In 1996 I created the first brochure that described a school I had decided to found called A Society of Souls. After it was printed, I sent copies to people I knew, and I sent one to a rabbi I had read an article about, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, may everyone who remembers him be blessed by that memory. I knew practically nothing about Reb Zalman, but a voice spoke to me and said "Send it to him." So I did.
A few weeks later I got a call: "Jason, this is Reb Zalman. I got your brochure. When I got it I said to myself Oy! Jason Shulman, a Kabbalist! But then I read what you had written in the brochure and I knew that the bubbehs and zaydes spoke to you." The grandmothers and grandfathers. Yes, they have always spoken to me but I didn't dare admit that until Reb Zalman offered me the opportunity to confess my connections aloud. So great was his kindness.
A second Reb Zalman story: Several years later I called Reb Zalman from my home in New Jersey and said, "I want to discuss something with you. Can I come out and have lunch?" Zalman lived in Boulder, Colorado. He said, "Cant we do it on the phone?" "No," I said. So I flew out to Colorado expecting to have a few hours of his time. We ended up spending two days together talking. After one part of the conversation, where I was concentrating on my connection to what I thought was Absolute Reality in my Advaitic studies, he said to me "I'm interested in the God of this planet. The God of this time."
It took me many years to understand that utterance in my bones and, most importantly, in my heart. My life had to get smaller first, until it was the proper-sized vessel that could accept the infinite in a palm-sized heart. I had to climb all the way to some real or imagined pinnacle and then descend again to the place Reb Zalman had pointed out, the place he lived. This valley. This earth. This here and now, with its colors of fall, its bone-white winters and light green springs and sometimes heavy and wet summers. This place of storms and gratitude.These monographs, which in a sense trace my thinking about Kabbalah over a period of some twenty-five years, are all meant to help us make this planet our home, to make this fleeting time allotted to us useful and beautiful, to make the most vaunted spiritual discourse point us in the direction of what is really important: the love ofeverything we were born into. They are meant—for those of us who find an earthy fragrance in words about ideas—to encourage all of us to be strong and flexible, to never give up, in the words of another sage, Reb Nachman of Breslov, and to concentrate on being the love we so long to receive.
Oldwick, New Jersey