Ever been on a Spiritual JEWDYSSEE?
Soon a NEW series will start on JEWDYSSEE about The Core Jewish Beliefs in the 21st Century. As a teaser here is an older text that I wrote two years ago on the same topic…
In Europe it has become a big thing to define something like a Judaism for the 21st century. Finally, after Europe had been for decades nothing but a big Jewish graveyard between privatized Judaism (USA) and nationalized Judaism (Israel). Where will Europe and its fastest growing community in Germany go? The American approach is a success story, but also a story of spiritual assimilation. Religion serves pragmatism and gives you a Jewish-American identity just like an Irish- or Italian-American one. The Israeli way also lacks a certain substance. An Israeli has a Jewish identity by living in Israel. It doesn´t necessarily pose a further question. An Israeli friend of mine once told me as an answer to my question regarding his Jewishness: “Man, I served f…. three years in the army, this has to be enough for everything, especially for all this Jewish stuff”. So where does Europe stand? Are we becoming americanized Jews, similar to the parents of Gaylord Focker (Ben Stiller) or are we the substitute players for the Israeli army, whenever manpower is needed? This question has as many answers as there are apples on a healthy apple tree. The American would say “Who cares, just do your thing”. The Israeli would say “It is such a shame for a Jew to sit there in Europe instead of being free in Israel, fulfilling a 2000 year dream…blablabla”. And inside Europe, or more in particular, inside Germany. Well, here you have the big chaos. There is a traditional German-Jewish community that returned after WWII, but actually most of them were not the German Jews from before the war, but Polish Jews who were displaced persons and had to listen for decades from all sides of the Jewish world that they were traitors, how could they live as Jews in Germany? And since 1990 there is this huge Russian community, of whom many don´t care at all and others got involved through Chabad activities. German Judaism isn´t any longer what you think it is – Reform Judaism with an organ and a choir, showing the desperate wish for cultural assimilation to the Christian world of the 19th century. The three most influential groups are 1. the Limmud Jews – culturally and spiritually interested Jews that love workshops of all kinds by the amazing Limmud-movement led by brilliant people such as Clive Lawton. 2.the Taglit-Birthright Jews. The ones who “made Aliyah” but for some reasons never really left. 3. the Russian speakers.
I will give AN answer, not THE answer, and I hope to inspire a few readers to deal with these ideas, to love them or to fight them.
Two general points (my opinion, open for discussion):
1. The Jewish world is in a tough situation, not only because of the holocaust, also because of a process that started through the French Revolution. How do we remain Jews in the world of enlightement, in which Christians do not put the barriers in our way anymore that have kept us in the Ghettos? Did we stay Jews only because we were persecuted as Jews as some claim? Did Antisemitism make the Jew? Shouldn´t we be happy that we don´t have to play that role anymore? The answer is NO. Judaism has a spiritual wisdom, aside from the traditional culture conservatism that nearly all cultures share. The essential Jewish question is not “Will my kids marry Jewish?” because that is not wisdom, but plain cultural conservatism that we share with every Catholic Italian mother called “Don´t have descendants that are different from your ancestors”. The essential Jewish question is “How aware are you in your everyday life of the fact that you are sitting on a planet in some universe, spending days that pass faster and faster with every year?” Judaism is the religion that introduced the sanctification of time. It is manifested in three daily prayers, in various blessings like the ones over food and especially through the Shabbat once a week. All major monotheistic religion have understood that worshipping the sun, the moon or the Thunder cannot be the answer, because only the force behind all of them is worth to be worshipped. Judaism says that faith in that force is not enough. In order to be aware, in order to grow you need daily rituals. If you go to a meeting once a week it is like going to the gym once a week – you will stay “spiritually fat”. Only daily rituals that overcome lazy human nature have the power to make the difference – the permanent revolution, permanent growth. Humans used to believe in one world with many gods, but the answer is one G-d with many worlds, with many different individual approaches that have one thing in common, one longing as brothers and sisters. Therefore the answer is not hobby religion, but a radical (lat. radix=root) approach, best put in words by the German poet Goethe “Two things are needed – roots and wings”.
2. There is NO alternative to the idea of Zalman Shachter-Schalomi, seeing Judaism as an organ among others in the body of humanity. We need the Jew as a Jew, but any empty pride, any belief in a special choseness, neglecting the truth in other religious approaches, is false and an insult to G-d´s divine creation.
I hope you found this inspiring and keep on following and commenting!