Hundreds gathered in a theater in Boulder, Colorado, on August 17, 2014, on what would have been Reb. Zalman’s ninetieth birthday, to pay him respect and gratitude. Matthew Fox was invited to offer the opening prayer at his service. You may find the prayer in Matt’s newly updated and revised autobiography, “Confessions” page 445:
Ancient One of Ancient Days, we ask you to respect our feeble attempt to name you: Grandfather, Grandmother, Father of all our ancestors—Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Esther, and more, Father-Mother of the Fireball and supernovas, the sun and moon and earth, and all its peoples and all its religions, and all its forests and waters and winged ones and finned ones and four- legged ones, you who are known by multiple names the world over: Brahmin and Buddha and Goddess, Yahweh and Allah, Abba, Christ, Wakan-Tanka, Tagashila, and more. You are beyond all names and with no name, “super-essential darkness.” You are the being within being; the light within light; the beauty within beauty; justice within justice; compassion within compassion; life within life; wisdom within wisdom; silence within silence. Hear our prayer:
We thank you for the life and Spirit of our brother Reb. Zalman.
We thank you for his smile and the eager heart it bespeaks.
We thank you for his deep and broad knowledge and even more, his great wisdom.
We thank you for his laughter and wit and unstoppable holy and fierce imagination.
We thank you for his intuition and his courage in looking into the future in birthing a movement of Jewish Renewal.
We thank you for the many men and women he inspired, instructed, mentored, and ordained and set loose into this world that needs so much Tikkun and repair.
We thank you that Reb. Zalman practiced the teaching of Reb. Heschel that “praise precedes faith” and that he was always rst and foremost a man of praise.
We thank you for his sageing and his wise aging and teaching thereon.
We thank you for all his teachers and mentors, and a special shout out to Dr. Howard Thurman, who was one of Reb. Zalman’s special mentors.
We thank you for Reb. Zalman’s love of ritual, of praise, of poetry, of song and dance and desire to make traditions alive again.
We thank you for his pioneer e orts to be open to other faith traditions, his teaching that “each magisterium as revealed to each faith community is needed to heal the planet. Ecumenism has to embrace indigenous and natural peoples and as such our bodies and all our relations.”
We thank you for his imperfections and clay feet which make him so like the rest of us.
We thank you that near the end of his very full life he said he felt “very privileged” to have lived it.
We thank you that we are privileged too that he lived so fully and generously.
We pray that each one here and each one touched by his life and teachings and setting in motion of the Jewish Renewal movement may also be able to pronounce, at the close of our days, the same words, “It has been a privilege.” May we all live life as if it were a deep privilege, which it is, a 13.8 billion year gift that we dare not squander or take for granted.
May our gratitude and honoring of Reb. Zalman not be expressed by put- ting him on a pedestal but rather by acts of mitzvah, our very deeds of justice, healing, compassion, and celebration.
And may we all commit and recommit to honoring the earth and all its inhabitants and its beautiful diversities of race and religions and cultures out of justice and compassion so that all may live life to the full, lives of sharing and celebration, praise and thanksgiving.
We commend the memory of this man of wisdom, this son of God, this lover of diversity, to your wise care. May his spirit inspire and challenge us for years and eras to come.
This is what the Huffington Post published about Reb. Zalmon on July 6, 2014:
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a spiritual innovator who developed a new trend in Judaism over the last half-century, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014, at around 8:40AM in his home. He was 89. He will be buried at the Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder, Colorado.
Schachter-Shalomi, better known as ‘Reb Zalman’ (a less formal title he preferred), was often a controversial figure in his lifetime, beloved of many and reviled by others. Those who loved him saw him as the visionary father of the Jewish Renewal movement, as a spiritual revolutionary who infused religion and inter-faith relations with a new vitality and contemplative depth. Those who opposed his innovative approach to Jewish spiritual practice felt he had betrayed the traditional values of Orthodox Judaism. Though this opposition diminished in his later years as former opponents came to appreciate his spiritual integrity and the need for new perspectives. But whether embraced or shunned, his impact upon Judaism and modern spirituality is undeniable.
Matthew’s prayer invites us to ask:
What are your names for God?
How do you bless the life of another?
What have you become because of another’s beauty?
How have you given gratitude today?
Does this prayer matter to you?
(Today is the first day of a new format for the blog. Let me know how it works for you. What is good? What frustrates you? What inspires you?)