Rabbi Michael Shevack - Israel

In this, the final article on my series “Re-JEW-venating the Jew”, I would like to propose something very bold.

Actually, it is not very bold. It is simply the parade that, I believe, is already taking place, but no one is getting to the head of it and leading.

After being nearly destroyed through the Shoah, which was undeniably the result of Western Civilization’s violent anti-Jewishness, part of their Roman pagan ancestry – The Jewish People returned home to Zion. Hitler’s attempt to resurrect pagan Romanism, eradicating the People who were the root of a Universal History based upon human conscience, failed. Christian Europeans, in a very real spiritual sense, had to rescue the Jew from the sins of their ancestors. This set us all on a completely new course of history.

Today, not so much “Jews”, but the People of Israel are now connected back to their land. The “religion” which was built around us, to protect us in the Diaspora, creating a portable tabernacle that would keep our nation alive, has greatly served its purpose. The moral and ethical structure of Western Civilization evolved over-time to become essentially “Hebrew”. The secular, scientific, proof-based philosophy has taken over the world, replacing “God-belief”, or “faith-bias”, as the primary criterion of Truth.

While there is still a healthy remnant of “religionists”, especially during the awesome holiday of Yom Kippur, by and large the vast majority of the Jewish People in Israel, and the vast majority of the Jewish People around the world are not at all – on an everyday basis – religious or particularly “Jewish”. They share a core, ethical foundation virtually indistinguishable from their neighbors. And within these agreed-upon ethical norms, they live simple, materialist, “rational”, lives. Are they religiously Jewish? Is “Jewish” the right word for us, these days?

These days, one can observe within the contemporary “Jew”, whether Diaspora or Israeli, a serious spiritual hole. It is a big hole. It is filled, predominantly, with some kind of agnosticism or atheism, justified by science. For others, it is being filled with spiritual knowledge from Hinduism, yoga and meditation. It is also being supplemented with knowledge of Buddhist religious-philosophy, so much so, that the phrase BU-JU has become commonplace, like the bagel. Jews fill the ranks of every single major spiritual movement, including Christian Science, Scientology, and the Unification Church.

Why can’t this hunger be satisfied by our own teachings? Because the very religionist perspective that has been dominant in “Jewish” teachings, is not at all in keeping with these times. What we need today is to re-vamp our educational methodology. It needs to unleash the nature of our people as Israel in the spiritual and literal sense of that word – He [She] who sees God, Prince of God, Upright before God.

Being Israel, spiritually, is not a religion. It is a bio-spiritual-ontological relationship between the human being – body, mind, soul, spirit. (There is not enough time here to unpack all these words.)

Being Israel means being not “religiously-covenanted”, belonging to a synagogue-club that follows certain ritual and cultural rules. Being Israel means to be spiritually covenanted, to be able to seek, and attain, a true spiritual integration – a living, breathing covenant, with that Reality or Existence or Unity, which can be observed, through alert, spiritual insight, to govern all Life and Creation. This has been called “God”, Ha-Shem, Adonai or YHVH (though its pronunciation, eludes us.) But, these words are not Its Essence.

Being Israel means being able to re-forge the individual human relationship with Divinity – by any word or description – and translate that into a meaningful relationship between oneself, one’s family– and from there– one’s extended family, including the entire world, as a Light Unto the Nations.

It is my experience, personally, and in teaching others, that when one succeeds in opening up this spiritual experience, then, teaching so-called “Judaism” evolves to a whole new level. It becomes ALIVE!

Instead of pouring over the books, to determine legal precedents for keeping our religious government-in-exile functioning – we now become truly observant Jews, in a different, but more original sense.

We observe how the Good (God) in Life functions. We observe, first hand, its boundaries. We “learn the ropes” of Life, so-to-speak. We observe and discover, from direct personal experience the ORDER in which we live. “How do we create GOOD?” “How is Life organized to create GOOD?” “What are the behaviors and organizational structures to our communities that induce and preserve GOOD?”

This ORDER (another way to translate mitzvoth, i.e. a commandment in Life; it’s organizational-requirements), can be directly discerned. One becomes an observant Jew. One need not rely on the rabbi as anything but a helping hand to this experience, that is, if, in fact, the rabbi has such experience, which not part of any seminary curriculum.

This may seem like a spiritually-renegade idea, but it is not. It is exactly how our Blessed Rabbis viewed the Patriarch Abraham, who, having lived prior to the revered Mosaic revelation, had to learn about the One God from somewhere. They decided he learned it from observation of Life.

These days, all contemporary Israel is in the position of being Abraham, the first “observant” Jew, in the true, Reality-based sense, of this word. Their so-called “Judaism” has been rendered all but unnecessary by the general ethical-moral universal culture of secular life, ironic, indeed, since it was derived from a Christian offshoot of us. So, they must re-forge by direct insight their own experience of Good, their own awareness of Something we might call “God”.

Imagine if there were a way to teach the natural, spiritual insight that is the true underpinning – the Life underpinning – that reconnects the human being to each other, his “tribe” and the land. Imagine that! We are talking about the true return of Israel.

We are not talking about bringing back “Judaism” to the Land of Israel. We are not talking about the need to “pump up” synagogue membership. We are talking about a bio-ontological union between the remnants of ancient Israel, with Israel present. This is a living spiritual continuity, not a mere received inheritance.

I believe American “Jews” are really destined, over time, to be considered Israeli-Americans. Their deepest, most original homeland will be Israel, new and ancient, on the very same land, regardless of its negotiated boundaries. They will be bilingual. The category-conflict secular vs. religious will not exist anymore.

This is the parade, I believe, that is taking place. Will you join me? Will you join me in re-creating a people for whom the Torah is written in their native language? Where a real relationship exists between People and God?

Will you join me in re-creating a spiritual peoplehood? Opening up an enlightenment of mind and heart, so that each individual person can experience, personally, the “hand” of “Ha-Shem” – even if they might prefer, these days, to postulate it as being an “self-reflective n-dimensional manifold”, instead of a “Father” or “King”.

This hardly means the destruction of what we might still call “religion”.

Those elements of the Jewish religion that do survive, will also become spiritualized. The yearly moral-cycling around Yom Kippur, for example, will be felt, and known as indistinguishable from end of the growing-cycle. “God the Creator” and “God the Redeemer” will be a living spiritual experience, where the remnant of Diasporic religion past, will be re-infused by a land-based ontology, in keeping with our Peoplehood and Land-Covenant.

It will be more Life-based than Torah-based, but, the latter need hardly be excluded, but “gently subsumed” into the Present. The PRESENCE of God, in this moment.

I am heralding a new age of Enlightenment for the People of Israel, if not, all peoples, in keeping with the most profound vision of our ancient prophets: My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples (Iaiah 56.7)

God is not a religious proposition, or a “faith” or a “belief”. It is a sublime Experience of Unity. For Israel, this Unity is lived out through the historical task of world unification. This is a real experience, human, rooted in Life. It is beyond competitive religious philosophies and legal codifications.

Being Israel is a true spiritual path!

Educating Israel for Enlightenment, is the TRUE RETURN, to Zion.

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