…And so are you. Michaelson’s new book, Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism, is a call to arms, a kind of populist manifesto based upon the kabbalistic notion that all humans are infused with a breath of God.
And, last week, he threw a party to prove it.
Check out the Shemspeed video:
Michaelson shone at a sort of mini-symposium that night about contemporary religion, centering on his book. He posited for the validity of religious experiences on the part of the individual, effectively arguing that the Baal Shem Tov wasn’t the only one who could have direct communication with God — that the BeShT’s message was, literally, that that type of eschatological ecstasy could be (and should be) widespread, even universal.
I had conflicting opinions about the other speakers, all of whom were impressive people with mighty things to say — although the majority of the conversation mainly dealt with, disappointingly, the various disappointments they’ve had with organized religion. One panelist spoke about how he went to the Chaim Berlin yeshiva and was told that, if he spoke about kabbalah, he’d be kicked out. Well, duh. If you go to an institution that has a 300-year-old feud with Hasidim — founded by a group whose name itself means “the opponents,” referring to “opponents of Hasidim” — and start spouting propaganda about their mortal enemies, well, you’ve only got yourself to blame. I mean, dude, you’re pretty much the equivalent of the black Ku Klux Klan guy in Blazing Saddles. You’re setting yourself up for disaster.
But the speeches were the smallest part of the night. Like the book itself, it existed on a bunch of levels. You could take the “Everything Is God” thing as a one-note joke, or you could take it deeper; similarly, you could look at the four people on the stage, or the 300 people in the audience. Afterward, there was a sort of Jewish-freak bazaar in which an ecological summer camp, a Jewish hip-hop label, and organic picklers, indie minyanim, and Shabbat dinner purveyors proffered their wares. The righteous band Darshan played — fronted by Eprhyme, and possibly the only acoustic hip-hop band to have a fiddler, a percussion box, and a guitar-playing diva — and I did a few poems. But, as Jewish thinker Yoni Gordis would be quick to point out, the best conversations happen in the hallways. And the biggest mark of Godliness that night was the crowd — people talking to each other, shutting themselves up and doing what us religious folks call being mevatel each other — or, essentially, listening to each other.
Maybe that’s what Jay and the Besht meant when they said that everything is God. Not that I am, but that everything else is, too.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Pronounced: yuh-SHEE-vuh or yeh-shee-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, a traditional religious school, where students mainly study Jewish texts.