Today is thirty-eight days, which is five weeks and three days of the Omer in the year 5781. תִּפְאֶרֶת שביסוד, Tiferet ShebeYesod, Truthful Foundation. In this sixth week of reflecting on core values, what is the truth undergirding your life’s journey? Do you have a vision statement?
My vision statement
On Sunday, I wrote a vision statement in a class. Here it is:
My vision is to introduce Judaism as a path of ethical mysticism: working towards our best selves as a way to connect to the Soul of the Universe and the souls around us.
The pull of ethical mysticism
Honestly, it took me quite a long time to sink into this truth pursuing me. Typically, people describe Jewish ethics as the Mussar tradition. Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. Most teachers focus on them as distinct paths, and most modern Mussar stems from cribbing Ben Franklin’s autobiography. (No, seriously.) The reality is quite different. From the beginning of Judaism, interpersonal morality intrinsically connected with cleaving to the Divine. This is why ethical mysticism is my calling.
I think about how I entered seminary eager to discover the Jewish definitions of the soul and shocked to discover (a) how elusive definition is and (b) we borrowed the concept from pagan Greeks. Ruminating into the fact that monotheism did not start from a recognition of our individual souls. Actually, we Israelites did not give much thought to individuals in the beginning. Identity was by clan and each human mattered only as part of the collective whole. During the Hellenistic Age, that time-frame after Alexander conquered the “known world,” Hebrews started to concretize individual identity and appropriate that pagan soul concept.
Interconnectedness or appropriation?
All of our foundations interconnect. As distinct as Jewish wisdom is, I am forever indebted to pagan Greeks.
I pray humility finds us. May we be ready to accept our dependence on other communities to deepen our foundations. Let us build pathways towards truth and beauty together.
WordPress tells me the words I use are too complicated. I continue to work on deconstructing complex ideas into easy language.
Image by Antonio López via Pixabay.