Wednesday, May 30, 2007
REFORM JUDAISM AND RABBI ADIN STEINSALTZ
Adin Steinsaltz, author of THE THIRTEEN PETALLED ROSE, a book about the Jewish Kabbalah, and leader of the newly founded Sanhedrin, writes from the Hasidic perspective in Judaism. As such, I have been told, he would not be speaking to Reform Jews and other segments of the Jewish religion who, some have said, have no interest in the Kabbalah.
In researching this topic on the web, I found this is not necessarily true. Some examples:
- Rabbi Steve Cohen, March 30, 2005 CCAR Convention, Panel on Pittsburgh Principles and the Direction of Reform Judaism. The principles are the heart and soul of Reform Judaism. At the website which discusses Rabbi Cohen's talk at the Convention, you can read:
A second aspect of a paradoxical Judaism for our generation is taught by Adin Steinsaltz who speaks of two modes of being in Judaism. The first mode, he says, is study, in which we bring to bear all the power and resources of our rational, analytical mind. In the mode of study, says Steinsaltz, all questions are permitted. In Talmud Torah, we ask and ask and ask. Nothing is off-limits, and the harder the question the better. But the second mode of being in Judaism, says Steinsaltz, is prayer, in which we let go of our questions, relax the critical muscle in our minds, and pour out our hearts to God in simplicity.
Neither mode is right or wrong. Both are necessary for a complete Jewish life, and we must oscillate back and forth between the two modes of study and of prayer, just as we must oscillate between waking and sleeping, or between work and rest.
Steinsaltz’s prescription, I believe, can help those of us who seek to organize our lives around the unknown God. Because in our mode of critical thinking, we will be reminded of, and we will insist upon, the utter unknowability of God. We will see clearly the social and psychological constructions of our religion, throwing open the doors and windows of our minds and letting the bright sunshine of reason flood the darkest corners of our lives. But then we will also make time to step out of the sunlight, into the night-time of prayer, of sleep, of dreams. When Yaakov arrived at hamakom, says the midrash, God extinguished the sun, like a king who commands his household saying “put out the lanterns, for I desire to speak with my friend in intimacy.”
Rabbi Chaim Bender, writing on the topic of Reform Judaism at AllExperts, tells us:
The following books can be found in many major bookstores, or click the links to buy the book online from amazon.com.
Adin Steinsaltz's The Thirteen Petalled Rose (Hardcover) or (Paperback) is a complete mystical cosmology written by one of the greatest Jewish scholars alive today. It discusses the various levels of existence, the angels and demons that are created by our actions, the concept of reincarnation, and many other subjects of interest.
Temple Emmanuel in Baltimore, a Reform congregation, offers the following at their Adult Education website:
Adin Steinsaltz has written in his new book, We Jews:Who we are and What should We Do? "Here then is the paradox- that the Jew can be a more complete representative of the national entity into which he has been absorbed than the original inhabitants." Through a study of the short stories of writers such as Nathan Englander, I.B. Singer, Allegra Goodman, and E.L. Doctorow we will examine the American-Jewish experience.
Temple House of Israel Congregation in Virginia mentions a course in their Bulletin:
P’nai Yisrael Chavurah is pleased to bring Arthur Kurzweil to Charlottesville for a weekend of learning from Friday, March 12th through Sunday, March 14th.
Kurzweil is a gifted, knowledgeable and engaging teacher. He will learn Talmud
with his participants, speak of his teacher, Adin Steinsaltz and dazzle all with
sleight of hand. Friday’s teaching “My Rebbe: A Personal Look at the Work of
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz” will discuss Rabbi Steinsaltz’s comprehensive commentary
on the entire Talmud over a potluck vegetarian dinner beginning at 6:00 pm.
From the Union for Reform Judaism website:
In sharp contrast to an ersatz Buddhism lately masquerading as Jewish spirituality that claims, "Wherever you go, there you are," comes Hasidism’s answer, "Wherever you go, you’re not there yet!" Or, in the words of the great contemporary Israeli Talmudist and kabbalist Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, "Jewish thought pays little attention to inner tranquility and peace of mind" ( The Thirteen Petalled Rose , trans. Yehuda Hanegbe [New York: Basic Books, 1980], p. 131). Indeed, Steinsaltz goes so far as to say that "someone who has stopped going—he who has a feeling of . . . a great light from above that has brought him to rest—to be someone who has lost his way" (p. 132).