Reb Zalman Living Legacy began with the collecting and transcribing of Reb Zalman's oral teachings during the time of his active leadership of ALEPH and its predecessors, B'nai Or and P'nai Or. It continues today as an ALEPH project within the ALEPH Beit Midrash and has resulted in a series of books, cds, and dvds, which are available through the ALEPH ReSources Catalog. It has also branched out to include Reb Zalman's more recent work in Boulder, CO through the Yesod Foundation and its identically named Reb Zalman Legacy Project.
RABBI ZALMAN SCHACHTER-SHALOMI: REBBE AND FRIEND
REB ZALMAN has been my rebbe / spiritual guide and my friend for the past thirty-six years. This is because he models a new approach to spiritual leadership which, while respecting his own creativity and centrality to the movement for Jewish spiritual renewal, is equally focused on empowering others. In his own words:
"[A rabbi] once said to me, Reb Zalman, don’t tell everything. As if to say that we have to keep a certain distance, the teacher has to keep something for him/herself. When I heard this, I appreciated where he was coming from. And at the same time, it is so not the paradigm in which we are living today.
So, I want you to understand what I have scraped together using the guidance I received from life itself, what I have learned from my experience. I can’t really claim that I have all the pieces and I do hope that somehow the Shechina will find ways to give us what is still lacking.
You must not make the mistake and think that I advocate the continuance of hierarchy. We are suffering and being choked from hierarchy.
However, if the only alternative is that everybody is equal, then there is no flow; there is stagnation. So, understand that we are in this wonderful relationship with each other. It is neither hierarchy nor democracy. I call it organismic and I think that it is the foundation of the new Rebbe work. I’ve come to understand that the Rebbe of the future is not going to be a Rebbe. For sometime, he or she will serve as a Rebbe. And, when that’s done, that person will have a pizza or go see a movie. We are called to function as Rebbes and we recognize that this is not a permanent degree that we get for ourselves, but rather an intermittent function that we allow ourselves to submit to, in order to be able to have access to regions that the normal consciousness doesn’t have access to. And if we want to be a healthy people and religion, we can’t do it without having some people who take turns serving as conduits."
REB ZALMAN: RABBINIC CHAIR OF ALEPH
Reb Zalman's personal relationships with so many of us opened a door into the possibility of a renewed Judaism without which we would not have had a home among our own people. In 2000, a group of us put together a list of 75 contributions Reb Zalman has made to Jewish life (in honor of his 75th birthday). Two of those were:
Loving and supporting innumerable individuals by being available for phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and the famous Reb Zalman meetings on the run and,
Opening your homes in Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Jerusalem, and now Boulder to spiritual seekers.
As the numbers of individuals connecting with Reb Zalman increased, he began going far beyond the limitations of sustaining all these relationships alone. And so our list also included his nurturing of a new generation of Jewish spiritual teachers, supporting the ALEPH Kallah and Elat Chayyim as places where the new tribe of Jewish Renewal could gather and learn with these teachers, and encouraging the development of Jewish spiritual communities through innumerable visits. Reb Zalman himself remained in conversation with all branches of Judaism and, today, ALEPH continues that model by seeking to make visible the spiritual renewal dormant in all approaches to Judaism and focusing on developing the most inclusive approach possible to authenticity in Jewish practice. (For the full text of all 75 contributions, click here.)
REB ZALMAN: A MYSTICAL JUDAISM FOR OUR TIME
Many years ago, in a make-shift Yeshiva in Marseilles and as the Second World War engulfed Europe, Reb Zalman had a transformational encounter with the late Lubavicher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. As the guest teacher on the holiday of Tu B'Sh'vat / the 15th of the month of Sh'vat, the new year of the trees, he interpreted a section of Talmud in terms of great cycles of time and consciousness. As Reb Zalman reflected on this teaching, he realized both its truth in the past and the equally important truth that another great shift in paradigm was again taking place. Symbolized later by the photo of Earth taken from space, the new paradigm transcends the old by enlarging its focus to include not only all people on the planet, but all of life itself, the consciousness of Gaia. For Judaism to remain relevant and useful, it must recognize this paradigm shift and renew itself in harmony with it, even as we struggle to understand it and support the deep changes it mandates. This, in turn, led to the coining of the expression Psycho-Halachah, now called Integral Halachah, as the name for the method we apply to the process of this renewal when viewed through the details of behavior.
At Reb Zalman's request and with his guidance and approval, ALEPH has assembled these core teachings in a series of booklets, books, and audio-visual materials. Over the next several years, we plan to review the hundreds of hours of other teachings we have and continue to transcribe, edit, and publish them. In addition, ALEPH has already begun to gather and publish the teachings of this new generation of rebbes and spiritual guides and plans to add others, particularly the writings of our senior rabbinical students.
REB ZALMAN: A GIFT TO US ALL
Thus far, and hopefully for years still to come, Reb Zalman has been a unique gift. A spiritual teacher and rebbe of immense charisma, learning, and personal power who has practiced tzimtzum / a personally imposed set of limits in order to create space for others. He has given us his blessing to teach in his presence, to agree and disagree, to repeat and to amplify and extend his vision. He has trusted us, loved us through our stumbling, applauded our successes. In so doing, he allowed a true movement to come into being, a movement which can continue to be of use to the Jewish people and to the world for many decades to come. In the words of Jack Gabriel's song, "Thank you Zalman,"
Well I came to “renewal” in a typical way
I was too sad and I needed to play
Who was there, right there for me
a chucklin’, loving dear rebbe
Thank you Zalman, thank you so
You gave my soul a way to go.
(Written by Daniel Siegel,
the first one blessed with Reb Zalman's s'michah and trust in rabbinical collegiality.)
Books and Booklets
Jewish with Feeling (with Joel Segel)
Credo of a Modern Kabbalist
The Kabbalah of Tikkun Olam
Renewal is Judaism NOW!
CDs and DVDs
Davvening with Reb Zalman; An Audio Siddur
Yishmru Da'at: Core Teachings of Jewish Renewal (2 DVD set)
For the full list and descriptions, please visit the ALEPH Store.