Judaism: Weekly Summary

Judaism

Summary: Sunday, August 26-Friday, August 31, 2018

The primary purpose of religion is to help us move beyond the separate-self sense to union with God. —Thomas Keating (Sunday)

The Bible shows a relentless movement toward intimacy and divine union between Creator and creatures. For this to happen, there needs to be some degree of compatibility, likeness, or even “sameness” between the two parties. In other words, there has to be a little bit of God in us that wants to find itself. (Monday)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, we read about people who found God in the seemingly secular and mundane. By including ordinary life, the Hebrew Scriptures include what most of us would call the problem—the negative, the accidental, the sinful—as the precise arena for divine revelation. (Tuesday)

Prophets expose and topple each group’s idols and blind spots, very often showing that we make things into absolutes that are not absolutes in God’s eyes, and we relativize what in fact is central and important. (Wednesday)

It is all one stream of Love! We fully realize that it is God who is doing the loving, and we surrender ourselves to being channels and instruments of that Divine Flow in the world. (Thursday)

Hasidism tries to wake the wave up to being the ocean. Awakening to your true nature is what it is to “place God before you always.” Everywhere you look you see God, not as an abstract spirit but as the True Being of all beings. —Rabbi Rami Shapiro (Friday)

 

Practice: Sabbath

You only need a tiny scrap of time to move toward God. —Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing [1]

The sacrament of Sabbath—keeping a chosen time sacred (though all time is holy; there is no distinction or division between profane and sacred!)—was offered by the Jewish people as a gift for all of humanity. In our busy, technology-driven culture, it is especially important that we intentionally seek rest and re-creation. Sabbath might be saying that at least one seventh of life must be about non-performance and non-egocentric pursuit, or we forget our life’s purpose.

Friend and Mennonite minister Anita Amstutz writes in her book, Soul Tending: A Journey into the Heart of Sabbath:

The Sabbath, or Shabbat in Hebrew, is one of the most important days instituted by God in the Hebrew Bible. Literally meaning “to cease, to end, to rest,” the Sabbath follows six task-oriented, building, and creating days with twenty-four hours of rest and spiritual enrichment on the seventh. The Ten Commandments call not only for remembering (Exodus 20:8) but also for observing Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12). For traditional Jewish people, the Sabbath is honored beginning at sundown on Friday and lasts until the first three stars show in the sky on Saturday evening. It is a highly prescribed day of rest, though some of the rules have relaxed over the centuries. Traditionally food is prepared ahead of time so no work would be required of anyone. . . .

The Sabbath imperative is to not accomplish or initiate anything, refuting the belief that you have to “do something” to be worthy. Instead, the original vision of Sabbath calls us to cease doing something, acquiring things, making stuff, expecting returns. Instead, we are called to just be and receive the Creator’s good gifts. Forget stifling restrictions. Instead, time is savored as a precious gift from God. Time for your body to stretch and your soul to relax. [2]

How might you “keep” or practice Sabbath rest? Anita turns off all electronic devices and spends time in nature. Many spend time in community, whether with their church, family, or friends. I enjoy reading and reflecting. I invite you to set aside regular, day-long periods of rest and retreat, simply being in awareness of God’s presence. Find a rhythm of rest and work that allows for renewal so that you enter your active life from contemplative grounding.

References:
[1] The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 4. See The Cloud of Unknowing, ed. Bernard Bangley (Paraclete Press: 2009), 7.

[2] Anita Amstutz, Soul Tending: A Journey into the Heart of Sabbath (SkyLight Paths: 2018), 7.

For Further Study:
Anita Amstutz, Soul Tending: A Journey into the Heart of Sabbath (SkyLight Paths: 2018)

Richard Rohr & Joseph Martos, Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament (Franciscan Media: 1988)

Richard Rohr, Prophets Then, Prophets Now (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2006), CDMP3 download

Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008)

Rami Shapiro, Hasidic Tales: Annotated and Explained (Jewish Lights Publishing: 2004, 2013)

Image credit: Red and Orange Solar Flare (Rosette Nebula [detail])
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: God reveals the essence of divinity to Moses: ehyeh asher ehyeh, most often translated as I AM what I AM. A more accurate Hebrew translation would be “I will be whatever I will be.” In either case, the Hasidic understanding of the text is the same: God is all that is. God is all that is happening at every moment. God is I AM—not a being or even a supreme being, but Being itself. . . . [Each of us is] a keeper of the I AM; just as a wave is a “keeper of” the ocean in its particular place and time, so are you a keeper of God in your particular place and time. To realize this about yourself is to realize it about all beings. —Rabbi Rami Shapiro

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