21 diciembre 2009

A Portrait of the Soul

By Yosef Y. Jacobson

All of the figures depicted in the Torah are not just physical people who lived at a certain period of time. They also embody particular psychological and spiritual forces, existing continuously within the human heart.

Joseph is described in the Torah as a beautiful and graceful lad, "handsome of form and handsome of appearance," and as a "master of dreams."According to the Kabbalah, Joseph symbolizes the pure and sacred soul of man.

What does a soul look like? What elements of our personality can we attribute to our soul?

In the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi defines the soul as a flame that seeks to depart from its wick and kiss the heavens. "The soul," he writes, "constitutes the quest in man to transcend the parameters of his (or her) ego and become absorbed in the source of all existence."

The sixteenth-century Kabbalist, Rabbi Elazar Azkari, wrote a prayer which describes the soul in these words: "My soul is sick with love for you; O G-d, I beg you, please heal it by showing it the sweetness of your splendor; then it will be invigorated and healed, experiencing everlasting joy."

The soul, in other words, is that dimension of our psyche that needs not self-aggrandizement, dominance or excessive materialism. It despises politics, manipulation and dishonesty. It is repulsed by unethical behavior and by false facades.

What are its aspirations? The soul harbors a single yearning: to melt away in the all-pervading truth of G-d.

The Abused Soul

Yet, how many of us are even aware of the existence of such a dimension in our personality? How many of us pay heed to the needs of our soul? In response to the soul's never ending dreams and yearnings that confuse our ego-based schedules and disturb our cravings for instant gratification, we so often take the "Joseph" within us and plunge it into a pit. We attempt to relegate its dreams and passions to the subconscious cellars of our psyche.

When that does not work, because we can still hear its silent pleas, we sell our "Joseph" as a slave to foreigners, allowing our souls to become subjugated to forces and drives that are alien to its very identity.

Can you imagine how horrified you would be if you were to observe somebody taking the little adorable hand of an infant and placing it on a burning stove? The Chassidic masters describe each time we utter a lie, each time we humiliate another human being, each time we sin, as precisely that: taking the precious innocent spirituality of our soul and putting it through abuse and torture.

Moment of Truth

Yet, in each of our lives the moment arrives when our inner "Joseph," which was forced to conceal its truth for so many years, breaks down and reveals to us its identity. At that moment, we come to discover the sheer beauty and depth of our soul, and our hearts are filled with shame.

The humiliation the brothers experienced when Joseph revealed himself to them did not stem from the fact that he rebuked them for their selling him into slavery. Joseph's mere appearance to them constituted the most powerful rebuke: For the first time they realized who it was that they subjected to such horrific abuse and their hearts melted away in shame.

Similarly, Rabbi Elazar was saying, when the day will come and we will realize the G-dly and spiritual sacredness of our own personalities, we will be utterly astounded. We will ask ourselves again and again, how did we allow ourselves to cast such a beautiful and innocent soul into a dark and gloomy pit?


Tomado de Chabad.org

13 diciembre 2009

Classical Reform: a place for reason in religion

The Classical Reform revival carries a strong intellectual component, too.

Meyer, one of the foremost authorities on the history of Reform Judaism, noted that the movement’s 1999 Pittsburgh Platform, which advocated a more open approach to rituals discouraged by the early Reform leaders, has its own problems.

“It does not deal sufficiently with the problem of evil, and pays insufficient attention to the challenges posed by biology and astrophysics, harmonizing the idea of a personal God with the vastness of the universe,” he said. “We have come to a point in Reform Judaism where we stress the personal, emotional connection more than is perhaps sustainable.”

While Meyer does not view Classical Reform as a growing tendency, he does consider it a valuable check on the movement’s growing pietism.

“There is a place for reason in religion, and sometimes in Reform Judaism today we don’t give that enough attention,” he said.


Tomado de JTA.org

06 diciembre 2009

Sidur UPB, Edición Sinaí, en español

Después de muchos días de trabajo os presentamos la primera edición en español del Union Prayer Book - Sinai Edition -, edición revisada del primer Sidur oficial que tuvo el Movimiento Reformista y que ocupó ese lugar de honor hasta que fue desplazado por el Gates of Prayer ya en la décade los 70, tras 80 años de servicio.

La edición que hemos traducido del Union Prayer Book es la que edita la Congregación Sinaí de Chicago.

Aunque el Sidur no es ya el oficial del movimiento, existen varias congregaciones reformistas que aún lo utilizan como principal referencia litúrgica, tanto esta edición que hemos traducido, como las anteriores a ésta.

En primer lugar, los agradecimientos:

1. A los señores Michael y Karen Hermann por su apoyo financiero a este proyecto.

2. A la Congregación Sinaí de Chigago, propietaria de los derechos de autor de la obra en inglés y sin cuyo consentimiento no habría sido posilbe realizar y publicar la traducción.

3. Al Rabino Jacques Cukierkorn, quien ha dirigido y coordinado el trabajo.

Por otra parte, nos gustaría advertir que la obra se encuentra en su fase inicial y que queda aún un largo camino por recorrer. La traducción está aún en proceso de revisión, faltan por añadir ciertos textos que no se han incluido en esta versión 'beta', está ya con Hebreo y Fonética, en la versión normal. ( Y en unos días en la reducida)

Por ello, nos gustaría que en la medida de lo posible nos hicierais llegar las sugerencias y nos advirtierais de los errores tipográficos, de estilo, sintácticos u ortográficos que detectaseis escribiendo a victorino@javura-iesod.org.

El Sidur se ofrece bajo licencia Creative Commons

Versión reducida: incluye sólo Shabat, diario y rituales para el hogar. Sidur de sólo 41 páginas, cómodo de imprimir y utilizar.

Versión completa: además de lo del anterior, con Servicios para festividades y oraciones para ocasiones especiales

Aquellos que lo encuentren de utilidad y quieran contribuir a apoyar los nuevos proyectos en los que trabaja el Rabino Jacques Cukierkorn o a sostener el esfuerzo que realiza la Society for Classical Reform Judaism, pueden realizar una donación en sus respectivas páginas web:


Para saber más sobre el Sidur Union Prayer Book puedes consultar dos entradas anteriores de este blog:

01 diciembre 2009

Rabbi Einhorn and the Spirit of Reform Judaism

Excerpt from the inaugural sermon delivered by

Rabbi David Einhorn

September 29, 1855

The following paragraphs from that memorable sermon show clearly enough that with Dr. Einhorn's advent in Baltimore a master mind had come to mold and fashion the Reform movement in America:

“In the development of our community we fear no Pharaoh on this sacred soil of religious liberty, no brute force which is used so often in the interest of a court or state religion — where oaths and hearts are equally broken, where the prevailing religion and the masses clinging to it are alike denied the natural unfolding of their powers. Nor within our own fold is the indifference so great as to frustrate our efforts. The sacrifices you have already made to establish a nobler worship, your successful endeavors to lend, provisionally at least, a becoming garb to a religious service that has fallen into such decay, and, finally, the unanimity with which you extended the call to me to repair the breaches of our house — all this gives promise of gladsome and harmonious labor for the high aim we have in view. . . .

The Law of God, with relation to man, consists, like man himself, the child of God, of a perishable body and of an imperishable spirit. The body is to be only the servant of the spirit and must pass away as soon as the spirit ceases to dwell in it. . . . We have here the very essence of the covenant between God and man which is binding for all times, in all places and on all peoples. . . . All other divine ordinances are only signs of this covenant, a fence and hedge around the eternal and universal Law; now recalling holy memories, now proclaiming solemn convocations, and now again urging a whole- some separation from heathen customs. By their very nature they cannot always and everywhere remain the same, as there is nothing in them of an abiding or universal character. Not that man will ever be able to do entirely without objective signs; but their mode an4 degree must conform to the different stages of civilization, to national, industrial and social conditions — in short, to all that is implied by the subjective and objective life of man. The religious idea can no more be held rigidly to the same form through the whole course of its development, from its first blossoming to its full ripeness, than the fruit in the bud, than the butterfly in its chrysalis. And the same alteration that was imperative in the developing process of the religious idea of the Jew in the course of its own growth is demanded also by the Jew's wanderings through the world, by the changes in the stream of life flowing around him. . . .

Our religious history, in fact, shows a transformation of the Biblical religious forms to such an extent that in the past two thousand years by far the largest number of them have completely passed out of Jewish life. True, our pious forefathers went to great pains to keep themselves still attached to these forms from which the spirit had fled ; they mourned over the death of these usages as though Judaism itself had received a mortal wound; and they endeavored to console themselves with the vain hope that they were only seemingly dead, "No," they said, "the glorious house of David has not forever sunk into the dust, nor the wonderful Temple with its sacrifices and priests and Levites; neither has Israel been cast out of his Father's house. A time will come when the Lord will raise up again the fallen tent of David, gather the scattered tribes of Jacob in their ancient habitation, and restore the sanctuary of Zion in full glory." But the lament and the hope alike rest on untenable ground, springing from the attempt to equalize or, more correctly, confound the religious body with the religious spirit. It led them to regard both as equally immutable. Instead of seeking to refine and exalt the body through the spirit, they tried to coarsen the spirit into mere body, applying their standard of ceremonialism even to the sphere of morality. The voices of the prophets had long been hushed who, with indefatigable zeal, proclaimed the spirit of the Law of God as the banner of Israel, around which all peoples would one day rally, by which the pomp of ceremony — sacrifices, fasts, all — would once and for all be rendered useless and un- availing. At the time of the destruction of the second Temple they seemed to call out: "Be comforted! The cerement is now dead, but out of the grave has arisen the unfettered spirit ready to soar over the whole earth in its flight. From the ashes of the Temple of an isolated Israel will gradually arise that mighty edifice for all humanity of which the Lord has said, 'Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations/ Out of the ruins of Judah there shall come forth a Messianic world. Often will you cement the stones in this temple with your heart's blood; but that glorious goal is worthy of those sacrifices, and such sacrifices are more precious than a thousand rams and goats." . . .

Judaism has arrived at the critical stage when it must part company 'with dead and obsolete ceremonies, if it means to keep the Jews within the fold or prevent their moral decay. In consequence of the irresistible stress of everyday life there is a growing antagonism between the activities of the world and our religious convictions — a condition that is gradually robbing conscience of its disciplinary character. No greater evil than the continuance of such a state of affairs could befall Israel. On the one hand, we are wont daily to violate the weightiest ceremonial laws, though as Israelites we acknowledge them as binding; on the other, we give expression in our prayers to pious hopes and aims to which there is not the faintest response in our hearts; which are, moreover, in flat contradiction with the real spirit of the Sinaic Law, It is inevitable that, little by little, our religious sensibilities must either become completely dulled or find expression in other beliefs. In the face of this antagonism, experience has shown that all persuasion and pleading in favor of tradition — to galvanize dead forms into life — is ineffective. Even the praiseworthy attempts to bring back something of the old charm by harmonizing our public service, externally, with modern life are futile and will remain so, because at bottom they only serve to hide the decay within. We have here a flaw which goes sheer down to the very heart of the Jewish faith, which no specious palliation can remedy. The remedy must be thoroughgoing. The evil which is gradually draining our strength and sapping our life must be plucked up by the roots. This we can accomplish only by recognizing whatever is decayed and untenable in our religious life and then, in the name of our faith, by solemnly freeing ourselves from its authority. Thus alone may we effect for ourselves and for our children the liberation of Judaism if we are to prevent a defection from Judaism. . . .

In these endeavors, however, we should never depart from the impregnable basis of the divinely revealed Word. Of this our name, Har Sinai, admonishes us. It suggests the significant injunction:, "Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn — there where the Lord had chosen your forefathers and their descendants as His priests and bound them for all time to His Law." The crumbled ruins of the ramparts that were built about the Law as a defence we may, nay, we should, allow to fall away. We should at once set to work to remove the debris — ^not, however, to destroy, but to build up ; not in a spirit of vanity or self -exultation, nor without that piety which rightfully belongs to holy relics, but with deep reverence for our sanctuary and an ardent desire to shield it from threatening perils. Our repudiation of obsolete religious ideas and usages should bring us with increased and undivided attachment to that real inwardness of our faith which is affected by neither time nor space, which will still endure "when the earth shall wax old like a garment and the heavens pass away like smoke." No, we have no faith to offer that is of our own making, no Judaism tricked out in the approved fashion, no mere polishing of old Jewish customs, no aberrations into a formless void. On the contrary, we want a clean-cut, sharply defined Judaism which, rooted in majestic Sinai, shall yet crown its four thousand years of history by blossoming anew and bringing forth glorious fruit.”*

From the translation of Dr. Einhorn's sermon by Rabbi C. A. Rubenstein. published in commemoration of the Einhorn Centenary Celebration in Har Sinai Temple, November 5, 6 and 7, 1909