Monthly Archives: May 2011

Haggadah roundup 2011

Which haggadot did I look at this year?

My pre-Pesah hagagdah was the Haggadah of the Shelah from Hebrew For the Shelah, the Seder is a means to fight the myriads of evil klipot and evil forces in the world. Destruction of hametz is a sympathetic action for the immense battle with the klipot. The Mizvot of Passover all have powers of the divine name to fight the dark side. The activity of reciting the seder at Bnai Brak was a time of new revelations of Torah, new hierophanies of the divine to fight the evil.

Reb Zadok in Resesai Laylah was an internalization of these ideas to apply to our inner evils of pride, lust, anger. Eating as a mizvah at the seder is a tikkun for our faults not the worlds.
In the Shelah, the halakhic part by the Nesivos mentions cleaning the walls, as is known. I should look into the reality behind that for next year.

I was handed at one seder the Riskin Haggadah from 1983 reflecting his late 1970’s sermons. It read as a period piece of his sermons, values, and issues. For example, Why does “they that stand up” ve he she-umda mean? He says that homiletically it means not God’s covenant is everlasting but that the cup of wine is ever lasting and that if we give up drinking non-kosher wine it will protect us from our enemies. It has all his sermons about the need living in Israel, the need for activism, and apologetics about Judaism’s attitudes toward women and gentiles. It also had in his own name his baby carriage story “Do you ever buy a baby carriage?” In public he tended to present it as a Hasidic tale but since the punch line is about the need for ordinary people to act- it is a very non-Hasidic story. Here he takes his credit.

The Uri LeZedek Haggadah supplement was a hugh success in my neck of the woods. When I looked at it I did not see much new Torah and I saw lots of derashot somehow trying to tie in Rav Solovetichik. But people loved it. They should expand it and produce a beta version of a full haggadah for
Pesah 2012 and then get it to market by Nov 2012 for the Passover 2013 orders.
They can commission more comments; collect everything relevant from past haggadot
They should include the Rav Yisrael Salanter stories on caring for your workers.
They should also include the midrashim on the nature of the work and slavery work that the
jaws did in Egypt (and include the Gra on 4 types of slavery)
They should look at the Historian Ben Zion Dinur who collected the statements on the role of work and working in hazal. And finally, they should get stuff from kibbutz hadati movement on the virtue of labor.

I was handed a dreadful Rav Soloveitchik Haggadah locally produced- stick to the Passover notes of Noraos HaRav by R. David Schreiber.

I was then handed a vanity press Rav Yonatan Eybeschutz Haggadah which I enjoyed for the author not the editor. It made me want to go back to the original as a teaching text. Every chance he could, Rav Eybeschutz brought in acute messianism and the need for sinning for the sake of heaven. Real Sabbatian proto-Izbitz. Lots of Eighteenth century issues like encouraging his congregants to keep the Sabbath (On the high deviance level of his community, see Azriel Shochat, Im Hilufei Tekufot)

Post Evangelical Roundtable and Orthodoxy

Even though it is old hat at this point – Here is a round table discussion among the post-evangelical set about the predictions from two years ago.For those new to this blog, here are my original posts on the post-evangelical and post orthodoxy comparison – here, here, here and there were about six more posts that treated specific issues.

After two years it seems the issues are less theological and more about the hindsight glance at how they were so invested in specific cultural forms and now people know not to be invested in specific cultural forms. Evangelicals and Centrists did not grasp that they were just a another passing cultural form. Looking back, it was an age of emotionalism in relgion. Years in Israel were about singing from one’s depth. Relgion meant knowing songs, owning teeshirts and all the cultural materialism brought from Israel but one could still be unable to learn. Externals counted more than textual knowledge.  Similar to Evangelicals, The Centrist community lived in a bubble of all Jewish activities and even speaking Modern-Orthodoxese. None of this socialization had anything to do with actual Torah uMitzvot. Now they all recommend a need for basics of doctrine and the proper religious way of life. They all advocate the need to go outside the enclosed bubble. They also have the issue that people are creating worship in the house- not as shtibl- as a form of leadership-less group participation.

The one thing the round table seems to differ with the predictions of two years ago is the need for seminary training. Now they see that those without proper seminary are less effective, more shallow, and don’t impact world.

And in both Evangelicals and Orthodoxy the in-house fighting was terrible.

Writers’ Roundtable: The Coming Collapse Of Evangelicalism
28 Apr by Jeff Dunn

In January, 2009, Michael Spencer fired a shot across the bow of the evangelical church with a three part series, The Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism. (You can access all three parts here.) I have asked our iMonk writers to revisit these posts for today’s roundtable discussion. We are two-plus years removed from Michael’s predictions. Was he right? Is the evangelical ship still sinking, or is it finding a way to stay afloat?

Jeff Dunn: Michael wrote, “I believe that we are on the verge—within 10 years—of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former ‘glory.’”

How does that make you feel? What is your first reaction when you read this?

Damaris Zehner: The collapse of evangelicalism is not the same thing as the collapse of Christianity.  Cultural expressions of the faith come and go, and should.  I have never had any emotional investment in evangelicalism – I’ve struggled for decades even to find a conclusive definition of it – so I don’t feel strongly about its future.  If evangelicalism has become the whole of Christianity for some, it probably should die and force people to look more deeply and widely for the Church as C.S Lewis describes in The Screwtape Letters, the Church “spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.”

JD: Michael wrote, In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions on youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it.

What can be done to recapture these young people who can sing Christian songs by heart, but have no spiritual depth? Who have a closet full of Christian t-shirts, but have no skills when it comes to Scripture? Who know all the right things to say to sound “Christian,” but whose souls are lost?  Lisa?

LD: “Feel” is the key word here. Feeling is not a bad thing. God certainly formed us as emotional beings in his own image, but much of the time we’ve abandoned thinking for feeling, objectivity for subjectivity and theology for sentimentality. This trend wasn’t so much started in church, as it is a result of the church assimilating to a culture that always wants to feel good and be entertained.

AP: Well, I was one of those young people not so long ago. I DID have the closet (drawer, actually) full of Christian t-shirts. I had an exclusively Christian CD collection, purchased from the Christian bookstore where I worked. I listened to my Christian CDs on my way to the Christian university where I went to school, and on the weekends I spent all my time hanging out with Christians. I could quote the Bible and spoke fluent Christianese. I was so far into the bubble I could’ve been a professional gum-chewer.

I have five kids now, and my main desire for them is to avoid all the behavior-based Christianity I lived growing up. Yes, we teach them foundational, doctrinal things about why we believe what we believe, but ultimately my wife and I are trying to model an honest faith that is slathered in enough grace to give us freedom to wrestle with the tough questions.

Modern Christians need to consider what children really are and what they really need.  A few years ago, the church we no longer go to offered the junior high youth group an activity that consisted of eating melted chocolate out of diapers.  There must have been some token “Bible connection,” but what’s really shocking is what this reveals about the leaders’ philosophy about kids.  Kids like gross, revolting, shocking things.  Kids aren’t interested in ideas, or right and wrong.  Kids are really more like wild animals than adults.  And the more kids are treated like that, the more they become like that.

LD: Recently, I spoke with a guy who was trying to reach concertgoers who came to his area once a year and camped out for a week in a nearby farm fields. He kept trying to entice them into his church with free meals, but they wouldn’t come. Finally, he literally pitched a tent among them and cooked the meals on camp stoves. He was overwhelmed with takers – both of food and the Gospel. ‘Missional’ seems to mean more than inviting people to church now; it means taking church to them. If we’re willing to be open to going places we’ve never been and doing things we’ve never done, then “Christian vitality and ministry” can, and probably will be born.

JD: Michael saw a trend developing that others have predicted as well. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, paid staff and numbers its drugs for half a century.

Aside from those folks, though, I think house church and small, intimate gatherings—even monastic-type communities—are becoming more acceptable and even desirable as a means of church expression. Relational currency goes a long way in my generation (and I say this knowingly as the youngest writer at the table here), and I think it goes even farther in the next generation, what with the popularity of social media and the desire to be constantly interconnected. The question becomes: what does church look like to them? They are the ones who are going to take over here in a few years. Any youngsters out there want to weigh in on that question? Perhaps through Twitter or a pithy text message?

CM: I disagree with Michael on this one. My perspective is that we will need seminaries more in years to come. In his book, To Change the World, James Davison Hunter has convinced me that serious study and education is essential. Think, for example, of the Protestant Reformation. On the theological and pastoral level, teachers in the universities led it.

However, from my own seminary experience, there is much to be changed in the seminary system if it is going to be truly effective. It must emphasize not only serious study of the Bible and theology, but also church history, liturgical traditions and practices, spiritual formation, and pastoral ministry. Stronger systems of apprenticeship need to be established so that students have spiritual guides and a vital community of prayer and edification throughout their seminary experience.

LD: I’ve been in a church led by a pastor who wasn’t trained in seminary. There was a definite shallowness of theology, so I would hate for the seminary system to be abandoned. On the other hand, even seminarians who go through internships meant to train them in the practicalities of ministry often seem to only be inculcated in how to be a church executive or how to run programs. A lot of pastors have so many “business” responsibilities that they don’t disciple those who will in turn disciple others.

So, I think it is a combination of seminary training, of being discipled and also discipling.

I would welcome the “collapse” of evangelicalism in many of its forms. You could close every Christian bookstore, cut off every Christian TV and radio program, cancel every CCM concert and get rid of every Christian band and song, and stop publication of the vast majority of popular Christian books, and it would not affect me one whit, nor do I think it would hurt the cause of Christ in the world in any significant way whatsoever. If all Christian politicians, pundits, and lobbyists who are out there in the media speaking out about culture war issues closed their mouths, I don’t think the country or the culture would suddenly go to hell in a hand basket.

First, that Christians have stopped leading culture in all its facets (art, science, literature, music, etc.) has had the dangerous effect of creating a vacuum that has been filled with … well, hostility. Not only are Christians not cutting-edge in leading culture, they are fair game for being ignored at best and victimized at worst. I fear we have settled for passivity and moderation in all things, including excellence and winsomeness.

Second, we Christians fight amongst ourselves way too much. Rousing discussions are one thing; vicious verbal assaults are another. Lack of unity in the Body of Christ destroys churches and the Church from within and does more to deter unbelievers from belief and than anything else in my opinion. Full Version Here

Baba Baruch in Bergen County

Posted on the local shuls yahoo group. The wonder worker Baba Baruch will be in town tonight.

It is with great joy that the ……. invites the entire community to welcome Baba Baruch, the son of Baba Sali Z”L, this coming Thursday May 5th Rosh Hodesh Iyar. Baba Baruch will pray Minha in The Sanctuary at 7:35 PM and will lead a Shiur (in Hebrew) afterwards. After Arvit, Baba Baruch will meet individually with anyone wishing to receive a Bracha. This is a special opportunity, and we hope that you will be able to attend.

I assume that most people go because they want the blessing. They dont look into his magical credentials or history; they accept his social role as giver of blessings. The sociologist Nancy Ammermann teaches that one needs to look at the actual lived relgion of a community. Going to Baba Baruch is part of the unified object of Bergen county Modern Orthodoxy. Their YU pulpit rabbis and teachers are against it but lived relgion needs its magic. As Bronislaw Malinowski wrote more than half a century ago:

magic supplies primitive man with a number of ready-made ritual acts and beliefs, with a definite mental and practical technique which serves to bridge over the dangerous gaps in every important pursuit or critical situation… The function of magic is to ritualize man’s optimism, to enhance his faith in the victory of hope over fear. Magic expresses the greater value for man of confidence over doubt, of steadfastness over vacillation, of optimism over pessimism.

For those interested in Baba Baruch’s background – see this article by Yoram Bilu and Eyal Ben-Ari

Rabbi Baruch (“Baba Baruch”) was far removed from his father’s lifestyle of learning, piety, and asceticism. Though raised and educated by his father in Erfud (in Tafillelt, southern Morocco), in his youth Baruch spent many years in Paris disengaged from the traditional ambience of his Moroccan hometown. Having followed his father to Israel in the mid-1960s, he decided to pursue a political career, and was soon elected to the post of deputy mayor in Ashkelon (another southern town in which Baba Sali lived before moving to Netivot). It was in this capacity that Baruch Abu-Hatzera was accused of corruption and bribery, found guilty and sentenced to a long term in prison. After being paroled (he received an early release after serving five years in prison) he joined his father and was with Baba Sali during the last three months of the saint’s life.

While Baba Sali’s lifestyle lent itself quite easily to aggrandizement and mythologization, his son’s notorious personal record as an ex-convict and an adulterer obviously was not the right stuff for sanctification. The intriguing question, then, is how could Baruch establish himself as his father’s legitimate successor despite his problematic past. In what follows we seek to elucidate the reasons for this astonishing success.

Once again, the cultural assumptions underlying saint worship in the Maghreb should be taken as a favourable starting point in the search for legitimacy. The notions of baraka among Muslims and of its Jewish counterpart, zechut avot (ancestral merit), connote a strong sense of inherited blessedness and ascribed virtue. As mentioned earlier, the Abu-Hatzera family figured as a most important, if not prime, example of line ancestry in which such sanctity was ingrained. The family’s accumulated zechut could thus prove a fortuitous starting point for Baba Baruch’s claims.
Yet despite the stigma that seriously corroded his public image and the existence of other (perhaps more) worthy contenders for succession within the Abu-Hatzera family, Baba Baruch has managed to take his father’s mantle and to step into his shoes

Second, having lived with killers, rapists, and drug addicts, Baruch presents himself as a person most fitting to deal with the wide scope of human misery addressed to him by those seeking his help. Time and again he plays up the idea that, following his prison experience, nothing human is foreign to him. Finally, he stresses the fact that his religious faith and moral commitment have been strengthened in prison rather than attenuated. According to his story, he was the prime agent responsible for a wave of religious revivalism there, having served as a ray of hope and comfort for the other inmates.

A number of factors appear to have facilitated the dissemination and propagation of Baruch’s new image as born-again, as reconstituted in his father’s mould.
The second factor conducive to the propagation of Baruch’s image as his father’s inheritor has to do with the cultural practice of visitational dreams. In the context of Jewish Moroccan hagiolatric traditions, this psycho-cultural mechanism has been deemed the vehicle for transmitting knowledge and instructions from deceased sainted figures. Against this background, Baruch’s claims that his father frequents his dreams, providing him with reassurances that he is his legitimate heir, cannot be dismissed by Baba Sali’s adherents as a mere calculated fabrication.

The third factor is associated with the realization of the blessedness putatively promised in the dreams. The distinctive healing tradition of the family, based on uttering a special incantation over water which is thereby endowed with healing qualities, has long been one of the factors underlying their popularity and renown.

Within the seven days of ritual mourning after his father’s death, aptly dramatic and miraculously unexpected (for example, a paralytic rising from a wheelchair) stories of his power began to spread by word of mouth and through newspaper reports. The unprecedented publicity gained by these first cures should be carefully noted. In part, this publicity may have reflected a genuine need to find an effective substitute for the legendary healer; but more pertinent to our theses, it may be viewed as a manifestation of Baruch’s skills in creating favourable public relations and manipulating the media. Read the rest here.

There are lots of recent books on the Sefardi saints, graves, demons, magic and business. The most eye opening for someone not familiar with this material is Yorem Bilu, Without Bounds: The Life and Death of Rabbi Ya’Aqov Wazana

For a very good anthropology article with full literature on the new cults of saints – see Gil Daryn, Moroccan Hassidism: The Chavrei Habakuk Community and Its Veneration of Saints Full text pdf here.

Baba Baruch also tried to invoke Rav Ifergen (X-ray) in scandal- you can find it in a search.

Now to return to Bergen county. How does this wonder working play itself out differently in Bergen county? Jail time does not give one street credibility in Jewish Engelwood and visions and dreams are not part of Bergen culture. How will the attendees, especially those who paid 4 or 5 figures for a blessing conceptualize this powers? Will it just be last chance prayers for remission of cancer and real estate developers getting the power to close the deal? or will it be more?
What role does the year in Israel and it romanticism play here? Thoughts?

Poetry, pashkevils, and parody

Here is a cute Haaretz review of some 16th century parody poems that appeared as pashkevils and become part of an anthology of mixed secular and religious given to a bride. I edited the review down and re-arranged parts. The review reads as if the author Roni Weinstein brought the poems to class and used them as a basis for a general intro to the culture 16th century bakhurs. Any thoughts on comparing our pop-culture to theirs?

Two Poems in Yiddish, Rhymes of an Ashkenazi Poet in 16th-Century Venicetranslated and prefaced by Claudia Rosenzweig, Bibliotheca Aretina

The word pashkevil (in the singular form ), long ago become part and parcel of the Yiddish and Hebrew languages, but its origin is Italian. The 16th-century Hebrew and Yiddish scholar Elye Bokher (pseudonym of Elia Levita ) wrote about it in his Hebrew dictionary “Sefer Hamedakdek”: “Yes, in olden times people who composed proverbs would write their works on the doorsteps of charitable people or secretly in busy streets, so that they could not be identified. That is the custom in Rome to this day and those things are called katavot [articles],” he noted.

And indeed, to this day one can see such advertisements, pasquinate in Italian, in various places in Rome, on the walls of houses or on statues, mainly with political satire.
Elijah, the son of Asher Halevy Levita Ashkenazi, also known as Elye Bokher, was born in 1468 in Ipsheim, Germany, and died in 1549 in Venice. During his lifetime, he managed to write what became some of the basic works of Yiddish literature: He compiled a dictionary, wrote poetry, translated holy books and he may be best known for adapting knights tales into Yiddish. The most famous of them were “Paris and Vienna” and “Bovo d’Antona.” The Jews of Ashkenaz (Germany ) and later of Poland were avid readers of stories about knights and kings, a tradition that lasted for hundreds of years. The 19th-century “Tales of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav” also include references to these stories.

It is no coincidence that Levita was called “Bokher” (lad ), which in the Hebrew spoken at that time meant an unmarried man or a yeshiva student who travels from place to place to learn Torah. Elye indeed wandered from Germany to Italy as he sought sponsorship. He found it among Jewish patrons of the arts and Catholic clergymen such as Egidio da Viterbo, for whom he copied several Hebrew manuscripts and also composed books about the Hebrew language.

In her book, Rosenzweig, a gifted researcher of Yiddish literature, translates into Italian two poems by Elye Bokher;
The first poem was written when Bokher was an adolescent, upon his arrival in Venice. There he had to defend his good reputation in the face of slanderous claims that he had joined other Jews in looting during a fire that raged near the city’s Rialto Bridge. After expressing his anger for being unjustly arrested, he continued with a bitter criticism of wealthy Jews, who seem to get away with perpetrating various injustices. In the final stanza he describes himself as one of the young adolescents who initiate and participate in the Purim festivities.

The manner in which Ashkenazim celebrate Purim offers fertile ground for the writing of witty and unbridled poems. As they developed in Germany during the Middle Ages – and then spread to other Jewish communities in the Diaspora, first and foremost to Jewish Italian communities – the holiday festivities were apparently modeled on the Christian carnival, with its own deep roots in pre-Christian pagan traditions. The latter carnival, and the Purim holiday by extension, was a time in which the boundaries between what is permitted and what is not, between the private and the public, between the shameful and the refined, are all broken down, and the body – full of vitality – shows all its aspects, including those that are usually concealed.

Young yeshiva students spearheaded the events of the Purim-style carnival in their communities in Ashkenaz. Young men in Italy, for example, would dress up as women and hold up masks – something that Rabbi Halevi Minz, one of the great Italian rabbis of the period, reported with much anger.

Nothing can be more harmful to an enemy’s image than to strike at his masculinity and sexuality, it seems. Such a goal was well served by witty poetry in a language that the Italians call, to this day, “biting” or “murderous,” be it orally or in writing, in pasquils displayed in the streets of a Jewish neighborhood and sometimes on synagogues’ walls.
This is reflected in the second poem by Elye Bokher, “Shir Hamavdil” – an ironic paraphrase of a liturgical poem sung on Saturday nights as the Sabbath ends:

He labels that person as a “complete goy,” one who “does not know how to pray, a failed teacher who misleads his pupils when he teaches them Hebrew grammar, (and one who ) gambles in card games.”

Bokher then goes on to a juicy part that most befits this genre: dealing with the enemy’s sex life as expressed in his failed marriages with three different women. He divorced his first wife without even touching her, which means he is impotent. The second wife was a young and pious woman with whom he, again, failed to have intercourse. She died of grief. Without waiting for the traditional seven mourning days to end, the man promptly started looking for a third woman. With her, too, he failed sexually and she ran away from him. The poem continues its slanderous tone by stating that the man has sex with cats and chickens. In the last stanza the author says he intends to go to the city of Pesaro, where the Soncino family has a printing press, and print the poem there so that he can post it on walls in public places.

How widespread was such poetry and who read it? …Groups of such young people “engaged in games and composed comic poems in the beit midrash,” according to the “Sefer Midot,” published in Yiddish in 1542.

One of the manuscripts in which the poems were preserved was a father’s wedding gift to his daughter. It also included a complete collection of practical essays for the young woman: a collection of traditions, material from contemporary guides called “women’s books,” translations into Yiddish of the five biblical scrolls (Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and Lamentations ), prayer and liturgical poems, a translation of Pirkei Avot, seven tales, a bilingual poem about the different ages of life, a poem about a competition between wine and water, a quiz and a wedding poem suitable for Purim.
The holy and the profane, the high and the low, the refined and the vulgar – all meet here more easily and with more joy than during the contemporary era, which is characterized by shame and modesty.

Hence, including such works in manuscripts given as a wedding gift to a young woman was not unusual in those days. It reflected a tradition that harks back to the Middle Ages with derogatory songs familiar to the Hebrew poets. In fact, the phenomenon was common to Jews and Christians in Europe, where one could find poems composed by young traveling priests, which dealt with love and bodily pleasures. Those novices also composed parodies about Christian liturgy in Latin or in a mixture of Latin and Italian – spoofs known as “macaroni.” Full version here.

Sathya Sai Baba and Rabbi David Zeller

Spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba passed away a week ago on Apr 24, 2011, he had millions of followers across the world. But for our purposes he had many Jewish followers and was one of the leading gurus for Jews fleeing to India.

There is a famous story of the Jewish Mother and the Guru. She knocks on the monastery door, desperate to see the guru. Finally a monk answers, and she asks to see the guru. The monk allows her in, accompanies her through the monastery, and opens the shrine-room door to reveal a guru seated on a golden platform beside it. He will allow her to utter only five words to the guru. Parking her shoes, she ascends the long staircase to the golden throne, puts down her shopping bags, looks the guru in the eye and says: “Nu, Sheldon, come home already.”

In the 1960’s many American Jews ran to India seeking spirituality. To whom did they run? People know about the relationship of Baba Ram Das (Richard Alport ) and Neem Karoli Baba. But for many other Jews the destination was Sathya Sai Baba including Dr Michael Goldstein, the chairman of the international Sai Baba organization,

Sai Baba’s most famous follower among Orthodox rabbis was Rabbi David Zeller (1946-2007) of Jerusalem. David Zeller is another example of baby boomer who set out to the East and then ended his journey as an Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem teaching healing mediations. His full story is set out in an autobiography and a memorial biography volume. Zeller submitted to many other gurus including Sri Pad and Mother. Zeller lived as an ascetic for a year. In 1982, Zeller brought Reb Shlomo Carlebach and Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi to a trans-personnel psychology conference to meet Sathya Sai Baba. Zeller was the Jewish representative for a Sri Baba conference in 2005 on love.

Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings were congenial to Westerners since he taught that there is one God and that there is a unity of all religions. He taught his followers that do not need to give up their original religion. The main objective of the Sathya Sai Organization, as Sathya Sai Baba himself says, “is to help you recognize the divinity inherent in you. So, your duty is to emphasize the One, to experience the One in all you do or speak. Do not give importance to differences of religion, sect, status, or color.
The principal objectives of Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organisation are:

1. To help the individual
* To be aware of the Divinity that is inherent in him and to conduct himself accordingly;
* To translate into practice in daily life, divine love and perfection; and therefore
* To fill one’s life with joy, harmony, beauty, grace, human excellence and lasting happiness;
2. To ensure that all human relations are governed by the principles of Sathya (Truth), Dharma (Right Conduct), Shanthi (Peace), Prema (Love) and Ahimsa (Non-violence).
3. To make devotees more sincere and dedicated in the practice of their respective religions by understanding properly the true spirit of their religion.

Ont he other hand Sri Baba, like many Indian gurus, could not differentiate Judaism from Christianity and had only the most confused notions of Biblical religion.

Back to Rabbi David Zeller- in his autobiography wrote that “becoming an orthodox rabbi had not cut me off from the other traditions. He defended on the need to accept different religious traditions:

Rather, I understood that each people and tradition had been chosen to do a particular task for all of humanity. Just as each organ in our body must fulfill its “destiny” and function for the overall health of the whole body, so each religious tradition has its function in the body of humankind. (142-3)

While I was on stage singing and teaching about Jewish mysticism and meditation, Swami Vishnu chimed in. “Oh Rabbi, this is just like we teach in yoga philosophy. You see, we really are all one, and all the teachings are here in yoga!” 193

From Rabbi Zeller’s web page – we have a nice example of his Sai Baba in Jewish terms.

For the most part, we live in a world that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the Self, the Soul or of God.

My work is about bringing the soul from an intellectual concept to a personal and intimate experience. Haven’t we had enough focus about the soul? From a mental approach, yes. Now it’s time for one that speaks from the soul and to the soul and calls to and awakens the soul. It combines the religious, the spiritual, the psychological and the meditative.

The soul is not a divine or Godly spark flitting around the body like a fire fly. It is not the spiritual half of our physical body. It is not another name for Self or the archetype of God (with all due true respect and love for Jung).

The Soul, this Godly Presence, is all there is. It’s all we are.

Through teachings of the ultimate oneness of all energy/spirit and matter/body, through an understanding of the nature of Tree of Knowledge duality consciousness that cuts us off from that oneness, I try to present the teachings from the Tree of Life on how to get back to the Tree of Life. The Kabbalistic map of the Four Worlds can be taught linearly or holistically. We can learn it from the Tree of Life, seeing these worlds as simultaneous, overlapping, interpenetrating dimensions in our every day life.

This is the new education from the Tree of Life. This is the education of the Soul. Read more here

Nice interview with Zeller
in a new age journal found here.

Video from India 1993