The question isn't whether grace is there for you in Judaism.
The question is, do you have the courage to accept it?
“Chesed isnít a reward; it is reality. Godís grace isnít limited to what we want to happen or might like to happen. Godís grace is what is happening whether we like it or not. In short, Godís grace is the giving of all to all.”
—from the Introduction
Ask almost any Jew whether grace is a central concept in Judaism and an essential element in living Jewishly and, chances are, their answer will be “no.” But thatís the wrong answer. This fascinating foray into Godís love freely given offers you—regardless of your level of Jewish involvement—a way to answer that question in the affirmative.
Drawing from ancient and contemporary, traditional and non-traditional Jewish wisdom, this book reclaims the idea of grace in Judaism in three ways:
ē It offers a view of God that helps you understand what grace is, why grace is, and how grace manifests in the world.
ē It sets forth a reading of Judaism that is grace-filled: an understanding of creation, Shabbat and other Jewish practices from a grace-filled perspective.
ē It challenges you to be embraced and transformed by grace, and to live life as a vehicle for Godís grace, thereby fulfilling the promise of being created in Godís image and likeness.
“Fascinating.... Does the important job of correcting mistaken impressions about Judaism and its relationship to chesed ... in the context of articulating [the authorís] own unique theology. Rami Shapiroís voice is a significant one in the emerging world of American Jewish spirituality.”
—Rabbi Arthur Green, author, Seek My Face: A Jewish Mystical Theology
“For Rabbi Rami Shapiro, one of American Judaismís great teachers, all existence is flooded by divine chesed (or grace); here is another and higher way to love and be loved.... Offers us not only the blueprint for an evolved Jewish theology but one that also convincingly demonstrates the centrality of love in Jewish life and thought.”
—Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author, Iím God, Youíre Not: Observations on Organized Religion & Other Disguises of the Ego
“Powerful ... this thought-provoking book teaches us that abundance and goodness abound, and that through deed and practice Judaism provides an avenue to mindful and compassionate living.”
—Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar, author, God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart
“Demonstrates with skill and textual insight how Judaism can reclaim grace as an unambiguous part of our covenant with an unconditionally loving and always present God. A must read for those seeking wisdom in sacred texts and practical methods to participate in a God-graced life.”
—Rabbi David Lyon, Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, Texas; author, God of Me: Imagining God throughout Your Lifetime
“Rabbi Shapiro has done it again. Fans of Rabbi Ramiís writing will be delighted by his in-depth exploration of chesed, approached with both erudition and grace.”
—Rabbi Jamie S. Korngold, author, The God Upgrade: Finding Your 21st-Century Spirituality in Judaismís 5,000-Year-Old Tradition
“Stunning.... Stimulates the mind and summons readers to action in order to transform attitudes.”
“An amazing case for amazing grace as a Jewish virtue. Only such agility of mind and facility of expression can breathe and breed the conviction that powers this therapeutic tour de force. Promises a startling shake-up for Jewish-Christian dialogue.”
—Rabbi Michael J. Cook, Bronstein Professor of Judeo-Christian Studies, Hebrew Union College; author, Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment
“Donít be deceived! This is a radical book of Jewish theology, revisioning God, Torah and Israel in a way that may well blow your mind. Or open your heart. Or, hopefully, both.”
—Jay Michaelson, author, Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism and God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice
Most people when thinking about the term chesed or grace assume it refers to something good, but you seem to approach the idea quite differently. How does your understanding of grace differ from the norm?
In defining grace I lean on Maimonides who speaks of God’s “wily grace” as the very nature of nature (Guide of the Perplexed, 2:524). Grace is reality, the way things are in this and every moment. Grace is “wily” in that it follows its own inner law rather than conforming to the desires of this or that human being. Grace isn’t merited or earned, nor is the receiving of grace a reward or the withholding of grace a punishment. In fact there is no “withholding of grace”; everything is a gift and the act of gifting is the reality of grace.
If grace is reality, and reality can be both positive and negative, why bother with grace at all?
First, reality is neither positive nor negative; it is simply what is. We may like or dislike reality as it manifests at any given moment, but reality itself is value neutral. Second, we don’t “bother” with grace; we are graced. If grace is reality, as I suggest it is, what does it mean to “bother” with reality? What alternative do we have?
Then what value is there in understanding grace as you present grace?
Grace is reality; living grace-fully is living in harmony with reality. Living in harmony with reality means cutting with the grain, swimming with the current; and doing so brings a sense of deep peace and tranquility regardless of how grace manifests in our lives at any given moment.