“Paradigm Shift” has become a very popular phrase. Originally coined by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), it means a completely new way to understand reality, based on new data (rather than theories) which forces the shift. For example, consider Galileo’s proof of heliocentric solar system (although our Jewish tradition long-ago took that for granted). Looking forward from our time, as new knowledge/data multiplies at ever-increasing rates, it seems we’re in a constant state of paradigm shift.
There is a major shift in Jewish reality, but it is not the Shoah (Holocaust) and our survival–we’ve survived systematic attempts to destroy us for millennia–but, rather, Jewish sovereignty, albeit as yet incomplete, in Eretz Yisrael with a closely approaching majority of the world’s Jews living in Eretz Yisrael. This requires a paradigm shift from Survival Judaism, in all its manifestations, quite necessary and proper in galut (the diaspora), to Geula (Redemption)-mode Torah, aimed at completing our mission. That mission, of course, goes way beyond surviving as an intact people and even beyond our previous introduction of ethical monotheism into the world (both of these were and remain absolutely essential, necessary but not in themselves sufficient), and entails, somehow, perfecting humanity, leading the way for all peoples to transcend the current limits of “human nature” (to be discussed in a future article), so we can all fulfill our potential and become what, as an entire species, we’re destined to and promised we will become.
Just as in the periods before every previous “paradigm shift” we really have at best a vague idea of the upcoming configuration of reality, so today we have no real understanding of what we mean by גאולה (Geula), redemption, משיח (Mashiach), Messiah (The Anointed One), עולם הבא (Olam HaBa), the world to come (more accurately translated as the world that continuously arrives) or לעתיד לבא, (L’Atid L’Vo) The Future To Come and other related terms and phrases. At best we can assume that each describes a slightly different gradation of God’s vision for Ultimate Reality and, as a result of this, our attachment, both individual and collective, to Him. We possess other vague descriptions such as the moon will shine with the current light of the sun while the sun will shine with the brightness of Creation. Or that we’ll return to the stature of אדם הראשון (Adam HaRishon), the Primordial, one-small-step-away-from-perfection, Man, described as standing with his feet on earth and head in the heavens, with vision that stretches from one end of the universe to the other, with skin of pure glowing light and with only a single mitzva, the (seemingly) simple task of listening and obeying the instruction to refrain from eating the fruit of a single tree.
While we can’t describe the future, we do have a much better idea of how, together, we create it. As the sole people who accepted the Torah, we have been tasked with first bringing ethical monotheism to the world. While we demand of ourselves the entire package of all 613 מצוות (mitzvot), commandments, we present to the rest of the world only seven, the מצות בני נח (Mitzvot B’nei Noach), Noahide commandments, essentially the minimum requirements to act civilized, compassionate and just towards all to the rest of humanity and creation.
However, that is only our first step. Beyond monitoring our own behavior and both acting and modeling ethical, loving relationships with all, we do have the remaining 606 mitzvot to work with, culminating in living properly, in harmony with our holy mitzvot, in the Land of Israel, our native soil where we operate most effectively, and then building and operating the בית המקדש (Bet HaMikdash) the Holy Temple, which becomes much more than a communal house of worship, but the essential fount of maximum שפע (Shefa), Divine Energy, to flow into the material world, bringing us, all humanity and the entire universe into maximal connection with The Creator, our highest potential states of being.
Admittedly, through the lens of materialism and empiricism which have dominated and defined our world view for the millennia since the destruction of the Second Holy Temple, this sounds like science fiction/fantasy. But that’s because we’re trying to merely scratch the surface of a new reality, the new paradigm, towards which we’re shifting. Of course, until we transform ourselves we won’t be capable of even beginning to describe this new reality, and until that reality itself becomes manifest we don’t know what we will describe.
The Rambam is often, and inaccurately, accused of dogmatism when he lists thirteen articles of belief. He’s not giving us an ultimatum–believe these or you’re not one of us. Rather, he uses the word אמונה (Emunah), Belief, as something he knows to be true but has no empirical/logical tools or words to explain why.
As each of us follows our path through our tradition and its a-rational steps towards refining ourselves and the world, also known as הלכה (Halacha), the Walking (i.e. Path), we each can experience the unfolding, according to our unique personalities and souls, of that approaching paradigm yet to be.