Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Ari's "spirituality"

Over on someone else's blog, a masculine, yet sexually-secure commenter named "Dude" brought up Tikun Olam.
There is ZERO mandate for the common modern day idea of 'Tikkun Olam'. This idea of Tikkun Olam, which commonly is a code word for liberal activism, is simply an idolatrous pseudo religion which is sadly encroaching on actual Judaism.
By his own admissions, "Dude" was criticizing Tikun Olam as its used today; he said nothing about how the Ari originally imagined the concept. And what did Tikun Olam mean to Issac Luria? Here's Harold Bloom
[Tikkun olam] is the restoration of creation [which] must be carried out by the religious acts of individual men, of all Jews struggling in the Exile, and indeed of all men and women struggling in the Exile that Luria saw as the universal human existance."
This is one of the most precious ideas ever to strike a human mind. For Luria, it was the responsibility of the Jewish people, scattered as they were across the Diaspora to (in the language of his metaphor) bring about the gradual restoration of cosmic unity via the ingathering of the bits of Divine Being splintered throughout creation during the primordial catastrophe called shevirat ha-kelim, or breaking of the vessels.

The interesting thing about Luria's doctrine, is that is was formulated in response to the traumas of the sixteenth century. This was the era of evil Pope Paul IV, a time of expulsions and ghettos, and ever draconian anti-Jewish laws imposed by Christians who thought cutting Judaism off from the outside world would speeded its submission or demise. The genious of the Ari was to turn this imposed exile and separation into a religious value. Jews were being scattered across creation, not as punishment, but so that they might find it easier to come across the bits of the divine that had also landed everywhere. Jews were being locked into ghettos, not becuase God had abandoned them, but so that could focus more fully on the performance of religious acts. For it was through these religious acts - acts of prayer, study and the observance of mitzvoth - that Jews imagined themselves to be preparing for the messianic future by rebuilding the cosmos and contributing to the restoration of the Divine.

Though this Luria-inspired renewal might be compared to the flourishing of Rabbinic Judaism after the devestating wars with Rome, it's hard for a man of the twenty-first century to think about it seriously. I suppose this is to be expected. After all, Tikun Olam -the Ari's religious response to expulsions and ghettos - was developed to help Jews overcome a world which, thankfully, no longer exists.