Monday, September 9, 2013

The Grandfather of Jewish Renewel

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is the grandfather of the Jewish Renewal movement, and one of the guiding forces in what is now called neo-Hasidism. In this memoir, the nearly 90 year old rabbi sets about to tell the story of his life.

But this memoir, by the author's admission, is not complete. He leaves out all material pertaining to his personal life. We know from other sources how turbulent his spiritual quest was for him and those around him, yet this memoir is strangely sedate. Certainly it is an author's prerogative to leave out anything he or she wishes, but the lack of the personal here gives this work a one dimensional note. He changes a great deal, but the memoir conveys very little conflict. Schachter-Shalomi has a broad and inclusive mind. And presumably, he moved from Lubavitch to Jewish Renewal through some gut wrenching change. It seems the author does not wish to step on toes, or perhaps he is more magnanimous than I presuppose.

But Schachter-Shalomi covers the work he did well. He explains his experience with Lubavitch, his fling with Timothy Leary, his work with Catholic monks, including Thomas Merton, and his visit to the Dali Lama. So this is a work that must be read for those interested in Jewish Renewal. Schachter-Shalomi has taught so many people during his long life, he is like the root of an entire branch of Judaism. His life recollections have great worth.

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