I know these notes are not a complete account of this talk, both because I could not take down everything and I focused on things that were new, or in a new form, from previous messages. (Rachel the Velveteen Rabbi liveblogs with alacrity, but she was not able to attend this year.) I also know that not all of this will be comprehensible to those who don't know the context and language. I will explain some, but not everything. Take what you can.
This was the form of a valedictory, as have been the last few years. This is both because Reb Z is 85 and never knows if he will be able to address us again next year, but also because he has been consciously withdrawing from active leadership over the years, working on his writing and legacy. He said he is passing the baton of leadership. He has said it before, but "this time he really means it."
He began by citing the Sfas Emes (Sfat Emet) - What happened to the korbanot(sacrificial system) after the destruction of the Temple? They became Shabbos laws. It was a move of sanctity from space to time. AJ Heschel based his work "The Sabbath" on this idea from the Sfas Emes. This was the shift from the 2nd to the 3rd paradigm. (the first was pre-Jewish) The task for us is not just Jewish Renewal, but renewing Judaism as a whole. In this developing 4th paradigm (post rabbinic authority) we have developed a sense of what works and what does not work.
The early mitzvot, the second paradigm, there was very little mitzvot of speech - the Shma and Bikurim (first fruits) ceremony. Ritual was mostly acts. The rabbinic world is full of sound and voices. There was also a contemplative tradition, especially through the kabbalistic and hassidic traditions. In the 20th century it became clear that there were parallels with other mystical traditions and that inside work is the most important, the vastness of inner space. His experience with psychedelics first made him realize the nefesh(soul/spirit) beyond the self. The earch itself has a nefesh. "I was also on the inside of IT."
Dovenology ( the study of prayer, not only liturgy but also the form and mechanism of prayer and liturgy) is important. The proper nusach (musical mode) helps define the time.
He notes that there have been many waves of chassidim, the chassidei ashkenaz, Jewish sufis, around the appearance of the Zohar, followers of the Baal Shem, and down to us.
In the interpersonal, we need to pay attention to the non-verbal. Some people still think that Gashmiut (attention to the physical/material) is "Feh," but today concern for the physical is vital.
In interpersonal work we also have to pay attention to the non-verbal. We need to do work on Shoresh Haneshamah (the essence of the spirit) - each person is different, unique. We must be sensitive.
The battery of Jewish life is run down. It cannot be charged "by rote." It needs a deeper recharging. We should also be aware of the influence of past lives. We need to deal with the ought/is relationship - put some "ought" into the "is." The shamanic is also important for people who are suited to that.
Non-hierarchical forms of functional leadership is the order of the day, but it is important to treat some people with the royal jelly to become rebbe, but the rebbe needs chassidim, also a shamash. (followers and a practical facilitators) so the leader can tune to a higher level (even if you also switch it off when you go to the movies). You can't be a spiritual leader when you are fixing the boiler, it is a different mode.
We need to draw on all our spiritual juices and borrow from others. We are post-triumphalist - must help all paths to heal.
We gather together to give each other a nefesh fix.
Mordechai Kaplan taught us we can no longer claim that we are not consciously changing/transforming the Tradition. We need to deconstruct the past and then reconstruct it. Again Jewish Renewal is not just for us, it is for all Judaism and beyond.
CONCERNS FOR US:
1) Study every day lishma (for its own sake, not for a class you need to teach for instance)
2) Need individual prayer for ourselves, our loved ones, and those we serve.
3) Check the list of yohrtzeits every day - to whom do you connect?
4) He is concerned about burn out for us - help and support each other
5) Don't prescribe spiritual disciplines you have not tried yourself
6) When you start, start from a traditional base, and then innovate
The past has a vote, not a veto
7) Remember - every Jew is a Jew by choice these days
8) Know you are being deployed - it is not always our choice how or when or where.
9) Don't let go of connection the Klal Yisrael, be recognizable as Jews
10) Need an educational plan - don't spiritually masturbate in front of people
11) Go to where there is what you need - "There is sustenance in Egypt."
12) Need heartful colleagial connection - CHEVRUTA
a chaver from whom you don't have to hide.
13) Be careful in Gittin - technically but also to the needs/feelings of people
14) Use his tanaim(religious pre-nup) for Kiddushin (marriage)
15) Kashrut should include both Eco and Bio Kashrut
16) We need and should encourage Ger Toshav - those attracted to our teachings even if they don't fully convert
He made note of changes he has made in the Sabbath morning service, changing the part that says the sabbath is only for us.
There should come a time when all should be able to rest.
Meet with local chaverim not only for support, but also learn and celebrate, a Farbrangen.
Finally he spoke of money - times are hard, but we must support our institutions and get support from others, our people and beyond.
He ran over time and people had planes to catch, so he was really touching topic sentences toward the end, rushing to finish. I'm a little out of breathe just typing this. May his inspiration continue to lead us form many more years!
After a quick tfilat haderech (prayer for safe travels) we began to disperse. I was on such a level I totally forgot I had a bag with my tallis and tefilin in the room until the next morning when I went to say my prayers. The hotel has sent them to me. I'm still waiting.