Judaism for a New Age

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Judaism for a New Age

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has been at the forefront of pioneering Jewish spiritual renewal. His most recent book is From Age-ing to Sage-ing (Time Warner, 1998).

A new consciousness is emerging among the Jewish people which will flourish in the coming millennium.

This millennium will bring a new ecumenism to Judaism and to the Jewish people. I've already seen a growing centrism in the Orthodox world, an openness to including in clal Yisra'el (the community of the Jewish people) everyone from the Orthodox to the Reform--and secular Jews as well. Of course, there will be some tension between those who want a more flexible definition of Judaism and those who want to insist on more rigid paths. But all this is part of what it is to be a living organism. You need some part that is brittle and stiff like the skeleton to give shape and hold up the other parts.

There are many signs that the ceiling that locked Judaism into a halachic behaviorism (a focus on specified rules and behaviors) is lifting. We have people learning meditation in all corners of the Jewish world and people who are interested in the somatic area of serving God, so that religious services not only are about addressing the cortex, but can include sensation and bodily movement.

A new generation is arising in Israel and in Islamic countries that seeks a renewal of religious traditions in positive ways that will bring greater openness and greater respect for "the other." There is more energy toward peacemaking that speaks to the mythic and shadow regions of people's feelings. That new energy now makes possible a recent article by Rabbi Froman, a founder of Gush Emunim and chaplain of the Knesset, calling for Jerusalem to be an international city and the capital of the world. When I called for this in 1967 it was seen as a very extreme position, but today this kind of idea can come from inside the power circles.

Even the information superhighway is being sacramentalized by various religious groups. In the future the Web will have an impact on the consciousness of even the most fundamentalist elements of the religious world.

The world will need some of Judaism's insights even more in the new millennium. …