Future of Judaism
Beyond Jewish Triumphalism
I like this organ concept. Can you tell us a bit more?
When I refer to a vital organ, I mean to say that the liver cells will not become lung cells, they will not become kidney cells, they will not become bone cells. Each organ is really important to the function of life within the planet, and what the planet needs from Jews is very specific. In general, we will all participate in the life of the planet. But each religion has a different approach, just as each organ has a different function. The totality is to enhance the life of the planet of consciousness and make it a place where G-d can manifest him/her/itself. The other religions are doing the same thing but they have to do it with their moment, their organ.
So, for example, the teachings about morals and ethics and family life and all that kind of stuff are very, very strong in Judaism. At the same time there is something about the total forgiveness that Christianity offers that is also very important in the world. And the surrender to G-d that Islam demands is very important; and the Buddhist invitation to see it all as illusion is very important. Each one of us (each religion and faith) produces something that is special, specific to our contribution to keep the world healthy.
One issue that is brought up a lot is the size of the Jewish people. We make up .2 percent of the population. Do you feel Judaism is on track to grow?
How big a gall bladder do you need to have?
(Laughs.) I don't know, depending, I suppose, on what I do with it.
Okay, you see what I am saying? I don't think that size is that much of an issue here. The pituitary, how big is it? but it does what it has to do. Think of the contributions that are being made. There is a very interesting little thing on the web now -- "boycott Israel" lists. If you boycott Israel you won't use this and you won't use that and you won't do this and that, all the stuff that came from Israel you won't use, you know? That means no cell phones or drip technology, etc.
Well, that's nothing new. Mark Twain wrote about the contributions of the Jews over one hundred years ago.
Right, so I'm not worried about it.
So the question of numbers isn't important?
Not as long as there is healthy stuff.
What about our internal divisions? Some people say there have always been movements in Judaism, even going back to the Pharisees and Sadducees from the Roman times and so forth. Some people think of the movement phenomenon more as a 19th- and 20th-century invention, or maybe 18th-century if you include chassidut. What is the future of movements?
If something is an organism, it has to have different parts to the body. The tree has to have roots and branches and leaves, and the leaves get sloughed off every year. There's fruit and there are seeds. There's differentiation. That's why I translate yah tzevaot ("the lord of hosts") as "the lord of diversity." Whom do you include as a part of klal yisroel (the community of Israel) and whom do you reject?
Now there are some people, like the satmar (a rather severe sect of Hasidic Judaism), who would say that anybody to whom I wouldn't give an alyiah (an honor) in my shul (synagogue) could not be called klal yisroel (the people of Israel, i.e., Jews). Shame on them. The midrash says "gefen mimitzrayim taseyah," we are like a vine. A vine has leaves, fruit, roots; it has diversity. There will always be a variety of people, and anyone who doesn't recognize that is a fool.