Enlightened Judaism: A Spiritual Algorithm by Rabbi Michael Shevack

The spiritual insights that will merge out of this algorithm can be systematically taught and cultured to bring about a new Jewish Enlightenment.

In my last article, I daringly called for the establishment of a new Jewish Enlighenment, evolving the Haskalah of the 19th century.

Enlightened Judaism? What does that mean? Is it just another buzzword or religious campaign, or is it another denomination? No! True Enlightened Judaism is just the opposite. It is the spiritual foundation to what makes Jews, Jews! It is also the beginning of an end to cheap denominationalism and religious bickering.

That’s because Enlightened Judaism puts authentic human spirituality first, before religion!

Enlightened Judaism is spiritually awake: This is a Judaism that is based upon direct, individual, spiritual experience of God. This means each individual must, through personal experience, learn “the ropes”, the “boundaries”, the “order” or “commandments” which are part of Life’s Design. Each individual must learn How Life Works for Good. What feelings, thoughts, words and actions create Good and “amplify Good” (Glorify God), since, as often repeated by me, the word “God” is just a contraction of the word “Good”.

Enlightened Judaism is Truth-based, as is all scientific knowledge. In Enlightened Judaism, the authority system for validating Truth is not merely based upon tradition, or upon mere rabbinic or ecclesiastical claims to authority. Instead, it is based upon direct, human awareness, experience  and transmission of knowledge of Life’s Design. That’s why Enlightened Judaism is spiritual, and not necessarily consistent with religious traditions as interpreted by some fundamentalists. That’s why Enlightened Judaism is fully compatible with the truths of correctly-interpreted scientific observation. Enlightened Jews do not have a “divided mind” between “religion” and secular-scientific truth. We cannot experience God as One, if we’re divided!

Enlightened Judaism is tradition-inspired.  Teachings from the past, including the words of scripture and their interpretations, are valuable insights on “How Life Works for Good” received from our ancestors.

Why re-learn forgotten Lessons of Goodness through pain and suffering, when we can receive this ancestral knowledge and learn it “the easy way”? The value of tradition in a Truth-based Enlightened Judaism, is not absolute – an immutable, fixed “revelation” which shatters the sky over Sinai with volcanic eruptions, and justifies absolute ecclesiastical authority. Nonetheless, its value is permanently-needed for real human beings with real human needs.

Enlightened Judaism does not see the surrounding secular culture as a threat to Jewish identity. Just the opposite. The fact that Jews can feel comfortable in non-Jewish culture is because non-Jews have become successful in embracing the core Jewish Life-values which are, in part, the foundation of their own scripture and traditions. We started the parade of universal history which has spread to virtually every nation on earth. We just need to get to the front of it, again!

Enlightened Judaism humbly understands that there is much to accomplish, and that the vision of Judaism has not been fully attained, either within Jewish culture, or within the mainstream culture. Therefore, we retain our covenantal responsibility to be different, to engage the salvation of this world through Jewish cultural eyes. We do this not because we are fearfully defensive that “we will not be assimilated”, or because we are insular or tribalist. We do this simply out of pride, and conviction, that the History of the Jews is aligned with God’s Creation. The World needs Jews! We are valuable!

As hinted way back in the first article of this series, the path to Enlightened Judaism can begin simply by Living according to a kind of “spiritual algorithm”. This algorithm was “invented” by the early Tanna. It is an essential cognitive framework for discerning How Life Works for Good.

Following this 7 fold algorithm will begin the process of spiritual awakening in Jews, whether so-called “religious” or “secular”:

  1. God is the Creator. God is One.
  2. What takes place in Life is caused or permitted to be caused by God.
  3. What occurs in Life occurs according to “laws”, “commandments” or the “order” which is built into this world. It is this that determines whether something occurs “for good” or “for evil”. “Torah”, in principle, is the Operational Design of this world.
  4. The scriptural recordings called “torah”, are human discoveries and enunciations of Life’s Torah, but are not themselves God’s Own “Pen”, i.e. a canon that is revelation itself. Living-spiritually is our foundation; not “religion”, which is derived, secondarily.
  5. The Jewish People have a continued Covenant or Spiritual Purpose,  to help bring Goodness or God into this world, not just for ourselves but for all humankind. That is the Reason for our difference!
  6. Drawing upon our ancestral knowledge, we implement and revise our past spiritual discoveries, continuously, for the purpose of affirming the above-five principles. “Judaism” is never, a fixed, entrenched “system”.
  7. We take continuous care, value and joy to express our unique Jewish identity, because the world depends on us!  It is our Purpose which is, first and foremost, the foundation of our Uniqueness. The artifacts, religious customs and “technologies” are important but secondary. We are not “different for difference sake”.

This 7-fold “algorithm”, if installed into every single Jewish person – and it can be done for people of all ages – will, as it did for our formative and formidable Tanna, open up the doorways to a direct, authentic, Jewish spiritual experience and insight.

The spiritual insights that will merge out of this algorithm can be systematically taught and cultured. This, over time, can bring about a new Jewish Enlightenment. It will also, over time, move us past the disagraceful denominationalism that has shredded our klal.

True Jewish Spiritual Insight is what makes Enlightened Judaism.

Teaching real, credible, objective spiritual-experience is the foundation to healing and evolving contemporary Jewish Life.

The rest, as we shall discuss in the next article, is education.

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