4 Bridging the Gap
A) Within Jewish society: Due to the growing animosity between secular Jews, who deny the merit of Jewish spiritualism altogether, and religious Jews, who from their side not only reject the unholy attitude of their secular brothers and sisters, but they themselves excluding any spiritual alternatives outside of the camp of conservative Judaism, thus creating an unbridgeable gap between the two fragments of Jewish society. “We also cannot ignore the need to evaluate Judaism to new dimensions, provoked by a new world which, more and more challenges us to ensure that our relationship with God remains our primary concern.” (Nathan Lopes Cardozo: The Beth Ha-Midrash of Avraham Avinu, p 26)
To cope with this challenge and to overcome this gap, not only the secular Jews have to undergo a deep inner transformation, but also we as religious people insofar as we need to adapt a much more spiritual attitude towards life, which is based on sincere self-discovery and wake self-awareness. “A person who is serious about working on self-improvement must first know himself. There is no other knowledge that is more difficult to acquire as the honest recognition of yourself.” (Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe, in Alei Shuv) And: “All God’s service is dependent upon improvement of one’s character.” (The Vilna Gaon Views Life, Ch 1, p 1) We have to return to the upper root of our soul (“Lech Lecha” – “Go to yourself” (Bereshit 12. 1)).
For that we need to get away from mere book-learning and take a courageous step towards inner transformation and spiritual realization. Spirituality is not based on the adaptation of outer rules, but on internalizing their intent and meaning in our daily lives. As it says: “You shall be holy, as I, your G-d, am holy!” To attain holiness, means to abide in truth, faithfulness and compassion in whatever we do. We need to fill ourselves with the spirit of wisdom and love divine – only then we will be real devotees of the All-mighty. As it is said: “Not sacrifices I want, but Love and Knowledge of G-d (Chesed chafatzti ve-Da’at Elohim)” (Ose Ha-Navi).
It is Abraham Joshua Heschel who has stated: “We have too many text books and too little text people”. And Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has added: “One of the greatest tragedies in Jewish education is that we have separated the teaching of Judaism from encouraging our youth to feel the presence of God in their personal lives and the constant privilege to transform oneself into a more dignified and sensitive personality. … we fail to teach our students the understanding that … knowledge only has genuine value when it leads to a greater awareness of God and a deeper appreciation for our fellow man.” (The Beth Ha-Midrash of Avraham Avinu, p 41)
We have to learn that G-d is looking deeply into our hearts and souls and not onto the surface. It is not the Tzitzit that make you a good Jew, but Chesed Ha-Lev (and Da’at Elohim). If we want Israel to survive as nation, we have to learn to embrace they whole body of Jewish people and not exclude anyone from the blessings of the divine inheritance that is given and promised to us. The fallen sheep will not be saved and gathered back into the flock by judgment and rejection, also not by teaching them how to use “T’fillin”, but by your convincing shining example and your heart-felt care and compassion for him or her as for a real brother or sister.
If we do not want to risk Israel to fall apart as a nation, we as Religious Jews and spiritual people with an embracing heart will have to reach out for our secular Jewish brethren, not by forcing them to take T’fillin and Tzitzit, but for their hearts; we need to see and understand their needs and pains, as well as their G-d given gifts and abilities. We should not reject them or look down to them in a haughty manner, but become aware that it is them, who run the nations industries, its agriculture, its health system and its military, in one word: it is them who provide our living condition and security. I guess we would improve a lot, if we would consider how to express our gratitude and appreciation to them and to contribute to them some of our spiritual light and treasures. What they need in the first place is respect and appreciation and in the second a much deeper understanding for their needs – getting to a point of comforting them with our compassion. What will give our secular brethren dignity is not judgmentalism, but “chesed” and “Menschlichkeit”.
With our love and understanding we should even not stop with our fellow Jew, but go beyond, embracing our Arab blood brothers, yeah all living beings as well. This is living Torah, to love G-d above all and your neighbor as yourself. (Hillel) And if our heart is “sitting on the right spot”, we will feel that every soul and living being has emanated from the same transcendental origin and is bestowed with the same longings and feelings as all of us.
It should not only be the dry call to fulfill a divine command (Mitzva), but by virtue of our own hearts and feelings that we strive to become “a light onto the nations”; lo, a spontaneously inwardly rising love should be the guiding force of our lives and actions that go beyond worldly judgments and discrimination.
Discrimination is needed for ourselves, to being able to separate lower from higher thoughts and emotions and pure from impure intentions. But as for our fellow men we should be a clear post pointing to eternal truth and holiness.
As Eran Eizik stated: It is “the intolerance between different populations in the country that contribute to the creation of segmentation and weakness among people, … (and) the deterioration of moral standards, values, and ethics, ultimately causing social chaos at all societal levels” (Eran Eizik in his concept for a Self-Development and Retreat Center )
A path out from chaos can only unfold on the basis of a return to the very roots of our existence, not by overthrowing all tradition, but by drawing from its living spirit and by extracting it from the deadly and worn-out outer forms; we need to spiritualize our religious understanding by a dedicated exercise of self-discovery and wakeful self-awareness. As the great Rabbis have restlessly pointed out, the spirit of Torah is based on living values, attitude, pure conduct of life and character building (Mussar). Only on the pillars of such a practical day-to-day spirituality the Temple of a united Jewish nation can be restored.
A group of Jewish leaders (Council) has gathered in order to create and guide different programs to not only face the situation, but to bring about a new approach to deal with each other and to overcome old animosities, thus providing for a renaissance of Judaism in the living spirit of God.
“Ultimately it is the integrity of the teacher that will be able to bring real change. We must prevent the study of Judaism from becoming solely an academic undertaking. We must make sure, by example, that it is an encounter with the world of religious experience, which brings about a transformation in man. Only in that way can we make Judaism irresistible.
No doubt, this is far from easy. Indeed, all noble things are as difficult as they are rare. But just as Avraham understood that there is no success without hardship, so too, there is no Judaism without the realization that many may succeed by what they know, or do, but few by what they are. It is only in the art of authentic being that there is a real future for man.” (Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: The Beth Ha-Midrash of Avraham Avinu, p 46-47)
For further reading see:
H. E. Benedikt: “Am I my brothers keeper?”;
H. E. Benedikt: "Israel , the Covenant and you";
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: “Judaism as ‘Menschlichkeit’”;
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo: "The Beth Ha-Midrash of Avraham Avinu";
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: "A dear Son to Me".
Associate Partners in this field are:
Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo,
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin,
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz,
Dr. Heinrich Eliyahu Benedikt.
We are also inviting guest-speakers and -lecturers from time to time.
B) Within Muslim society: Like all frozen traditions and dead institutionalized religions so also Islam is in deep need of renewal and spiritualization. A transition from the exoteric fundamentalism of cemented Shari’a towards a spiritual esoteric approach of Islam after the living spirit of Sufism (Tasawwuf) is needed. Only such an approach can lead the thirsting soul on the path of Ma’arifa, God-Realization, Fana and Baqa, Self-denial and spiritual rebirth, granting profound inner peace and consolation, as well as a growing independence from outer circumstances, religious rites, symbols and claims.
This work is led by competent Sheiks and Imams who are well established in divine truth and compassion, like Sheikh Abdul Aziz Buchari, Ibrahim el Hawa and Sheikh Minasra;
For further reading see:
Ibn Arabi: Lubbu-l-Lubb - Kernel of the Kernel;
Ibn Arabi: Whoso Knoweth Himself;
Ibn Arabi:Fusus al Fusus;
Al Ghazali: Kimiya’e Saadat - The Alchemy of Happiness;
Al Ghazali: Ihya-ul-ulum – Revival of the Religious Science.