Monday, February 22, 2010

Everything is God, by Jay Michaelson

Hmm, I'm looking at the colorless cover of Jay Michaelson's book and can't help but wonder if it conveys any evidence of the sparkling discourse within its pages. The premise of this book is nondualism. Let's see if I learned enough to boil this down. Nondualism is the concept that, as the title claims, everything is indeed God. In other words, there are not two (hence the "dual" in nondualism) realms, the realm of God and the realm of His creations. Because God is Ein Sof, without limit, these realms are not two distinct and separate things, but are one and the same. As I read Michaelson describe this concept, I found the words that also described my own, until now unformed, views on these subjects. I have never known how to describe my own take on Judaism, one that, despite an undercurrent of affinity to Hassidism, has never fit into those convenient categories of Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Reconstructionist.

Everything is God is jam-packed with historical background and philosophical analysis on the nondualistic perspective both within Judaism as well as within other spiritual pathways. I won't pretend I read every word; Michaelson's discussions on non-Jewish beliefs were not the focus of my interest. But it was a revelation to read of this nondualistic thread that runs throughout Jewish history. Nondualism cuts through the "what" and the "how" of Judaism -- that deep ocean of halacha (rules) -- and focuses instead on the why. I couldn't help but think that, if only these spiritual underpinnings of our faith were emphasized more, perhaps the spiritual scorecard we Jews often measure ourselves and others by would fall by the wayside. Wouldn't this leave us more open to Tikun Olam (Repairing the World) and truly accepting of Klal Yisroel (All of Israel)?

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