Thursday, November 3, 2011

Some Notes and a Summary of Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels “Non-dual Judaism” PART THREE

Rabbi Jacobson-Maisels ends his discussion on the non-duality of God, and non-dual Judaism, right at the meat of Jewish religious life, the mitzvot.  He quotes the Sefet Emet, a  famous Hasidic book, which calls the mitzvot “'advice' on how to attain liberation.”  The mitzvot are “practices of self-clarification that ultimately bring us an awareness of the omnipresence of the divinity.”

For this rabbi, the mitzvot are “training in mindfulness.”  He uses the term from (pop) psychology to bring the mitzvot into a new focus.  The mitzvot are designed to keep us constantly focused on “the non-separation of ourselves from the All.”  Some self-evident acts of denial and giving, like tzedekah and saying a blessing before a  meal, are to train us in “non-attachment and letting go of many elements from which we build our sense of self.”  They cultivate “humility and submission.”

So, in a paradoxical way, one of the methods to experience that we are all part of the ALL, is to practice the acts of self-denial as laid out in the halakahic system of mitzvot.  Notions of “separation, purity, retreat and cessation are crucial to our development and maintenance of a consciousness of divinity.”  Such a critical Jewish practice  as keeping the Sabbath “gives us the opportunity to cultivate awareness in a way that is difficult in the hustle and bustle of the workday week.”  We find the ALL by keeping ourselves aloof, in a sense, from the world at certain times.

Ultimately, this view transforms the goals of Judaism.  A person practices the mitzvot alright, but not so that salvation will come from “some being” but in the awareness of ayin, the divine that is all around us right now.  This is supposed to be a healing exercise, that if practiced, will give us the “dignity, strength, and spaciousness to meet suffering and confusion with compassion and presence.”  Knocking down wall sthat separate us from others and the world, will bring about the great tikkun, or healing.

Rabbi Jacobson-Maisels' view of Judaism is transformed by notions from eastern religion and modern psychology. His version of Judaism, non-duality, has always been a minority view in the chorus of Jewish opinion about the nature of God, people, the world, and their relationships with each other.

Next, we will examine how well non-duality fits with “normative” Judaism.  And explore some of the problems that non-duality seeks to cure but only washes away.

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