Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians

Overview

A window into the Jewish soul—written especially for Christians.

“I invite you to explore with me some of the rich and varied expressions of the Jewish spiritual imagination. It is a tradition that may at times, for Christians, feel strangely familiar and will, for Christians and Jews, always challenge you to see yourself and your world through a new lens.”
—from the Introduction

Jewish spirituality is an approach to life that encourages us to become aware of God’s presence and ...

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Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians

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Overview

A window into the Jewish soul—written especially for Christians.

“I invite you to explore with me some of the rich and varied expressions of the Jewish spiritual imagination. It is a tradition that may at times, for Christians, feel strangely familiar and will, for Christians and Jews, always challenge you to see yourself and your world through a new lens.”
—from the Introduction

Jewish spirituality is an approach to life that encourages us to become aware of God’s presence and purpose, even in unlikely places. “This world and everything in it is a manifestation of God’s presence,” says Rabbi Lawrence Kushner. “Our challenge and goal is to find it and then act in such a way as to help others find it too.”

In this special book, Kushner guides Christians through the rich wisdom of Jewish spirituality. He tailors his unique style to address Christians’ questions, and, in doing so, opens new windows on their own faith.

Jewish Spirituality is a window into the Jewish soul that people of all faiths can understand and enjoy. From the Talmud and Torah, to “repentence” (teshuva) and “repairing the world” (tikkun olam), Kushner shows all of us how we can use the fundamentals of Jewish spirituality to enrich our own lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the dust-jacket blurbs from Peter Gomes and Joan Chittister suggest, Rabbi Kushner's explorations of Jewish mysticism and spirituality have long attracted Christian readers. At last, he has written a book designed especially for Christians. However, it's not quite clear how this book's content differs from Kushner's other volumes (Honey from the Rock; Invisible Lines of Connection). Much of the content the midrash about Reuven and Shimon crossing the Red Sea, for example, or the discussion of Torah as a "blueprint for creation" will be familiar to Kushner fans; they are among his favorite motifs. The afterword does explain some of the differences between Judaism and Christianity: Kushner sketches a distinction between Jewish Torah and Christian nomos; he reminds readers that Judaism has no incarnate God; and he explains that Judaism is not a proselytizing religion. Christian readers may find some sections of this afterword illuminating, but they may take issue with other passages, such as Kushner's insistence that Judaism is this-worldly and Christianity is other-worldly. This short book is in many ways classic Kushner: the writing is felicitous, the spiritual insights often profound and the rendering of complicated kabbalistic ideas into simple prose (intelligible not only to Christians but also to Jews not steeped in Jewish text) praiseworthy. The book's flaw is also that it is too much classic Kushner a promising project that recycles old ideas for a new, ecumenical audience. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Kushner, a rabbi who has written several books about Jewish spirituality for Jews (e.g., Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary), was inspired to write this book by his friendship with an Episcopal priest, through whom he came to understand Jesus. Here he explains Jewish spirituality to Christians, focusing on four topics Creation, Torah, Commandment, and The Holy One and using stories and biblical references to teach readers about the subject. He discusses the Talmud and the Torah, revealing parallels between Christian and Jewish concepts. Through his lively style, he brings vast and difficult subjects into the lay reader's grasp, and because he explains complex ideas simply, plainly, and succinctly, prior knowledge about Judaism and spirituality is not necessary. Though the book is intended for Christians, anyone interested in learning about Jewish spirituality will enjoy this introduction. Recommended for all public libraries and for academic libraries where appropriate. Naomi Hafter, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580231503
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/1/2001
  • Series: A Brief Introduction for Christians Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 534,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is one of the most widely read authors by people of all faiths on Jewish spiritual life. He is the best-selling author of such books as Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning; Honey from the Rock: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness; The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk; Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader; I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and other Disguises of the Ego; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness; The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition; and co-author of Because Nothing Looks Like God; How Does God Make Things Happen?; Where Is God?; What Does God Look Like?; and In God's Hands. He is the Emanu-El Scholar at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and an adjunct professor of Jewish mysticism and spirituality at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is available to speak on the following topics:

• Jewish Mystical Imagination

• Rymanover's Silent Aleph: What Really Happened on Sinai

• Zohar on Romance and Revelation

• What Makes Kabbalah Kabbalah

• Sacred Stories of the Ordinary: When God Makes a Surprise Appearance in Everyday Life

Click here to contact the author.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


OPENING
YOUR EYES


WHEN THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL crossed through the Red Sea, they witnessed what some say was the greatest miracle that ever happened. On that day they saw a sight more awesome than all the visions of the prophets combined. The sea split and the waters stood like great walls, while Israel escaped to freedom on the distant shore. Awesome. But not for everyone.

    According to ancient rabbinic legend, two people, Reuven and Shimon, hurried along among the crowd crossing through the sea. But they never once looked up. They noticed only that the ground beneath their feet was still a little muddy—like a beach at low tide.

    "This is terrible!" said Reuven. "There's mud all over the place!"

    "Disgusting!" said Shimon. "I'm in muck up to my ankles!"

    "You know what?" replied Reuven. "When we were slaves in Egypt, we had to make our bricks out of mud, just like this!"

    "Yeah," said Shimon. "There's no difference between being a slave in Egypt and being free here."

    And so it went, Reuven and Shimon whining and complaining all the way across the bottom of the sea. For them there was no miracle, only mud. Their eyes were closed. Even though they walked right through it, they might as well have been asleep (Midrash Exodus Rabba 24.1).

    People see only what they're looking for and what they understand, notnecessarily what lies in front of them. For example, if you see a television set, you know what it is and how it works. But imagine someone who has never seen a television. To such a person it would only be a strange and useless box. Imagine being in a video store, filled with movies and stories and music, and not even knowing it. How sad when something is right before your eyes, but you are asleep to it. It's like that with our world, too.

    Something like this once happened to Jacob. He dreamed of a ladder joining heaven and earth. Angels were climbing up and down on it, and God appeared and spoke to Jacob. When he awoke the next morning, he was shaken and said to himself, "Surely God was in this very place all along, and I didn't even know it!" (Genesis 28:16).

    The medieval French commentator Rabbi Shelomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (after the initials of his name), explained that Jacob meant: "If I had known God would be here, then I wouldn't have gone to sleep!"

    Jewish spirituality invites us to wake up and open our eyes to the myriad beautiful, mysterious, and holy things happening all around us every day. Many of them are like little miracles: when we wake up and see the morning light, when we taste food and are nourished, when we learn from others and grow wise, when we embrace people we love and receive their affection in return, when we help those around us and feel good. All these and more are there for us every day. But we must open our eyes to see them; otherwise we only wind up being like Reuven and Shimon, only able to see mud.

    Suppose, right now, your eyes are closed. How do you wake up?


Excerpted from JEWISH SPIRITUALITY by LAWRENCE KUSHNER. Copyright © 2001 by Lawrence Kushner. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION 9
Part One: CREATION
1 Opening Your Eyes 19
2 Paying Attention 23
3 One Hidden Everywhere 27
4 Everything Is Connected 31
Part Two: TORAH
5 A Blueprint for Creation 37
6 The Silence of Sinai 41
7 Infinite Understanding 45
8 Orchard of Words 49
Part Three: COMMANDMENT
9 Doing & Understanding 55
10 Repairing the World 59
11 The Hands of God 63
12 Drawing Close 67
Part Four: THE HOLY ONE
13 The Self of the Universe 73
14 The Whirlwind 77
15 Praying God's Prayers 81
16 Being Here 83
17 Returning Home 87
SUGGESTIONS forFURTHER READING 101
About Jewish Lights 104
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