It’s the Message, Stupid
I’ve been listening to a number of rabbis and Jewish thinkers explore the future of Judaism, and I
become more agitated with each one. Their focus is on how we deliver Judaism rather than the Judaism we are delivering: If only we took better advantage of the Internet, smartphone, and social media, Jews (and perhaps others as well) would flock to Judaism. This is nonsense: whether we are using tablets, scrolls, or screens, the message we are transmitting—there is a supernatural God “up there somewhere” who chose the Jews to carry His (sic) Torah, His one and only revelation, into the world, and who deeded us a strip of middle eastern real-estate in perpetuity from which we are to live out God’s plan for our lives—is a a message most Jews have rejected.
Of course there are many Jews for whom this message is true, and, given the size of their families, they
may soon become the majority and set the norm for Jewish life. That is fine with me. If liberal Jews choose to surrender Judaism to the Orthodox it simply means they have more important things to do with their lives than bring their genius and creativity to Judaism. More power to them. Orthodoxy has its own creativity, and I have no doubt that they will keep Judaism alive and well. It just won’t be a Judaism with which I will engage.
For the moment, however, I’m not yet ready to abandon Judaism. But I am convinced that if liberal Judaism has a future it isn’t in updating our medium of communication but radicalizing our message. We need a post-modern Judaism steeped in contemporary expressions of prophetic and kabbalistic wisdom that aims not at making Jews more traditional, but that aims at awakening Jews to the nonduality of all reality in, with, and as YHVH, the Happening happening as all happening in this and every moment, and to the ethic of universal compassion and justice that arises from that awakening.
Before we get all excited about new technology, we had best spend out energy articulating a new message.