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Future Of Judaism

Future Of Judaism, Inter-Faith

Being Tested

Did you see the majestic phenomenon of the solar eclipse last week?

One friend from Oregon wrote:

The most unforgettable moment was—after about two minutes of experiencing the totality—when the light of the sun, like a sparkling facet of a diamond, began peeking out from the edge…It symbolized for me that in the deepest throes of darkness the light is born.” [1]

His sentiment comes right out of Kabbalah: the notion that light is born out of chaos and darkness. The 13th century Zohar says: For there is no light except that which issues from darkness… and there is no good except that which issues from evil.[2]

There is a lot of darkness in the world right now: fear, insecurity, hopelessness. How do we go about bringing light out of so much dark? I believe the Zohar is telling us that spiritual light comes not from avoiding, but from facing into the darkness. That true goodness comes not from untested innocence but from facing and wrestling with our darkest parts.

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Future Of Judaism, Inter-Faith, Jewish Ethos

Resisting the New Normal

Before Election Day, I had myself convinced that humanity was making slow (if sometimes halting) progress in the direction of liberal democracy, and that the light of reason would ultimately prevail. Yes, laughably, I even confess to imagining that the dark horrors of the 20th century were receding on the far horizon, and that despite the ravages of testosteronic governance around the world, our shared environmental crisis would shortly take center stage and push aside our power-driven dramas.

As the growling Debaser-in-Chief would say: Wrong!

 Okay, I’m waking up now, and finding that every spiritual tool is requisite. On the one hand I have faith that larger forces of Life and Good are at play here. But attention to the news these past three months has forced a rapid recalibration. Anyone who has Holocaust or other cataclysmic oppression in their lineage knows of what I speak.

The slow slippage of democratic norms that I have taken for granted all my life—like basic civility, respect for human dignity, factual evidence, rule of law—is actually a quite rapid mudslide into a “new normal” that too many in Washington are eating like cake. The changes are quite overwhelming. But being overwhelmed works against us.

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