Regardless of which calendar you live by, the shift to the year 2000 carries with it an opportunity to think about the future. As part of that thinking process, I would like to add the following items to the Jewish agenda for the new millennium.
1) The end of "non-Jews." There is no such thing as a "non-Jew." There are Christian, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, secularists, atheists, and any number of other identities, but no one identifies himself or herself as a "non-Jew." If we Jews are to enter into meaningful dialogue with the faiths and philosophies of the world, we must strike the word "non-Jew" from our vocabulary; we must cease defining people by what they are not, and begin to understand them for what they are.
2) The end of denominations. God commanded us to be holy, not Orthodox or Reform. There are only two kinds of Jews: serious and not serious. Serious Jews place Judaism at the center of their lives; not serious Jews place Judaism on the periphery. Let us redirect our energies, financial and spiritual, away from denominational competition and toward creative cooperation among serious Jews.
3) A marriage of science and the soul. Conventional Jewish theology is anachronistic, incapable of embracing the scientific truths revealed by chaos and complexity theories, quantum mechanics and contemporary biology. Let us fund a serious ongoing conversation among Jewish mystics, rabbis, scholars and scientists aimed at creating a new (or renewed) Jewish vocabulary for talking about God.
5) Reclaiming the feminine. In our ancestors' attempt to distinguish themselves from goddess-worshipping neighbors, they lost touch with the feminine side of God, life and humanity. We must reclaim the Shechinah, the feminine presence of God, and integrate the masculine and feminine sides of ourselves as God originally intended. Let us encourage feminine critique of Judaism, and allow for a real revolution within Judaism, as Jewish women and the feminine come to full power in every aspect of Jewish life.
6) Honoring the Earth. The Bible celebrates the wonder of nature without falling into the trap of worshipping nature, yet modern Judaism has lost touch with the earthly and the sensual. We must reconnect our holy days with the seasons, and refocus our spiritual energies on honoring the Earth as a place filled with the glory of God.
7) A simpler liturgy. The siddur [prayer book], essentially an anthology of creative liturgical expression, is now a script for lengthy and repetitive services. We need to focus on praying, not prayers; on opening to God, not reading every page of the book. We need to create a new liturgy and service style that effectively blends body, heart, mind, and soul in a celebration of God and godliness.
8) Put the "shh" back in Shabbat. Shabbat is our day for teshuvah [repentance], returning our attention to the breath of God that animates us, and re-entering the inner silence that reveals the supreme identity of God, woman, man, and nature. We need to make Shabbat a time for mindfulness, meditation,contemplation, and silence.
9) Mainstreaming the mystical. There are three fundamental facets to Judaism: culture, ethics, and spirituality. For the past fifty years, we have emphasized the first often at the expense of the last, yet we have failed to make Jewish practice compelling. Why? Because we tried to make an end out of a what essentially is a means. Tradition is the means by which we live our ethical and spiritual values; without these, the motions of the body are sporadic spasms of meaningless nostalgia. We must reclaim the inner life of Judaism by opening to, and recasting for our own time, the deep wisdom of our Hasidic masters. We have to speak powerfully of the soul, the inner life of mystical awakening. We have to link tikkun ha-nefesh--care of the soul--with tikkun ha-olam, care of the world. So that the false dichotomy of soul and society is shattered, and the deep messianic healing that Judaism promises becomes an existential reality our people can experience further, and share with the world.
10) A one-foot Judaism. Judaism is too complicated. Its message is lost in the sheer enormity of tradition. Like Hillel [the Talmudic sage who said that "Love your neighbor as yourself" was the essence of the Torah], we need toneed to expound all of Torah while standing on one foot, honoring the rest as commentary. We must begin a dialogue among serious Jews on the essence of Judaism and how to live it, sharing that one-foot Judaism with the world and inviting all peoples to confront its challenge to be holy.
The new millennium is not Jewish, and it technically doesn't start until January 1, 2001. Yet January 1, 2000, carries a psychic punch that few Jews will be able to avoid. So don't avoid it. Make it Jewish. December 31 is a Friday; January 1 is Shabbat. My last wish for the new millennium is to see our synagogues filled with Jews for Shabbat 2000, and to see them begin the great discussion as to how we will be Jewish in the twenty-first century.