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For millennia, the Jewish people have looked inward to our culture, and when we've raised our eyes to the heavens and lifted our voices in prayer as well, we've seen only the Lord our God.

This was necessary. This was a part of what made us who we are as Jews. But the time for complete isolationism is over.

Such a statement is heretical, of course. That's fine. I am a heretic and I accept that--but ultimately, it was not Jews who gave heresy its greatest stigma.

The heresy of Yad Patuach--the Open Hand--says a few different things.

First of all, the Torah is a historical document. It says many important things about God and should be treasured by our people as the greatest single repository of our past, but in the end it's a product of men. That's not too heretical. A lot of modern Jewish movements say that.

Where I differ is this: I do not look to make us more secular and rational in such an acceptance. Don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with being secular, and reason is an absolutely vital tool for human beings. But the Jewish culture isn't lacking in humanism and respect for science these days. What it's lacking in some places is mysticism and diversity.

In a sense, the heresy of Yad Patuach is where Judaism meets neopaganism.

You see, the second thing said by this philosophy is more controversial: God has never forbidden us from acknowledging the mere existence of other Powers than Him. Believing so in the past was understandable and quite likely even useful given our cultural milieu, but it was not a commandment from God, and we are not bound to it as the future approaches.

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me," or, "You shall not have the gods of others in my presence." What God forbade us was this: do not worship foreign Powers. Do not put them on the same level as Me.

We are forbidden from devoting ourselves to these other Powers, but nothing says we have to deny their reality and completely close ourselves off from them.

(On the reality of any Power, I will talk another time.)

The third part of the heresy of Yad Patuach is perhaps more alarming still. God forbids us to have other gods before Him, but He does not forbid us to accept His manifestation in different facets.

Why would we so earnestly recite, "Hear, o Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is One," if there wasn't doubt? If we weren't refuting something? If some people didn't need to be reminded that it was possible for the essence of God's Divinity, Ein Sof, to split into many different Powers like whole light passing through a prism?

(The rainbow is God's promise to Israel: some aspect of Me will always be with this sinful world from now on, even if it seems fragmented.)

Our God is many different things to many different people, male and female, wrathful and merciful, creator and destroyer. They may have different faces but all come from the same source.

The [Darashot]* Yad Patuach, the Seekers of Open Hand, represent these paradoxically united and singular Powers as we turn to the rest of the world once more. We wish to learn from the other Powers of the peoples beyond us. We are willing to make contact. And we will share our wisdom, too.

* The root here is d-r-sh, a complicated word with a history of meaning "to seek [God]," among other things. I still need to figure out how to transform it into a noun meaning "seeker of divine wisdom."


Seeking the Name

April 2016

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