would pronounce it in their public blessing of the people. After the death of the High Priest Shimon HaTzaddik around 300 B.C.E. (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma 39b) the name was pronounced only by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur (Mishnah Sotah 7:6; Mishnah Tamid 7:2). The sages then passed on the pronunciation of the Name to their disciples only once (some say twice) every seven years (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Kiddushin 71a). Finally, upon the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., the Name was no longer pronounced at all.

Later, some speculated that the Name had been pronounced “Jehovah,” or possibly “Yahweh,” but scholars did not agree. No one knew for a certainty how to pronounce the ineffable Name of God.

But what if Yud–Hay–Vov–Hay has long been unpronounceable for the simple reason that it is written in reverse?

Reversed, the Name of God becomes Hay Vov Hay Yud. And these two syllables, Hay Vov and Hay Yud, can be vocalized as the sound equivalents of the Hebrew pronouns hu and hi, which are rendered in English as he and she respectively. Combining them together, Hay Vov and Hay Yud become He-She.

He-She, I believe, is the long-unpronounceable Name of God! This secret has been hiding in plain sight for all these years, for it explicitly states in the Torah: God created the earth-creature in God’s own image, male and female.

Needless to say, the notion of an androgynous God creating essentially androgynous human beings has profound implications. Long ago the Zohar, the book of Jewish mysticism par excellence, declared, “It is incumbent on a man to ever be male and female”—a strange statement especially in the 13th century. But recently our society has begun to show signs of being able to understand, and willing to accept, this message.

Dr. James Garbarino, one of our generation’s most influential child development experts, observes that so-called “traditional girls who have only ‘feminine’ characteristics are at a disadvantage when it comes to coping” and so-called traditional boys are also disadvantaged. “Combining traditionally feminine traits with masculine traits,” Garbarino wrote in See Jane Hit, “makes for greater resilience.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, author of Searching for My Brothers, notes that Jewish and Western cultures have long held very different perspectives on the issue of androgyny. While Western culture says “be a man,” he explains, the message of Jewish culture has always been “be a mensch.” Menschlekeit, which he defines as “mature manhood,” is “a combination of both masculine and feminine traits.”

In her landmark book, Deborah, Golda, and Me, the Jewish feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin challenged Jews “to enlarge men’s capacity for emotional expression and family care-giving, and to expand children’s options regardless of their gender. Is it possible,” she asked rhetorically, “that greater opportunities for children, more loving men, and more competent, confident women could not be good for the Jews?”

Discussing patriarchy in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (URJ Press), Rachel Adler comments that the world “cries out for mending”—not only for women’s sake, but for the sake of men as well. The work of Reform Judaism—indeed the work of all the world’s progressive, egalitarian, religious communities—requires an ever deepening commitment to this mending. This means striving for wholeness in ourselves; with our loved ones; in the relationship between self and community; and in the relationship among individual communities and the world at large. It means doing whatever we do, in the words of our ancient mystics, l’shem yichud, ultimately for the sake of God’s unification.

Now, grounded in this new understanding of God as He-She, it is time for us to jettison the stereotypical conception of God as an old man with a long white beard sitting in the clouds. Thinking of God as He-She allows us the freedom to see the Divinity as the totality of all male and female energy.

It is time for us to consider changing our most sacred prayers, in particular those which refer to God as Lord. The early rabbis employed the word “Lord” (Adonai in Hebrew) as a respectful substitute for the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton, and recently some Reform Jews—including the editors of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary—have chosen not to use it. With this new cognition of the Tetragrammaton, we can confidently revisit our faithful declaration: “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad—Hear O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4) and affirm instead: “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad—Hear O Israel: He-She is Our God, He-She is One.”

It is time for us to affirm that Reform Judaism’s tradition of gender equality—which has empowered women to become rabbis, cantors, and congregational lay leaders—is not a modern and somehow less authentic invention, but emblematic of Judaism’s most ancient conception of God.

And it is time for us to rethink how we choose to pass on our heritage to the next generation. If you’ve ever tried to teach God to a class of precocious Hebrew school students, you’ve likely heard that sotto voce from the back of the room: “yeah, sure.” Well, recently I took a chance and taught my post bar/bat mitzvah class my idea of God’s secret name and its meaning. We then discussed what it might imply about our relationships to each other and to God. When we were done, one of the young people turned to the others sitting around the table and said the words rabbis live for: “Judaism,” she exclaimed, “is so cool!”

Mark Sameth, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion class of 1998, is rabbi of Pleasantville Community Synagogue, Pleasantville, New York.

12 abril 2009

Pesaj - Pascua

El Rabino Jacques Cukierkorn - Rabino del New Reform Temple de Kansas City, MO; vicepresidente de la Society for Classical Reform Judaism; autor de HaMadrij, una guía imprescindible de introudcción al Judaísmo - comienza un nuevo proyecto con este vídeo sobre el significado Pesaj y sus rituales. Merece la pena, porque está muy bien hecho