I'm not sending people to conservative shul or Skirball or anywhere. I'm just letting them know that they can access these texts for themselves, and get into the conversation. Yes, I've stressed humanism because I saw it as my job in the book not to turn people back to Judaism, or to show them where they can access cool Jewish stuff, but to recontextualize our behaviors in the secular world AS Jewish. I'm saying that it's not the object of the game to get people to behave more Jewishly. It's our job to accept all these great behaviors as Jewish. Change the boundary condition around this thing. Then the whole world becomes Jerusalem.
So - from your POV which is, as I see it, coming from the opposite perspective (not the opposite sensibility, but the other side of the same object) you're asking questions about why I've included or belittled certain things.
I'm writing from the perspective of someone completely outside Judaism.
Yes, I could have told people that there are valuable resources [in the Jewish community and the mystical traditions]. But the presentation of pshat, alone, is already more controversial than most Jews can accept: you're saying Moses's wife was black????
Third tread: Judaism and/as Social Justice
I'm not reducing Judaism to ethics. I'm measuring its success by its ability to make the world a better place. There's a difference.
I do think many religions do strive to make the world a better place. Before Judaism (and, perhaps, Hinduism) the notion of human beings having the ability to make the world a better place was heresy. We were to depend on the gods, alone, for any improvement. So, as I see it, Judaism's big initial contribution was to make human beings the adults on the planet, responsible for their actions, and capable of manifesting the divine through action.
This required Jews go from following commandments to 'hearing' commandments to interpreting commandments to actually generating commandments. Open source Judaism means getting down into the code of the commandments, realizing they were developed by human beings (working divinely) and bringing ourselves to the place where we can engineer them to the next level. (Not just to our 'liking' or to make them 'easier' but to continue the Jewish project - the painstaking effort to move into conscious, responsible, adulthood.)
So I'm trying to show how much great, evolutionary, non-exclusive, pluralistic, and radically collaborative traditions there are in this Jewish process.
Would you evaluate a work of art according to whether it makes the world a better place in terms of social justice? Hopefully not -- that's not what a lot of art does. I do think that art can stimulate the individual soul to become more sensitive, attentive, and respectful of beauty -- all values that in turn lead to more social behavior. But is the social behavior piece the criterion for evaluating the art? Or might there be other yardsticks of the Good?
We can surely make the world a more spiritually aware place. Environmental justice is a form of social justice (particularly if we stop, say, Bronfman's parent company Vivendi from starving people of their water rights in South America). It's extraordinarily Yiddishkite. Look at the environmental rules in Torah for the support of the topsoil. It's as progressive as what the Native Americans were doing.
The Sacred and the Profane
A Conversation with Douglas Rushkoff
Reinventing the Wheel: A Review of Nothing Sacred
They Gonna Crucify Me: A 'Lapsed Jew' Responds to Nothing Sacred
Plus these other attractions:
Meditation and Sensuality
Anything You Want to Be
Josh Graduates High School
Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here