Culture, Religion

The Inner Journey: Spirituality

Editor’s Note: When we last heard from The Inner Journey, we were learning about the nature of Jewish tradition. Here, we present the second part of Rabbi Bamporad’s introduction.
The ancient rabbinic text the Mishnah, in Sanhedrin 4:5, states: “A
single man was created in the world, to teach that if any man has
caused a single soul to perish, scripture imputes it to him as if he
had caused a whole world to perish, and if any man saves alive a
single soul, scripture imputes it to him as if he had saved alive a
whole world… Therefore everyone must say, for my sake the world was
created.” Danby p. 388

Another Mishna in Eduyoth recounts a significant debate between the
schools of Hillel and Shammai about whether or not it was better for
man to have been created. After considerable discussion, a vote was
taken and the school of Shammai, that claimed it was better for man
not to have been created, got the most votes. Thereupon the
Hillellites taught that since man was already created, people should
examine their past deeds and future deeds, so that one’s past would
not necessarily become one’s future. However since everyone does not
know whether in his/her particular case it would have been better or
not if s/he were created, everyone should live one’s life as if s/he
were worthy of having been created.
Judaism teaches that if you want to raise yourself up to a Godly
spiritual plane, to find the Divine spark in yourself and in others,
you must honestly ask yourself: “Am I living my life in such a way
that indeed I have the right to say for my sake the world was
created?” and that I am worthy of having been created.
What Judaism teaches is that if we genuinely and authentically and
radically ask this question, we will find that we cannot help but be
transformed spiritually.
Spirituality is inner growth nurtured by ethical behavior, which in
turn nurtures the Divine spark within us. It deals with those
potentialities in our natures that elevate us in moral worth and
dignity and link us to God. The blossoming of that is what makes us
uniquely human, the taking upon ourselves the tasks of character
development, the paths of righteousness, the acceptance of
responsibility to live an ethical life. It is the striving to realize
and embody in ourselves and in others a higher, broader, enhanced way
of life; for there is no spirituality without responsibility and
without facing the burden of ascent. Through this work we can be
transformed and transform others and the world. It is in this sense
that spirituality gives us the possibility of growth in being.
The mark of the truly religious person is that he is willing to take
on more than his share in the process of value enrichment, of the
production and conservation of personal and group values. The
prophets teach us that there is something at stake in every
historical situation and we can, by acting or failing to act, make a
decisive difference in our lives, in the lives of those we connect to
and in the world. This is what holiness and spirituality are all about.
The spiritual path or task begins with our awareness of those things
in us that are conducive to our basest desires and motivations, and
those things that are conducive to our highest aspirations of the
good and Divine. It begins when we learn how to understand and manage
both the “good” and “evil” we confront in ourselves. The
connectedness between the spiritual, holy, sacred in oneself to that
which transcends us, reinforces, feeds, nourishes, transforms us and
lifts us to that higher spiritual plane.
If this is the true meaning of spirituality, then God’s being must
be a continuing process of the Creation, conservation and enhancement
of value and personality; of the true and the good, the beautiful and
the holy. God must be the ground for the creation of the world and
life and mind and personality and spirit; the ever continuing
creation of all that is of worth in existence. Such creation of
values requires not just an orderly and intelligible universe, but
also a universe that especially in life and personal life manifests
values, which qualify and integrate and realize this universe.
The question now emerges. How are we to accomplish this task? We need
a guide, a direction, something to stabilize and integrate, in the
proper manner, the all too inchoate and scattered elements that
constitute our ordinary selves.

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