Essays by Stan Tenen

The Foundations of Jewish Survival
©1997 Stan Tenen

As spiritual leaders and scientists have often observed, the Hand of G-d can be seen as the record of nature and the natural world.

When we study how "Mother Nature" does it, we learn what G-d taught "her." What we learn from our study of one aspect of the natural world often applies to other, and sometimes, all, aspects. All life partakes of very similar processes. All creatures are born, all creatures die, and all creatures need food and a safe environment for themselves and their future generations.

Even viruses are composed of many molecular components that must work together, just like the various functional bodies within single-celled organisms, and just like the many different organs in our bodies. When we look closely enough we find that we are all organisms composed of various internal components and we are all enmeshed in an interdependent external ecology as well.

One of Nature's (G-d's) secrets of life is distinction and organization. Metaphorically speaking, if everything and everyone were internally and externally simple, the universe would be no more than a shimmering pot of "cosmic jello." In fact, if there were no differences, the "cosmic jello" would not even need to shimmer. This was the state of the universe before (whatever that means when time does not yet exist) HaShem contracted (Tzimtzum) and withdrew a portion of His Will. Everything was only HaShem, and, consequently, everything was subsumed within the exquisitely simple Oneness of G-d. But, HaShem did give part of His Will into our custody and the universe is diverse and life consists of organizations of different components.

So, in a healthy living being we find an organization of organs, each distinct and different from each other, all living in harmony, all expressions of the same DNA within each cell. We have hearts which pump our blood, we have stomachs which digest our food, we have brains with which to think and explore, we have legs which enable us to get around and get to our food, we have ears to hear with, eyes to see with, fingernails to scratch with, and so on.

Even though each of these organs is radically different, as befits their radically different tasks, each depends on and cooperates with all of the others. My heart does not hold out for special attention from my stomach under threat of stopping unless it gets what it wants or needs. My stomach does not go on strike against my liver for not providing enough bile, and so on. Each and every one of my separate organs does its job willingly and in a spirit of cooperation and mutual dependence with all of my other organs.

If, by some misfortune, a cell from my heart found itself in my liver, it would either die (because the particular environment and nourishment it needs cannot be found in my liver), or it would damage my liver by interfering with my liver's functions which it cannot perform.

What can we learn from all of this? We learn that each and every organ is an expression of the same DNA, each and every organ is vital to all the others, each and every organ has its place and when not in that place (and at the right time, also), it can be harmful to my other organs or in harm's way itself. Nevertheless, in fact, exactly because of all of this, I am alive and healthy. All of my organs, by bending themselves willingly to their tasks, also support me, the organism, that is the result of (and more than) all of their efforts. I survive because each and every one of my organs does its job and is respected as vital by all of the others.

This is also how I see Jewish survival.

Judaism is one of the organs in the body politic of our planet. We perform our Jewish functions and other faiths, cultures, traditions, peoples, individuals and nations, perform their functions. But, there is a difference. Whereas I am aware that I am an organism and I am dependent on the smooth and harmonious interactions among and between the various organs that make up my personal "body" politic, our planet is not (yet) so fortunate. There is no planetary consciousness, no planetary "I", to see, and protect, the value in each and every one of its species and peoples.

In fact, the role of that hypothetical planetary consciousness, which, by the way, the new-agers call Gaia, may also be our role. We, among all of the creatures and beings we are aware of, are uniquely conscious (or potentially conscious) of ourselves and our environment and the interactions that allow us to be alive in nature. So, if we are not aware of the necessary value of each and every member of the body politic of our planet (and, eventually also our universe), as G-d put us all here, no one else will be either. If each and every organ that composes each of us does not organically value the integrity of our heart and our stomach and their cooperation and mutual interdependence, than we will not stay healthy. And the same is true for our planet.

If we humans do not come to appreciate how each and every distinct people, culture, tradition, and nation is a vital part of the planetary body politic, than life on our planet will not stay healthy.

The question of Jewish survival then becomes one of finding our place in the body politic of the planet and letting ourselves and everyone else know what it is, know that it is vital to each and every other people, culture, tradition and nation, and know that each and every other people, culture, tradition and nation is vital to us and each other also.

There are times when some part of my body is not well. When this is the case, I have a decision to make. Should I work to heal what is not well, or should I remove it? The answer depends on how I view the organ that is not working well. If it is an organ that I believe is vital to my survival, then I do everything I can to see to it that it survives and works better - and, in a sense, every other organ in my body does a bit extra to help the ailing organ. But, when I believe that the organ is not vital to my survival, I often have it removed. When my fingernails grow too long, I trim them back. If my appendix were to become inflamed, I would have it removed. - But, of course, I would never do this with my heart, my liver, or my brain. That would be suicidal because I know, and, in a sense, my other organs know, that I could not live without my heart, my liver or my brain.


When we look at the body politic of our planet, we see that the same principles hold. Nations that are seen to make little or no contribution to the welfare of others or of the planet, are not often defended. We need only look at the response of the European community to the recent atrocities in the former Yugoslavia to see how tepid the response of the world's nations is towards cultures in which they do not see anything of particular value to themselves. Nations and peoples are in even more precarious situations when they are seen as inconvenient or costly to defend. The Kurds come to mind as a current example. They are seen as, at most, a troublesome political complication to an already difficult situation involving Iraq, Iran, Turkey and other states. No one sees anything of benefit to humankind that is available only from the Kurds. (This is not true, of course, but it certainly seems that way from the general public's perspective.)

Israel is also in a difficult situation. Why, the uncaring and unknowing world may ask, do we need to have an Israel? Wouldn't we have cheaper oil and less fear of nuclear war in the world if Israel just went away? What vital function, comparable to supplying a enormous wealth of oil from Saudi Arabia, for example, does Israel provide to contribute to the world economies and the good of other nations and peoples?

What makes Israel a vital organ in the body politic of our planet, similar in importance to that of the heart, liver, or brain in our bodies, in the eyes of the other organs, the other nations and peoples? When we can answer that question, the survival of Israel will be appreciated as essential to the other nations. No amount of military force or political acumen can protect and defend Israel. Only an appreciation of the vital contribution that Israel can and should make can do that.

Fortunately, Israel does have a vital and unique (irreplaceable) function in the body politic of our planet that all peoples can come to know and appreciate.

—If we cannot answer this fundamental question, our entire pyramid of reasons collapses—

Because it is everyone's Torah. ...And Torah IS "a tree of life for those who grasp it." Torah teachings are essential to the survival of our planet. IF that is true, and IF that can be demonstrated, THEN Torah will be defended by all the peoples and nations, THEN Torah Jews will be defended by all the peoples and nations, THEN Jews will be defended by all peoples and nations, THEN Israel will be defended by all peoples and nations.

All of this is dependent on Torah being what it claims to be and, consequently, being an essential organ in the body politic of our planet and a vital part of the ecology of all life.

Fortunately this is true, but few know or appreciate exactly how profoundly true this really is.

It is our job to find the vital, unique, essential, and irreplaceable "Light" in Torah, first for ourselves, and then, to shine the Light in Torah in the world so that all peoples will know and value it.


Let us be clear. This is not a matter of ritual or admonition. Traditional Jewish prayer, ritual and practice is for Jews. This can be a light for us, but it is not intended for or valued by others.

Likewise, this is not a matter of preaching to others. If our preaching worked, Israel, Jews and Judaism would already be admired and valued. But this is certainly not the case.

Beyond our personal traditional Judaism, we must search for the Light in Torah that we are not now aware of. This is the underlying "science of consciousness" which Torah teaches at the deepest levels. In our time, statisticians have (re-)discovered that the sequences of letters in Torah are patterned. Neither religious nor academic scholars have a good explanation for this, but it is intuitively clear to many that the letter-level patterns are part of the deepest, Sod (Foundation) level of the Torah which is traditionally ascribed to the letters.

I believe that the Light in Torah that Jews and Judaism are intended to shine in the world is in the science of consciousness in the letter sequences in Torah. The "science of consciousness" level of Torah is like the DNA in our cells. Even though each organ in our body is different, each has at its core the same DNA. Only the expression is different in different organs. Likewise with science. Science does not recognize political differences. The science of motion, the law of gravitation, quantum mechanical complementarity, are the same sciences in every tradition, culture, nation and people. The "science of consciousness" at the letter level in Torah is the same "science of consciousness" at the core of the teachings of all faiths (albeit to a greater or lesser extent and accuracy.) All peoples have preserved and express different aspects of this common "DNA of consciousness". Because of this, each and every culture, tradition, nation, and people can take credit for preserving and expressing their part of the whole. No one people can express all aspects of the science of life, but each and every one has a part they have preserved and expressed - or else they would not have formed and/or would not have survived. That each nation is present should be adequate demonstration of each nation's fitness to be here.

The Jewish contribution is unique, as are all the others, but it is also unique in ways that are not like any of the others. Judaism has preserved the Torah intact. Translations of Torah do not preserve the science of consciousness at the letter level because translations do not make use of the same sequences of letters. They are merely narrative equivalents, in a different phonetic language, of the narrative, story, level of the text.

A solid foundation is required for any serious endeavor. The foundation of Israel, Jews, and Judaism is Torah, and the foundation of Torah is its sequences of letters. The letter level of Torah that preserves essential parts of the science of consciousness, the "Light" in Torah, is traditionally called "Sod", and "sod" means "foundation." The other more familiar levels of Torah, Talmud, and the laws and rituals of Judaism are traditionally understood in the context of this foundation level of Torah, and often they were derived directly from it.

By maintaining and sustaining a continuous community of Torah and Talmud study, Judaism has managed to preserve the stories in Torah AND the science of consciousness in the letter sequences. That is why Israel, Jews, and Judaism are required. Without a continuous learning tradition, the meaning of the preserved texts, even if they were accurately preserved, would still be lost because the context for their meaning (Torah Jewish tradition) would have been lost.

Thus we must distinguish between the "flame" (the science of consciousness, the "Light" in Torah) and the "vessel" (traditional Jewish practice) of Torah. Our Torah community is the vessel, the container, of the science of consciousness in Torah. In itself, it is not a science, it is a tradition. In our time, the "Light" in Torah is not so easily seen or made use of. As with any living thing, this function only occurs periodically, in the political "springtime", when the "vessel" is no longer under attack from a hostile world. Then the "vessel" of Torah Judaism spawns inquiry and inquiry opens understanding, and the flower, the Light in Torah, the science of consciousness, is re-discovered, and reinvigorated. This "kabbalistic" revival has occurred in every "golden age". It springs from the vessel of Jewish practice like a new sprout erupting from its seed-husk, like a new oak-tree erupting from its acorn. Then it grows, once again, into a new generation of a "fruit tree yielding fruit with seed after its own kind." (Gen I,11) ...and thus we survive.

Jewish survival is ultimately dependent on the blossoming of Jewish learning in this, our current "golden age," so it is now our responsibility. Jewish learning is dependent on each of us. The survival of Israel is, therefore, ultimately, not dependent on our arms or on our funds, but on our willingness to learn and re-learn, and teach, and re-teach the Light in Torah to ourselves and to the world.


Contents of this page are ©1997 Stan Tenen, and licensed to Meru Foundation, 524 San Anselmo Ave. #214, San Anselmo, CA 94960.
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