Friday, March 25, 2016

Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice

Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice, by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l, is more or less like all books by Rabbi Zalman.  Considered the guru of the Jewish Renewal Movement, his books will make you feel good, give you hope that Jewish practice has meaning, and that you can tailor the style of this meaning to your life.

Having read books of this stripe for some time, I can say that after an extended run of good feelings, Jewish Renewal does not prepare you for the long haul.  It lifts lethargic Jews out of their doldrums, which is excellent, but after a honeymoon period, there is the struggle.  Jay Michaelson, disciple of most of the primary Jewish Renewal figures, recognizes this, and writes eloquently of the usefulness of negative emotions in religion and spiritual disciplines, particularly sorrow, in his book The Gate of Tears.

Rabbi Zalman was a happy man.  For the rest of us, there is always sadness, even when you are God-intoxicated.

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