From the Publisher
"Fascinating.... Does the important job of correcting mistaken impressions about Judaism and its relationship to chesed ... in the context of articulating [the author's] own unique theology. Rami Shapiro’s voice is a significant one in the emerging world of American Jewish spirituality."
—Rabbi Arthur Green, author, Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology
“For Rabbi Rami Shapiro, one of American Judaism’s great teachers, all existence is flooded by divine chesed (or grace); here is another and higher way to love and be loved.... Offers us not only the blueprint for an evolved Jewish theology but one that also convincingly demonstrates the centrality of love in Jewish life and thought.”
—Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author, I’m God, You’re Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego
“Powerful ... this thought-provoking book teaches us that abundance and goodness abound, and that through deed and practice Judaism provides an avenue to mindful and compassionate living.”
—Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, author, God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart
“Demonstrates with skill and textual insight how Judaism can reclaim grace as an unambiguous part of our covenant with an unconditionally loving and always present God. A must read for those seeking wisdom in sacred texts and practical methods to participate in a God-graced life.”
—Rabbi David Lyon, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas; author, God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime
“Rabbi Shapiro has done it again. Fans of Rabbi Rami’s writing will be delighted by his in-depth exploration of chesed, approached with both erudition and grace.”
—Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold, author, The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaism’s 5,000-Year-Old Tradition
“An amazing case for amazing grace as a Jewish virtue. Only such agility of mind and facility of expression can breathe and breed the conviction that powers this therapeutic tour de force. Promises a startling shake-up for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”
—Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies, Hebrew Union College; author, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment
“Don’t be deceived! This is a radical book of Jewish theology, revisioning God, Torah and Israel in a way that may well blow your mind. Or open your heart. Or, hopefully, both.”
—Jay Michaelson, author, Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism and God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice
Spirituality and Practice
Rabbi Rami Shapiro is a renowned teacher of spirituality across faith traditions, a noted theologian, and an award-winning storyteller, poet, and essayist. He has written many books and is a popular speaker and workshop leader. He has led e-courses for Spirituality & Practice and is profiled in our Living Spiritual Teachers Project.
In this timely volume, Rabbi Rami opens the Jewish-Christian door of dialogue a few feet further with his affirmation of grace — chesed — as a major dimension of Judaism. Although religious scholars and students claim that justice is the predominant concept on the Jewish path, the author is convinced that grace is even more important with its emphasis on "God's unlimited, unconditional, unconditioned, and all-inclusive love for all creation."
What is this God of grace really like? Shapiro imagines God to "be be-ing itself manifesting time, space, and everything that occupies them. God isn't a noun but a verb; God isn't a being but a doing, and what God does is called grace." Got it? There is no need to win or achieve grace because it is freely given. We have the choice to accept or reject it. In the Talmud we read:
"Even if 999 angels testify against humanity and only 1 speaks on their behalf, the Holy One, blessed be, inclines the scales in humanity's favor."
Once we accept the astonishing grace of the Holy One as the operative principle of our lives, we will be able to see the creation of the world, the covenant, forgiveness, and faith with fresh eyes. As we read Shapiro's commentary in these chapters, we sense his respect for the wildly creative aspects of chesed and his acceptance of the idea of letting God be God operating outside the precincts of human reason and rigid beliefs.
For Rabbi Rami, mitzvoth, the traditions, commandments, and practices of Jewish life are all animated by the abundant and never-ending grace of God. He spells out the importance of "the Ten Sayings" and the Sabbath with just the right mix of reverence for tradition and creativity. The end result is a passionate plea for us to choose life.