What Must Come: A Manifesto

Enough sitting around and complaining. Enough romantic daydreaming and blaming our circumstances. It’s time for a new paradigm to shape the Jewish community. I’m tired of waiting for something to just drop out of the sky, tired of seeing only the imperfections of people and their “affiliations”. My mother has always told me that we need everyone, and I’m beginning to understand.

I really do like Jews.

I also know we have our issues, and that those issues become respectively calcified within their defined communities.
I know that people make things complicated, and that civilizations are more like giant supercomputers or Rube Goldberg machines than manipulable pinwheels. However, I am entirely certain that something must occur. And maybe it won’t have to be a flash of revelation. Maybe the “pouring of Ruach (prophetic experience, dynamic experiential change, “wind”) on all flesh” (Yoel 3:1) will be more like kayaking than Hiroshima, if you catch my drift.

I went to a Simchas Beis HaShoeva in Boro Park on Sukkos, and I was reminded of just how similar we all are, and how every “difference” is in emphasis. The same externalized passion (dancing, clapping, emotional expressions) I see in yeshivos, I also find at a chassidishe tish. The same food and music (roughly) that were present in Boro Park would also be present in a more “modern” Simchas Beis HaShoeva somewhere else. We literally learn the same core texts (isn’t that crazy to think about? With all our divisions, Daf Yomi is still a universal trend and “vertlach” on the parsha will always be on the parsha). Some of us daven the same way and have identical customs, even across cultural boundaries. Sure, some people are really serious about this, and others about that. Some things are second nature or obvious to some Jews, other things are to other Jews, but everyone has some piece of the puzzle from which he/she is inseparable. This is true without fail. You try and find me a Jew who actually doesn’t care about anything in his heart of hearts. You won’t find anyone.

When you realize that fact (and more significantly, that we are one simple superconsciousness divided into bodies), it should be much easier to imagine the revolutions that will inevitably occur regardless of communal distinctions. We don’t need to “fix the ultra-Orthodox” or “do outreach” or anything in between. That approach is schismatic and actually pretty arrogant. Let’s do things internally for a change. It is nucleosynthesis that makes stars shine. If the kavana is pure and true, the channels are opened and the impulse will electrify the entire national body, inconspicuously, modestly, with holy ninja stealth.

There are artists who are afraid to unweave their rainbows of creative freedom with the science of pure thought. There are participants of the yeshiva system who are embarrassed to imagine and daydream. Intellectuals abhor sensitivity to the transcendent, dancing feelers are resistant to rigor and order.

Communities are separate from each other. Brothers and sisters don’t listen to one another. Some possess etiquette and punctuality, some are drawn to kindness and empathy. Some bask in Divine glory under the glowing gentleness of autumn foliage, yet others can dive into the infinite depths of Torah texts. We don’t need any one trait more than another. We need real crossover via real relationships. We need undercover educators to overrun education, pioneering professionals to elevate their careers, insider rabbis to ignite their disciples and congregants, and secret agents to join together and extend their authentically sacred arts and sciences to those beyond themselves. People sometimes tell me about the interests they hide from others, the knowledge and practices that they keep within. That kind of personal inconsistency cannot continue.

I suppose I’m proposing all sorts of things, ranging from holistic Torah learning to counseling-trained mashgichim to interest-based traveling think-tanks. Creative outlets and uncomfortable support groups and optional, enchantingly peaceful batei medrash. Remote yeshivos (in nature mostly) and private, sanctified Shabbos/Yom Tov societies and community-wide trade/engineering guilds. (It might help if everyone were to make Aliyah also. The sparks of Diaspora Jewry must come to Israel, and Israel must be able to infuse the Diaspora.) This tikun must happen internally (sit in your candlelit room and write down your short-term and long-term goals if you must), but also in strong mini-societies that expand into the communal macrocosm. Every movement, empire, and revolution ever has begun with specialized togetherness. We have done this before, at the splitting of the sea, at Mount Sinai, in the Beis HaMikdash, and we shall do it yet again. It’s about everything and everyone. Come forward.

We don’t need more fake divisions. We don’t need to isolate ourselves from our communities. We shouldn’t be missionizing. It won’t help to point fingers at individuals or denominations. We should be nurturing our own fellowships, building our own infrastructure. The time is now to brandish your sword of loftiness and don your mantle of meta-existence. We’re going to align the concentric spheres with our hands. What other reason do you have to live? The horn has sounded. Now go.

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