True Jewish Wisdom:
What I learned from Rabbi Zvi Ish-Shalom
by Yael Codriasky
October 14, 2017
I have been searching Jewish wisdom for a long time. For some reason, now that I’m in my thirties, this necessity is more ripened, pulsating and fresh. I remembered one Yom Kippur in Santiago-Chile. I entered the synagogue, hundreds of people where there, devotely dressed in white, praying and some of them crying. I was crying too. I can feel that same sensation arising now as I write about it now. It was so strong, that left a mark that remains in my body until today. I also remember a blessing ceremony held in a house. Nobody considered me at that meeting because I am not an Orthodox Jew, and this was an Orthodox ceremony. I remember this young man leading the blessings to a newly married couple. He spoke in Hebrew, and I don’t know why, I was able to understand what he was saying. And I cried again, and I hid from everybody else. What is going on? Why am i crying? What is this? Do the others sense this too?
Both experiences have been in my heart for years. Through them I knew that Judaism carries real wisdom, something that has been very difficult for me to find in the communities which I have visited.
Through a Taoist friend I understood the relevance of paying homage to your family lineage. It carries blessings, and it is a big mistake to close the door to it, something I have done my whole life. When you align yourself with a wisdom stream, the blessing are poured onto you because you open your heart and mind to it. It is a two way path, it is you in synchrony with reality itself.
That was how I had the good fortune of meeting Rabbi Zvi Ish-Shalom. A very intriguing teacher I must say. I have been his student for a short period of time and his teachings have been able to transform my life for the better.
Rabbi Ish-Shalom conducts classes at his home in Boulder-Colorado. It is a simple place, walls painted in brown-green. A beautiful, kind, playful and magical water stream runs out of the front of his apartment. A big tree with protecting branches is outside his balcony. A shelf with black books with golden Hebrew letters can be seen in the living room. All it is perfectly clean. An atmosphere of stillness and density is the space in which you are invited to come. Like a womb, from where two sharp and playful blue eyes look at you as cutting through you and nothing at the same time. It is all intense, too intense sometimes. But the other students are tranquil, as they are bathed in this milk. A milk that wants them awake now.
The teachings I am receiving from him now are about relationships. He is very skilled to talk about this. You can tell, only by hearing him talk, that he has lived what he is talking about. It has many facets, but mentioning only one aspect of the teachings, they invite you to simply be who you are. When you are grounded in goodness you are aligned with reality, so even your mistakes are not mistakes, because they are part of a sincere search for who you really are.
So, I just was, with him, with my teacher. Why not?
That’s how I ended up asking him for a meeting. I wanted to interview him in order to translate the interview and publish it for Spanish speaking friends that could be interested in his teachings about Contemplative Judaism and reality itself. Or Kedumah, a Hebrew word that means Primordial, a non-sectarian set of teachings that he has been teaching for years.
What can I ask him? Let’s see what my heart wants to ask. That is why I went to the meeting without any agenda. We were seated one in front of the other at his office at Naropa University, a contemplative university that fosters one’s awakening through a liberal arts education.
His office is located in a nice building of the main campus of the university. That building seems more alive to me than the others that I visited a few hours before. The building harbors the Religious Studies department. A relevant portion of his office was occupied by a piece of furniture where several Jewish symbols and teachers could be seen. That surprised me. I felt them, the Hebrew letters andphotos of teachers, dancing in the space, as their friends and protectors that were taking care of him and the teachings, surrounding him, in a perpetual movement.
We talked I don’t know for how long. An hour maybe. And almost all I remember is the following question and his answer: What it is God? I don’t understand why Jewish people refer to God as an entity separate from themselves. Why? Is it really that way?
And now, I can see his two blue eyes sharp as knifes, his body a little bit bent, his hands showing me four letters, and him saying a little bit wrathful and with extreme confidence: these four Hebrew letters mean is, was, will be. These four letters mean is, was, will be. God is a verb. All of this in an atmosphere full of intensity. Again, as a womb. But with more depth this time. More intense, more clear, more primordial than during the class at his home. Where did he take me?
My mind was stopped. Few teachers have the capacity of doing that with your mind. Your conceptual mind is not the most relevant when you are trying to understand reality itself, or yourself. It was after walking a few days through Boulder that this felt realization arose. A womb, my mind whispered. And I took that as a message.
I really feel that I have encounter a real Jewish teacher. Or a real wisdom teacher, as I imagine he would like to be called, because Kedumah is non-sectarian, open to all, from any religion or non-religion. I really hope I can continue to be his student and that others in this part of the world can know him and the wisdom he is carrying.
That is why I translated an interview with him about his first book, soon to be published, titled: The Kedumah Experience: The Primordial Torah. You will see prominent teachers such as Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche offering endorsements for his book. If you want to know more, or be part of his online classes, you can also visit www.kedumah.org.
Written with appreciation and gratefulness to Rabbi Zvi Ish-Shalom. The one who has taught me that reality is multidimensional, and pointed out that the primordial ground of it is ungraspable through fixed mind.