The only way to meet an ecological crisis is to expand beyond self-serving expediency. To help us evolve in that way, Rabbi Art Green emphasizes the Kabbalah-based doctrine of Oneness of Being. Once we understand that as God’s creations we are not separate from any of the other manifestations of creation, we can naturally and consistently act in the non-selfish interest of all.
Let’s face it. The Oneness of Being doctrine clashes with our way of being in everyday life. It is incongruent with the practical boundaries between yours and mine, rich and poor, upstanding citizens and those without the right paperwork. What’s more, the Jewish tradition is characterized not by an obvious emphasis on Oneness but rather by an insistence upon separation. There are differences between the religious and the secular, Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Arabs, women and men, your husband and somebody else’s, kosher foods and those off limits, between all that is permitted to us and all that is not.
When Art Green argues for the centrality of Oneness as Jewish doctrine, his critics harshly reproach him. There are many (starting with my own family with their divisive rules and partitions) who prefer to emphasize insular self-protection in the us-versus-them mold. They value the Jewish concern for national survival above all else. The truth is that even among decent people, the tragedy of genocide more often inspires paranoia and aggression than even so much as an idealized longing for Oneness.
But how radical can Rabbi Arthur Green’s approach be when it is expressed as the essence of our faith in the daily prayer shema yisroel? Art reminds us that the shema proclaims the unity of God along with the sister truth that God’s holiness exists in every single living thing. “Everything that exists in this world, spiritual and physical is God himself,” he writes in Radical Judaism. Rabbi Green understands God as “the inner force of all being, present in all that exists.” That belief underscores the mystical insight that we are all connected in a Higher Reality where separation is transcended.