Prophetic Practice for a Time of Racial Reckoning

Book Review: The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets, by Nahum Ward-Lev

The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now
Orbis Books May, 2019
Reviewed by David Jaffe

By late April 1963, a major protest campaign led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama’s public accommodations was not going well.  Despite numerous protests, massive arrests, and the publication of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham jail (written on April 16, 1963), national attention for the campaign was fading. Organizers understood that without massive pressure from the Federal government, that would only be generated by a national public outcry, their campaign would fail. To evoke this kind of attention, organizers decided on the controversial strategy of putting children and teenagers on the front lines. The famous Children’s Crusade began on May 2, 1963 and after one day achieved its goal. “Bull” Connor’s police forces unleashed water cannons and attack dogs on these young people, producing images on national news that evoked horror across the country. Attorney General Robert Kennedy intervened and within days an agreement was reached to desegregate public accommodations. The organizers were correct that only a massive display of brutality and domination towards children would have the power to break through White America’s closed heart.

George Floyd’s recent brutal murder under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, while not a planned strategy, produced a similar reaction. The images of this public lynching moved a nation, often callous to black suffering, to demand change. Whether any real change in policing and beyond will happen is unclear, but the sustained reaction has been unprecedented in recent times.  

These incidents provide at least two important messages regarding the prospects for changes in systemic oppression in the current moment in the United States. The first is hopeful – while abstract principles of social justice do not move most people to care enough about the suffering of people outside their immediate circles to do anything about that suffering, graphic images of suffering do arouse the heart. If the image is immediate and dire enough, it can awaken empathy. The second message is more challenging to the prospects of lasting change – these evocations of concern are temporary. It is as if a curtain is pulled back, allowing a moment of recognition, only to be drawn shut seconds later. We have a well-documented empathy-gap in this country, meaning that people are able to experience heartfelt understanding within smaller and smaller circles.

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These two messages leave progressives in general, and Jewish progressives in particular, with a compelling problem if we hope to translate the suffering of this moment, both the racial injustice and the suffering on multiple levels as a result of COVID, into tangible social change.  How can each of us cultivate empathy and personal concern for people outside our own circles to sustain the moral outrage and imagination needed for change? This is one of the central questions raised by a Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev, in his inspiring and timely book of ancient wisdom, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets.

Ward-Lev’s book, published by Orbis in 2019, invites the reader into a Judaism that centers liberation and mutual relationship as its goals.  The book highlights the prophetic stream, that Divinely inspired force that moves nature and history towards greater freedom and mutuality, as the key message of the Hebrew Bible in specific, and Jewish religion in general. The prophetic stream starts with creation, flows through the narratives of Genesis and Exodus and is picked up and popularized in the oratory of Deuteronomy and the prophets of Israel. The second half of the book shows how these same themes live on in contemporary liberation movements. The Liberating Path is not an academic study of the prophetic vocation, rather it is a piece of spiritual prose that beckons the reader to immerse in the prophetic stream and emerge strengthened to move the world towards greater cooperation and flourishing for all.  

This book is a recent contribution to the broader movement of Jewish spiritual renewal in North America stretching back close to 60 years. By the 1950s, assimilation and anti-Semitism had taken the spiritual juice out of the lives of many Jews who themselves, or their ancestors, had immigrated to North America during the preceding century. Between this immigration, assimilation and the loss of so many great rabbis and teachers in the Shoah, most North American Jews were left as spiritual orphans. 

After the Shoah, the North American Jewish community, along with Jews around the world, got busy rebuilding the physical body of our people. This included supporting the State of Israel, and creating beautiful, state of the art community centers and synagogues that reflected the community’s growing affluence. In this urgency to create a secure, physical presence, Judaism’s spiritual gifts were ignored and the Jewish experience for many became a hollow, external shell of what it once was.  

Politically the North American Jewish community had strong roots in the vibrant Leftist world of labor, and the socialism and communism of the 1920s and 30s. With rising affluence and suburbanization most of the Jewish community migrated politically to a more domesticated liberalism while the remaining Left was spiritually decimated by McCarthyism during the 1950s.  With social exclusion still a reality for many Jews, parts of the community found common cause with the Black Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s. But as Jews won full acceptance into the institutions of power during the 1970s and firmly charted a course towards becoming the most affluent of all ethnic-religious groups in the U.S., the political positions adopted by the organized Jewish community began to diverge from those of traditionally oppressed groups.  The most striking example of this was the vocal opposition of the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress to affirmative action in higher education. This stance signaled that the organized Jewish community understood its interests as aligned more with the traditional White, Christian gatekeepers of power in America than with other oppressed minority groups. Jewish participation in the growth of neo-conservatism throughout the Regan era in the 1980s was a natural outgrowth of this tendency for Jews to find themselves more comfortable in the company of empire than on its margins. The spiritual costs of this decades-long move towards material comfort, “whiteness,” and feeling at home in empire would soon become clear.  

The reckoning came in the wake of the 1990 Jewish population survey which reported that the intermarriage rate topped 50% for the first time. Unlike today, in 1990 intermarriage signaled for many a moving away from the Jewish community. The organized community realized that there had been too much emphasis on the externals of Jewish life such as nice buildings, political support for Israel, and not enough engagement in Jewish meaning. This realization gave birth to a bonanza of Jewish education programs from the growth of day schools to widespread adult education in an effort to address the mind as well as the body. While this emphasis on Torah learning addressed part of the problem of Jewish identity, the organized community failed to address the corrosive impact unchecked material abundance and comfort with empire had on the Jewish soul.  

Rabbi Michael Lerner’s 1994 book, Jewish Renewal, recognized that the Jewish community’s malaise was not due solely to lack of Torah learning, but also was a crisis of meaning. Lerner reached way back to Judaism’s founding mission as a revolutionary people dedicated to social transformation and claimed that our drift away from this mission was, in fact, the biggest factor in Jews’ disillusionment with Judaism and the Jewish community. He writes:

…the values that led many young Jews away from the Jewish world were particularly Jewish values, reflecting a moral sensibility that was distinctively Jewish.  Conversely, those who owned and controlled the institutions of Jewish life were embodying values many of which were distinctively not Jewish, or more precisely, were contemporary manifestations of the Hellenistic tendency within a certain strand of Judaism, a tendency that accommodates to the powerful and diverts Judaism from its revolutionary ethical/spiritual roots.  I believe that the process of Jewish renewal- insisting on spiritual aliveness, reintegrating the politically transformational elements into that spirituality, reconnecting with the power in the universe that makes possible transcendence and compassion – has the capacity to recapture the moral imagination and spiritual yearning of these alienated, sensitive, and gifted Jews. (p. 13)

These themes of spiritual-aliveness and a Judaism that speaks to political transformation, championed by Tikkun magazine, would become more pronounced and urgent over the ensuing 25 years. Indeed, the 1990s saw the growth of what became the field of Jewish social justice. Once the domain of the Reform Movement and modern-day prophets like Arthur Waskow and his Shalom Center, independent organizations like Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps, The American Jewish World Service, Jewish Funds for Justice (now Bend the Arc), and many more coalesced into a field dedicated making social justice a central feature of Jewish life in the U.S.  However, it wasn’t until the new millennium that the broader Jewish community would take seriously the spiritual aspect of Lerner’s challenge.  

By the turn of the millennium, it became clear to those with a finger on the pulse of the Jewish community that feeding the head through intellectually-oriented Jewish education had its limits. The Jewish soul also needed to be nourished through a more directly spiritual approach.  Many spiritually seeking Jews had turned to Eastern traditions for the past several decades and it was time to recapture the power of Jewish spiritual technologies. The birth of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the Mussar Institute are two examples of communal efforts to offer contemplative spiritual practice in a native Jewish idiom. With a robust field of Jewish social justice organizations and growing resources for Jewish spiritual development, Lerner’s vision for Jewish renewal was coming to fruition.  

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 created an urgent felt-need for this spiritual-political integration. Progressive activists have always needed to deal with the specter of burnout given the enormity of the suffering they see on a daily basis and the difficulty of making systems change. For Jewish activists in the 21st century, the State of Israel’s rightward shift and rise of ethnonationalism in the U.S. marked by the Trump victory, have made the need for Jewish renewal a necessity. It is into this milieu of spiritual and political ferment that Nahum Ward-Lev reintroduces the Prophets of Israel as a resource for spiritual fortification and renewal.  

The Prophetic Vocation

Ward-Lev begins his exploration by making clear that the world inhabited by the prophets was strikingly similar to our own world of deep inequality, oppression, and power struggles between interest groups and institutions. Power in the first Jewish commonwealth (c. 1000 BCE – 586 BCE) was divided among the institutions of the monarchy, the priesthood, and the prophets.  The king, the anointed one, ruled over the political and economic life of the people with Divine mandate. The priests and Levites were a clerical class, responsible for the spiritual education and ritual life of Israel, centered around the Temple in Jerusalem. The prophets were an unusual group. Often they came from the priestly or ruling classes and served a royal function in anointing and advising kings. Their gift was their direct communication with God, which often put them at odds with the ruling elite. The most well-known prophets, from Isaiah to Amos to Hosea, are the key figures in The Liberating Path, whose prophecy Ward-Lev distills into what he calls The Prophetic Vocation.

The Prophets served at a time of great economic inequality and political oppression. Their reaction to injustice was rooted in how they understood the experience and mission of Israel.  Ward-Lev sees the Exodus from tyranny in Egypt and the Covenant at Sinai as key motifs for the Prophetic Vocation.  

For the prophets, the very identity of the people, the essence of their covenant with God, was to embody an alternative to oppressive imperial systems, to become a more just and equitable society than the neighboring kingdoms. From this perspective, both kingdoms, Judah and Israel, had utterly failed in their covenanted mission as they increasingly mirrored the stratified, oppressive, and unjust regimes of nearby Canaanite kingdoms as well as more distant great empires. (p. 6)

This mission to create alternatives to “oppressive imperial systems” was a core message of the Exodus, which is why this historic experience in the life of the people shows up so much in the prophetic messages. Perhaps if the leaders and the people could remember and internalize the lessons of the Exodus, they would not tolerate the hypocrisy of injustice. The Prophetic Stream flows towards liberation and mutuality, which put it on a collision course with the exploitative elites and monarchs of much of the First Commonwealth. Ward-Lev acknowledges that the Hebrew Bible includes a Royal Stream as well, that honors the Davidic line and supports its concentration of power. However, he argues that the Prophetic Stream is more important than the Royal Stream, because the Bible’s central concern is the process of evolution – inside the person as well as in the community – toward an equitable society.”  Certainly, we meet oppressive characters and unjust systems in the Bible, “But portrayals of a severe God and the sinful people represent the inherent challenge in the liberation journey, not its trajectory.” (p.115).  

The task of the Prophets was to witness and affirm the liberation journey, and Ward-Lev distills this work into the three core qualities of the Prophetic Vocation:

An Encounter with Divine love and concern for the world – The Prophets’ words of rebuke grew from a deeply felt connection to God and awareness of God’s great love and concern for the people. They couldn’t bear to see people mistreated and out of this intense, God-inspired empathy, spoke their fiery words.

The Courage to name oppression – The Prophets had much to lose by naming the actual injustices being caused and ignored by elites. In some cases, they were killed for their testimony.  Yet, they did the crucial work of saying and naming what others saw but were afraid or did not want to name.  

Moral imagination to articulate an alternative future – The Prophets were not social critics living on the margins of their societies content to hurl verbal explosives. They were highly invested in the well-being of all members of their community, from the rulers and elites to the oppressed widows and orphans. They wanted social transformation and provided the vivid imagery of a future redeemed that has inspired social movements until today.    

The Prophetic vocation centered around taking the Exodus story of liberation seriously enough to demand that society organize itself to continue the movement toward liberation and away from tyranny. Ward-Lev tells us that his purpose in writing the book is to read the Exodus story into our day, identifying it with the prophetic stream that moves through scripture, “inspiring people to leave behind oppressive social structures and to create more relational ways of being in society.” (p. 114). Such consciousness of communal purpose should inspire Jews, and others inspired by the Prophets, to challenge tyranny wherever it arises and proactively work for more equitable arrangements throughout society. This call to challenge tyranny has gained new relevance in our era of rising authoritarianism.  

Mutuality versus Domination

Ward-Lev roots the prophetic stream in the earliest moments of the Hebrew Bible and shows how themes of mutuality vs. domination develop through the Genesis stories. The prophetic task challenges the limitations of existing structures in order to bring forth new possibilities. Indeed, 

The prophetic stream is a divinely initiated energy that interacts with each form within creation to release its potential. This transforming energy enables the bringing forth, the exodus, of ever more mutually interrelated and more conscious entities. The prophetic energy does not create totally new forms. Rather it works in relationship with existing forms to liberate their inherent potential. The prophetic stream energizes possibility. (p. 45)

Ward-Lev argues that the central word in the Creation story, “V’y’hee” (let there be) is actually not a command but an invitation. After all, to whom is God speaking? God could just create ex nihilo so why use words? Ward-Lev’s beautiful chiddush/innovation is that creation is a form of call and response. God is calling to each stage of creation and calling forth something new to grow out of it. “God does not create in an imperial way, by imposing an external will on passive creation. Rather, using the invitation of words, God animates the created world on a journey to iterate its potential, to respond as a person responds in dialogue.” (p.47) Liberation and growth are embedded in the very workings of creation and thus are essential components of reality until today. The seed is the symbol of transformation embedded in creation. “Seeds, as small as they are, contain the possibility of enormous, transforming growth.” (p. 48)  Ward-Lev claims that the Biblical authors were fascinated with seeds because they embodied this prophetic energy of transformation.  

The sibling rivalry stories of Genesis continue the theme of mutuality and transformation in the realm of human relations. The first sibling relationship, between Cain and Abel, ends badly, setting the pattern for future rivalries based on scarcity and competition. The key question is the rhetorical one Cain asks of God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Rather than watching out for each other, Yishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Rachel and Leah, and Joseph and his brothers struggle with mutual support and in many cases either try to kill the other or cannot live together.  

Ward-Lev’s core argument is that the urge for domination comes from the ego’s need for individuation. The core tension in human social life is that we are individuals and we are deeply interdependent. When the ego’s independence feels threatened, usually by some kind of scarcity, domination can be an easy answer through superiority, hierarchy, and possessing more. But domination diminishes the oppressor as well as the oppressed by removing the possibility of mutual relationship, which is the only true path to human flourishing. Systemic oppression functions according to these same dynamics of interpersonal oppression in that it grows from same root. The relationship stories in Genesis paint a picture of the liberation journey towards mutuality and away from domination.

The model for healing comes in Judah’s encounter with Joseph, now the Viceroy of Egypt.  Judah finally answers Cain’s question by firmly stating that he will take responsibility for his brother Binyamin and will serve in jail in his place.  

With this courageous act, Judah breaks out of the pattern of family rivalry and begins the resolution of the multigenerational tension in Genesis. The Torah tells us that ‘Judah approached’ Joseph (Gen. 44:18); he steps forward toward his brother. As he steps forward, Judah offers the family a way forward, the only way forward, the way of brother and sister keeping. (p. 73)

Mutuality, and not domination, are the way forward. In the second half of the book, Ward-Lev mines the writing of 20th century liberation activists including Paolo Friere, Grace Lee Boggs, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for similar themes. He finds in Friere, that: 

…oppression and an insatiable need to control are co-occurring phenomenon. [Ward-Lev writes] Similarly, the Hebrew prophets perceived that injustice and idolatry are co-occurring phenomenon. They saw that controlling people through oppressive systems and attempting to control God through idolatrous practice go hand in hand. (p. 128)

The desire to control and dominate stands counter to the prophetic stream, which moves towards mutuality and freedom. Living in the prophetic streams takes a careful balancing of the human desire for control and the human capacity for freedom. Ward-Lev illustrates how Cain and Abel represent these two poles. Cain’s Hebrew name, “Kayin” means “acquire” while Abel’s Hebrew name, “Hevel”, means “breath.” He writes: 

Inside each person there dwells these twins, Kayin and Hevel. Hevel is animated when we are present to the flow of life. Kayin is the aspect that seeks security and control.  Hevel is the aspect that connects to life. Kayin strives to keep us safe. The challenge to human beings, the art of living in faith to life, is to accept and live with the tension between Kayin and Hevel, to embrace both the vulnerability of being alive and the desire to be in control of our lives. (p. 180)

The prophetic stream invites us to live this balance.  

The Genesis – Exodus Journey in Individual and Communal life and Today  

Ultimately this is a book about today and Ward-Lev wants the transformative message of the prophetic stream to influence contemporary public life. The rebirth of authoritarian regimes amidst the crisis of income inequality through the West makes the Biblical prophetic messages particularly resonant. Ward-Lev demonstrates how these words were not just innovations of the prophets of the first Jewish Commonwealth, but were reworkings of much deeper messages essential to the Torah and Israel’s mission. Ward-Lev is bidding us to take up the prophetic vocation in our own day and live the message of liberation. Indeed, the second half of the book highlights the thinking of several of these contemporary prophets.  This interpretative task belongs to all of us in every generation:

…on a rhetorical level, the prophets and the Deuteronomic authors wrote their moment in time into the narrative arc of the Exodus story. Their testimony models the power of reimagining the Exodus story into one’s own day. The prophets teach us that the liberation narrative, the ongoing Creation/Exodus story, needs to be reimagined for every generation, releasing the flow of the prophetic stream to move a society forward.  As inheritors of prophetic wisdom, we, too, can bring forth from ancient stories the new ideas we need to meet the challenges of the present moment. (p.43)

This is an action-oriented book that asks the reader, “what difference would the prophetic stream make in your context today and how are you going to articulate it?” There is an urgency to this application that pulses throughout this book.  

Rooted in God’s Concern for Humanity

Both Lerner and Ward-Lev root their messages in the writings and model of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and his understanding of the Prophets. Heschel (d. 1972) was a singular figure in mid-20th century Jewish community in the U.S. in that he was a refugee from Nazi-Germany, well-respected theologian, traditionally observant Jew, and prominent social activist. Heschel came to his activism after reworking his doctoral dissertation about the Prophets during the early days of the nascent war in Vietnam and the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He saw in the prophets God’s deep concern for humanity and learned from them that we serve God best by caring for people.  

Heschel, like Ward-Lev, locates his exploration of the prophets in the socio-economic reality of their time. Like today, and perhaps in all eras, wealth, wisdom, and might were the primary values of the ancient world. Jeremiah decries these values in his countercultural plea, 

Thus said the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; Let not the strong man glory in his strength; Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory: In his earnest devotion to Me. For I the LORD act with kindness, Justice, and equity in the world; For in these I delight —declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:22-23)

As today, this plea was ignored by the wise, powerful, and mighty. For Heschel, the revolutionary power of the prophets was not located in their anti-exploitative message that was sure to be ignored by those in power. Rather, it was their deeply felt concern for suffering based in God’s empathy that held transformative power and moved Heschel himself into action against the war in Vietnam and for Black civil rights. 

Heschel’s radical claim was that God, and the prophets’ opposition to injustice was not based on abstract principles of fairness and equality but on deeply felt pathos for suffering. This should be a point well taken for progressives who tend to base their political and economic arguments on theories of justice rather than more emotional and less rational experiences of suffering. This is a central point emphasized by Lerner in these pages for many decades. Listen to Heschel’s own words that describe the role of pathos vs. abstract reasoning:

The central achievement of biblical religion was to remove the veil of anonymity from the workings of history. There are no ultimate laws, no eternal ideas. The Lord alone is ultimate and eternal. The laws are His creation, and the moral ideas are not entities apart from Him; they are His concern. Indeed, the personalization of the moral idea is the indispensable assumption of prophetic theology. Mercy, grace, repentance, forgiveness, all would be impossible if the moral principle were held to be superior to God. God’s call to man, which resounds so frequently in the utterances of the prophets, presupposes an ethos based, not upon immutable principles, but rather upon His eternal concern. (p. 217, The Prophets)

Indeed, this phrase, “…the personalization of the moral idea is the indispensable assumption of prophetic theology,” speaks to the centrality of relationship in Heschel’s reading of the Prophets. It is God’s relationship and caring for humanity that creates the imperative for social justice and not an abstract imperative for justice that motivates social policy. The Prophet feels God’s concern for human suffering in a raw, subjective way that is so far from a distant, self-satisfied sympathy.  The Prophets’ message calls us to feel this suffering and joy. This need to feel is what necessitates real relationships and the proximity so elusive in our increasingly socially segregated communities. To have truly felt concern one needs to know people in the specific.  How do we develop such concern in today’s world? 

The potential of such felt concern has huge implications for society. In one of Heschel’s most well-know formulations of moral complicity, he writes: 

Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual’s crime discloses society’s corruption. In a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned for God and every man, crime would be infrequent rather than common. (p. 16, The Prophets)

Conservatives and Liberals often argue over the primacy of personal responsibility versus systemic oppression as the cause of social ills. Here Heschel poetically intertwines the personal and communal by placing individual guilt in its context of communal conditioning. He proposes a society that is “uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood,” (p. 16, The Prophets) to have us imagine what kind of individuals such a society would produce. The deeply felt concern we show for each other at the family, community, and national level influences the moral choices made by individuals in such a society. Ultimately, the prophetic message speaks to the inner, as well as communal life. Heschel writes, “…the purpose of prophecy is to conquer callousness, to change the inner man as well as to revolutionize history.” (p. 17, The Prophets). The personal is political and the path to revolutionary social change must traverse the territory of softening of the numb heart. It is this task of inner transformation that brings us back to the challenges of our current environment and racial reckoning. 

Spiritual Practice

Moral excellence and exquisite ethical sensitivity are essential pre-requisites for the prophet’s ability to experience the Divine presence. Traditional Judaism does not allow for a separation of the ethical and the spiritual. This is most pointedly stated by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto, in the 18th century Mussar classic, Path of Just (Mesilat Yesharim), where the author explicates an ancient teaching about how the development of certain character traits like awareness, alacrity, and humility lead to prophecy. The mystical goal of unification with the Divine could never be separated from the heart-work of character development, as championed by the Kabbalists of 16th century Tzfat, like Rabbi Chaim Vital. One of the most enduring images from the Prophet Ezekiel, “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (36:26) was taken up as the pedagogical goal of Jewish teachers from the time of the Talmud through the modern era when Rabbi Israel Salanter (d. 1883) branded his Mussar (ethical instruction) movement as “instruction for the numb of heart.” A heart that yearns for transcendence and spiritual experience needs to be a heart that is open and sensitive to the suffering and experience of other humans and all creation.  

This type of exquisite sensitivity takes work. Some are endowed with access to strongly felt empathy. While empathy is a natural human characteristic, given socialization and past traumas, many need to develop the skill to consistently and durably empathize with a wide variety of people and creations outside their most inner circles. Developing this skill is the domain of spiritual practice, an often-neglected aspect of most progressive social change movements. Ward-Lev acknowledges the necessity of practice in a short appendix that describes several traits, like gratitude and discernment, that are needed to walk in the prophetic stream. I would argue that this appendix really needs to be a fully fleshed out companion volume to The Liberating Path, because of its centrality to Ward-Lev’s mission to make the prophetic stream a potent live option for today’s activists.   

We must see a collaboration between prophetic awareness and Penimiyut, building our inner worlds, if we are to prevent any more human sacrifices on the alter of racial injustice in this country. It is only this combination of open-hearted, empathic feeling for suffering and the prophetic courage and imagination to name oppression that will produce enough sustained momentum for systemic change, be it regarding racial justice, economic inequality, or environmental devastation. Judaism, like many other wisdom traditions, is blessed with a rich array of contemplative disciplines to develop the inner life.  As mentioned above, we are experiencing a renaissance of such traditions like Mussar (applied Jewish ethics) and the prayer practices of Chassidut (applied Jewish mysticism). While these disciplines focus most intensely on the individual’s relationship with God and interpersonal relations, we are seeing a growing interest in expanding the reaches of these spiritual technologies to address systemic change and liberation. Examples include the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ training called Spiritual Activism: Prophetic Empathy and Revolutionary Love, my own Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, and the growing number of efforts supported by Rise Up to create a field of integrated Jewish spirituality and social change. The Prophets of Ancient Israel were not just graced with the holy spirit. There were schools dedicated to developing prophetic awareness that involved rigorous disciplines that have been lost to history. What we know is that to achieve such awareness took ethical excellence and dedicated inner work. If our contemporary world needs legions of prophets then it also needs those same people to be deeply engaged spiritual practitioners. There is no easy way around this. Fortunately, we are living in an era where these Jewish spiritual technologies are increasingly available and recognized as essential to the work of social change.  It is now up to us to get to work and The Liberating Path is a great place to start.

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