A Neo-Hasidic Credo

"1. There is only One. All exists within what we humans call the mind of God, where Being is a simple, undifferentiated whole. Because God is beyond time, that reality has never changed. Our evolving, ever-changing cosmos and the absolute stasis of Being are two faces of the same One. Our seeming existence as individuals, like all of physical reality, is the result of tsimtsum, a contraction or de-intensification of divine presence so that our minds can encounter it and yet continue to see ourselves as separate beings, in order to fulfill our worldly task. In ultimate reality, however, that separate existence is mostly illusion. 'God is one' means that there is only One, that we are all one.

"2. God's presence (shekhinah) underlies, surrounds, and fills all of existence. The encounter with this presence is intoxicating and transformative, the true stuff of religious experience. 'Serving God,' or worship in its fullest sense, means living in response to that presence. In our daily consciousness, however, divinity is fragmented; we perceive shekhinah in an 'exilic' or unwhole state. Sparks of divine light are scattered and hidden everywhere. Our task is to seek out and discover those sparks, even in the most unlikely places, in order to raise them up and rejoin them to their Source. This work of redemption brings joy to shekhinah and to us as we reaffirm the divine and cosmic unity.

"3. That joyous service of God is the purpose of human existence. God delights in each creature, in every single distinctive form taken by existence. But we human beings occupy a unique role in the hierarchy of being, having the capacity for awareness of the larger picture and an inbuilt striving for meaning-making. We are called upon to develop that awareness to our fullest ability and to live our lives in response to it, each of us thus becoming a unique image of God.

"4. 'God needs to be served in every way.' All of life is an opportunity for discovering and responding to the divine presence. Each moment and every deed is a potential gateway to God's service. The way we relate to every creature is a mirror of our devotion to our single Creator. Openheartedness, generosity, fairness, and humility are key virtues of the religious life. Moral courage, honesty, and integrity are also values never to be ignored.

"5. The essence of our religious life lies in the deep inward glance, a commitment to a vision of spiritual intensity and attachment to the One. Outer deeds are important; ritual commandments are there to be fulfilled. They are the tools our tradition gives us to achieve and maintain awareness. But they are to be seen as means rather than as ends, as vessels to contain the divine light that floods the soul or as concrete embodiments of the heart's inward quest.

"6. Our human task begins with the uplifting and transforming of our physical, mental, and emotional selves to become ever more perfect vehicles for God's service. This process begins with the key devotional pair of love and awe, which together lead us to our sense of the holy. The task of proclaiming God's oneness calls upon us to be one and whole, to be at peace with ourselves. Care for the body, our own and others, as God's handiwork is also a vital part of our worldly task.

"7. The deeper look at reality should put us at odds with the superficial values of the consumerist and overly individualist society amid which we live. Being, unlike our Hasidic ancestors, citizens of a free society, we can and must take a critical stance toward all that we regard as unjust or degrading in our general culture. Caring for others, our fellow limbs on the single Adamic body or Tree of Life, is the first way we express our love of God. It is in this way that we are tested, both as individuals and societies. Without seeking to impose our views on others, we envision a Jewish community that speaks out with a strong moral voice.

"8. The above principles all flow directly from an expansive Hasidic reading of Torah, classical Jewish teachings. We live in an abiding and covenanted love relationship to Torah. That involves the text, 'written Torah,' and the whole of the oral tradition, including our own interpretive voices. We are not literalists about Torah as revelation, but we know that our people have mined endless veins of wisdom and holiness from within that text, and we continue in that path, adding new methods to the old. The whole process is sacred to us.

"9. We are Jews. We love our people, past, present, and future. We care that our people, bearers of a great spiritual legacy and also a great burden of suffering and persecution, survive and carry our traditions forward. We want this to happen in a creative and openhearted way, and we devote ourselves to that effort. As Jewish seekers, we have a special connection to Abraham our Father, who followed the voice and set off on a journey that we still consider unfinished.

"10. Our world suffers from a great imbalance of energy between the typically 'male' and 'female' energies. Neo-Hasidism needs to be shaped by the voices of women alongside men, as full participants in every aspect of its emergence. We welcome devotion to the one God through the channels of shekhinah and binah, God as life-giving, nourishing, and protecting Mother.

"11. Classical Hasidism at its best and worst is built around the figure of the tsaddik, a charismatic holy man blessed by God and capable of transmitting divine blessing. We too recognize that there are gifted spiritual teachers in our world, and we thank God for their presence and our ability to learn from them. We who teach and lead need to live such lives as allow us to serve as exemplars to others. But we live in an age that is rightly suspicious of such figures, having seen charisma used in sometimes horrific and dangerous ways. We therefore underscore the Hasidic teaching that each person has his/her own path to walk and truth to discover. We encourage spiritual independence and responsibility.

"12. Hasidism, like Judaism itself, believes in community. The sense of hevrayyah, or fellowship among followers of a particular path, is one of the greatest tools it offers for spiritual growth. The heart of such a community lies in cultivating spiritual friendships that allow you to rejoice together in God's presence as well as to talk through your own struggles and the obstacles you find in your path. Developing an ear to listen well to the struggles of others is one of the great skills to be learned from the Hasidic tradition.

"13. We recognize that Torah is our people's unique language for expressing an ancient and universal truth, one that reaches beyond all boundaries of religious tradition, ethnic community, or symbolic language. As heirs to a precious and much-maligned legacy, we are committed to preserving our ancient way of life in full richness of expression, within the bounds of our contemporary ethical beliefs. But we do not pose it as exclusive truth. The old Hasidism limited all of its teachings to Jews, believing that we alone had the capacity to truly serve God, and that Judaism was the only revealed path toward such service. Thankfully we live in a different era of the relationship of faiths to one another. We happily join with all others who seek, each in our own way, to realize these sacred truths, while admitting in collective humility that none of our languages embodies truth in its fullness."