Too Religious For Judaism

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Zohar states, “Yisrael, Orita Ve Kudsha-Brich-hu kulu Echad” Israel (the people), Torah & the Holy One are all One.

The Bible explicitly commands us to Love God, the Talmud states that the basis for all the Torah is love of our fellow Jew.

Elsewhere in the Talmud there is a serious argument of what is greater the Study of Torah or doing Mitzvoth, after a very long discussion they conclude that the Study of Torah is greater!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (the Moshiach one) in his inaugural lecture (1951) stated that there are three primary and equal loves, love of God, love of the Jewish people & love of Torah.

I believe that these three equal loves are the true signature of authentic Judaism.

If any one of these are missing or become more important than the other, the holy tripod on which Judaism stands starts to falter and it is in my opinion it’s no longer an authentic expression of Judaism.

A Judaism that loves God & Torah but disregards its fellow Jews however “God fearing” is not in my opinion an authentic expression of Judaism.

A Judaism that loves Jews & God but disregards Torah however loving, happy & amazing is equally as misguided.

Likewise one that loves Torah & Jews, but ignores God although it might be totally “frum” or even humanistic they are missing the point in a major way. (Just to clarify if this is the first time reading one of my articles the “God” I’m referring to is the “All of Existence & beyond, coming into Being every moment” the All, the ONE etc).

Let’s recap, three EQUAL loves, none above the other, balancing these loves can be tricky, but as long as all three are important and we are attempting to balance them, I believe it’s a form of Judaism that is in balance.

In my life, I’ve had the opportunity to visit many different types of synagogues, in different communities with a variety of approaches.

Recently I had the luck of being invited to very cool Carlebach inspired Brestlov Friday Night Minyan, it was happy and inspired, open, lively but also deeply spiritual.

It attracted a wide variety of people, from Shtrimal wearing Hasidim to people just dipping their toes into shul going, and everything in-between.

It filled my Friday night with song and dance which I carried with me during the week and it spiritually carried me.

From Friday night till the middle of the week it inspired me with joy, love & unity. And from the middle of the week, I looked forward to dancing and welcoming in the holy Shabbat with such an immensely spiritual experience.

But after three months, it’s been stopped, not because of the joy police, wanting everyone to be miserable, but because the people who started it thought that there was too much talking going on in the back of the shul, and it was too informal. And hey! it’s their gig, and they are entitled to do what they like.

But as I’ve said, I’ve been to shuls, even now, I shul shop, shul hop, and the quiet whispers at the back of this Carlebach/Breslov Minyan was the quietest, most the most respectful, I’ve ever come across.

So what I’m saying is, “Hold on!! you had something really amazing going on here, something that brought Jews from all parts of the community together, which created and fostered love, joy and unity and you want to kill it because it was not quiet & spiritual enough for you? Because it wasn’t dead quiet, because the dancing was more fun than the serious purely blissful notions they had imagined?

In short you wanted it to be more spiritual?

So because of their own spiritual elitism, other more simple Jews now have to suffer. Suffer lifeless, repetitive and boring services, because the people organizing this cool Minyan are puritans.

And fine, its their vision, but seriously, what it really points to is a love of God and a personal spiritual quest and puritanism which put their own spiritual development ahead of the good of other people and the community.

For me this is typical of a self-centered form of spirituality, typical of Boomers and people who are spiritually immature. And it misses the greatest opportunity for spiritual growth and development which is giving up your ideal spiritual vision, to help, love and inspire others to be happy.

That’s where the idea of these three equal loves comes in, equal means that loving God is not more important than loving your fellow, or loving Torah is not more important than loving God. Each have the same and equal value and importance. And only with all three do we find spiritual equilibrium.

Abraham, was talking to God, communing with the Divine Presence, yet as soon as he believed he had guests, he turned away from God to great his guests.

Yes it takes prioritizing, even some juggling, and we may not always get it perfect, but loving your fellow Jew and human being is equaly as important as loving God, perhaps if they would love Torah as much as they love their own spiritual development the they might have figured this one out?

Can you get to heaven with just one of these loves? I’m quite sure you can. But can to create Heaven On Earth without all three? That, I seriously doubt.

The mystics explain that it is through the Torah that a Jew can realize they are One with God. And it is through the revelation of Oneness in the world that God dwells here on earth, and with that Peace On Earth & life everlasting.

So I pray; let our love of Torah teach us a love for each other that overwhelms the love for ourselves, so that we can all dance & celebrate our love of God in joy, dance & unity.