In the world of serious intellectual life, in the media, and in policy circles there is widespread sentiment that the current interest in spirituality is a silly and flaky fad that has no lasting significance. I believe, to the contrary, that the growing interest in spirituality is the cutting edge of a fundamental transformation that will change every aspect of our lives in the coming millennium. We are entering a new period in world history which will witness the triumph of spirit over the ethos of selfishness, materialism, and the kind of one-dimensional thinking that has brought our world to the edge of self-destruction.
Jews did not return to Palestine in order to be oppressors or representatives of Western colonialism or cultural imperialism. Although it is true that some early Zionist leaders sought to portray their movement as a way to serve the interests of various Western states, and although many Jews who came brought with them a Western arrogance that made it possible for them to see Palestine as “a land without a people for a people without a land,” and hence to virtually ignore the Palestinian people and its own cultural and historical rights, the vast majority of those who came were seeking refuge from the murderous ravages of Western anti-Semitism or from the oppressive discrimination that they experienced in Arab countries. The Ashkenazi Jews who shaped Israel in its early years were jumping from the burning buildings of Europe–and when they landed on the backs of Palestinians, unintentionally causing a great deal of pain to the people who already lived there, they were so transfixed with their own (much greater and more acute) pain that they couldn’t be bothered to notice that they were displacing and hurting others in the process of creating their own state.
Most American politicians fear challenging corporate power not only because they need financial support during elections, but for a deeper and more reasonable reason as well: they fear that corporations can always threaten to move their base of operations, leaving joblessness and economic devastation in their wake.
If you are someone who has been blessed with financial well-being or wealth, you have a special opportunity to advance the process of spiritual development. You can become living proof to others that it is possible to live a life in which the pursuit of money is not the bottom line.
But money can also be a burden and a curse.
Shabbat (the Sabbath) is not simply about going to synagogue. It is a 25-hour spiritual, meditative, psychological, and intellectual process which involves a withdrawal from the normal consciousness of domination and control over time and space. On Shabbat, we enter into a consciousness that is focused on awe, wonder, amazement, celebration, pleasure (through food, sex, and intellectual exchange), aloneness, and community. As the psalm for Shabbat proclaims, “I rejoice in Your work, O God. I will exalt in the works of Your hands!”
The globalization of Spirit requires that we overcome the false dichotomy between changing ourselves and changing societal structures. At times we may be inclined to say, “I need to work on my own head first, then later I’ll try to change society.” But this strategy can be the beginning of a slippery slope toward narcissistic self-absorption, just as the “I’ll change society first and then worry about inner life” strategy can be a slippery slope to the insensitivity and spiritual obtuseness of most contemporary political movements. Emancipatory Spirituality encourages a living synthesis of individual and social transformation.
Many of us find the notion of “commandments” oppressive and hierarchical. Yet we know that a community cannot be built on the principle of only doing what feels right at the moment–it requires a sense of responsibility to each other. So, we encourage our community to take on the following ten commitments, based roughly on a rereading of the Torah’s ten commandments (and incorporating the framework and many specific ideas articulated by Rami Shapiro in his book Minyan).