In 1967, was reading the book The Puer Aeternus (The Eternal
Youth) by Marie-Luise von Franz, one of the first-generation
Jungians. had met her when was a boy in Switzerland. She
wrote many books on fairy tales and their symbolic meaning.
This book was an interpretation of The Little Prince, by Saint-Exupery.
She was focusing on the archetype of the youth that
never grows up: what she called the puer. This included pilots
who would not retire at the required age, and then often had
fatal crashes, like Saint-Exupery; or mountain climbers who
always had to scale one more mountain before quitting, and
often fell to their death.
Then read "The Puer and the Senex," an article by another
Jungian, James Hillman, which carried von Franz's work a little
farther. To the archetype of the puer-the eternal youth, the
Peter Pan who was always determined to experience something
new, to never settle down-Hillman juxtaposed the archetype
of the senex, the old man, fixed and rigid in his ways. For
Hillman, these two were different aspects of the same archetype
of wholeness, the archetype of process, integration, and
completion. One was youthful and curious, always renewing
itself. The other, wise and understanding, integrated the new,
helping it see its place in the greater whole.
When an archetype first comes to consciousness, it is split.
into conflicting opposites. The senex, the wise old man, doesn't
want any new or creative input, and the puer doesn't want to
hear that this is part of a greater whole. The puer rejects linking
with the wisdom of the eternally developing tradition, and
the senex guards his hard-won wisdom and rejects anything
new or different or threatening. No doubt my father had given
me this book on the puer hoping I would come back down to
earth after all my high-flying experiences with Shlomo.
This time, with these ideas in mind, I went again to San
Francisco to learn with Shlomo. Talking about the Holy Temple
in Jerusalem that was destroyed two thousand years ago, he
said that we mourn the Temple's loss to this day, but different
people mourn different losses. Yes, we lost the daily animal and
incense offerings. We lost the role of the holy priesthood. We
lost the Sanhedrin, our parliament of wise sages who kept the
tradition together and decided how to live and follow the Torah,
the word of God. But more than that, Shlomo said, we lost the
music that was played in the Holy Temple.
"I want you to know, there were thousands of instruments
and thousands of voices in the Temple. It was the most awesome
experience to approach the Holy Temple. Between the
smell of the incense and the sound of the music, it was beyond.
He explained how the instruments were more complex and
advanced than anything we have today. The instruments of
India, Turkey, China, and Japan, and the most wonderful classical
harps and wind instruments from the West-these only
give a tiny flavor of what these instruments were like. The
Romans tried to force the Levites to turn over their secrets of
music and instruments, but the Levites refused and chose to
die rather than let this heavenly art fall into the wrong hands.
"Can you imagine?" Shlomo asked. "Today everyone is selling
the deepest secrets of instruments of destruction! Back
then, they would rather die than let these powerful musical
instruments wind up in the wrong hands.
"But my sweetest friends," Shlomo continued, "worse than
losing the musical instruments is that we lost the melodies.
The Prophets, when they gave their prophecies, didn't stand on
a soapbox and give a little speech! They sang their message to
the people. Yes, we still have a musical chant for the basic
words of the Torah and the Prophets, but it's not the same.
Every word of Torah was sung, every psalm and prophecy was
sung. When we lost the Holy Temple, we lost the melody to the
Holy Torah! We lost its deepest inner meaning.
"The saddest thing today, friends, is that we have an older
generation that knows all the words. They know every word,
and they guard every word, and they teach every word. But,
they don't know the melody! They don't know the inside of the
inside of the words."
And then Shlomo said, "Today, a whole new generation of
young people seems to be so far away from Judaism. But are
they? They're moving to a different beat. They hear a heavenly
melody. They're dancing a new dance. But, they don't know the
"If we could just get the guardians of the tradition to listen
to the new melody, and if we could just get these inspired
young people to learn some of the words, then, like it says in
Psalms, we could 'sing a new song to God!' We could really fix
the whole world."
Once again, my worlds of Jung and Judaism came back
together; the puer and the senex were there in the melody and
the word. Bringing the two together was the healing of our
split consciousness. It was the revelation of the lost dimension
of the whole Torah. And my words and my melodies were finding
their own new and ancient song.
How Do You Teach Torah
When You're Angry
Rabbi David Zeller book
"The Soul of the Story"
In 1974, there was a conference - "Torah and Dharma" - in
Berkeley, California, focusing on the connections between
Judaism and other traditions like Sufism, Zen Buddhism, and
Yoga. Representatives of the different traditions were invited,
including Reb Shlomo and Reb Zalman. Shlomo, as often happened,
was double-booked and couldn't come. There were keynote
talks, smaller seminars, and panel discussions. The final panel had
all the teachers together for the last questions and answers.
Someone in the audience asked the question: "It appears to
me that the Sufis, the Yogis, and the Zen teachers on our panel
are all Jewish! Can anyone explain what's going on?"
There was a murmur from the audience and from the
panel. Zalman rose to the occasion. "Before I left for the conference,
I called up Reb Shlomo and said, 'Shloimele, I'm
about to go to the conference in Berkeley. I know you really
wanted to be there, too. Do you have anything you want to say
to them? The tape recorder is hooked up to the phone and
recording.' And this is what he said in answer to your question."
And with that Zalman pressed the start button on a tape
recorder sitting on the table in front of him.
This is a paraphrase of what Shlomo said. It is one of those
classic teachings of his that I have been retelling ever since:
My sweetest friends, I'm so sorry I couldn't be with you
for this holy gathering, but I'd like to share with you
one thought I have, so please open your hearts. The
Torah teaches that a Cohen, a priest, must remain in a
state of purity if he is to serve God in the Holy Temple.
Among the things that would disqualify him was contact
with a dead body. The question arises: What was
the nature of the impurity? Did the dead body have
cooties or carry disease? It appears that the problem
was quite different. The impurity stemmed from the
confrontation with death: its concept and its reality and
the thoughts and feelings around it.
Coming in touch with death, a person can't help thinking,
"What kind of God makes a world with death in it?
If I were God, I'd do things very different; I'd do things
Let's put it this way. When you come in contact with
death, you can't help being a little angry with God. And
if you are a Cohen, how can you be angry in your heart
with God, and then go into the Holy Temple to serve
Him? It just doesn't go. So the priest had to wait until
sunset, and take a mikvah, a ritual bath, and then he
could return to serve God the next day.
These laws of the priesthood regarding serving God
became the basis for many of the Jewish laws of
mourning. If your father or mother, brother or sister,
son or daughter, husband or wife died, from the time
of their death until they are buried, you are technically
exempt from most positive commandments. For example,
you don't have to say blessings, because that's a
form of thanking and serving God, and right now, you
may be in a frame of mind of being a little bit angry
with God. So you aren't obligated to say those blessings.
And you know, my sweetest friends, today we don't have
a Beit HaMikdash, a Holy Temple, and although we still
have Cohanim, priests, we don't have animal or incense
offerings to serve God in the Holy Temple. Today we
serve God through offerings of words of Torah study
and words of prayer. Today our rabbis are like our
priests, serving God through teaching Torah. But if you
are angry with God, you can't teach Torah. You can say
the words, but the love and light within them do not
flow through them.
So please open your hearts. The saddest thing is that
today our teachers and rabbis haven't just touched one
dead person. They've been touched by Six Million dead
people. And they are so angry with God, so angry with
God. Gevald, are they angry with God! And because
they are so angry with God, all their words of Torah are
just that: words. There's no light, no taste, no meaning,
no melody in them.
But young people today are so hungry for that light, for
that meaning, for that melody - for the deepest inner
dimensions of truth. And if they can't get it from
Judaism, they'll go anywhere that love and light are to
Thank God our hungry, searching, younger generation
found some traditions that weren't so angry with God,
and they could get the love and light and meaning that
they so craved. And today in Judaism, Baruch HaShem,
thank God, we have a whole new generation of teachers
who haven't been touched directly by the Six Million (or
maybe they have taken Six Million mikvahs from tears
of sadness and then another Six Million mikvahs from
tears of joy). And their words are filled with light and
joy and love.
God willing, now people can come back to Judaism to
quench that deep, powerful, longing for God's love and
from our own tradition. I bless us all that we should
find that beauty in Torah, in Shabbos, and in the deepest
depths of the heart of our holy and ancient and living
Thank you so much. God bless you all. Good Shabbos,
Zalman pushed the stop button on his tape recorder. And
I had Shlomo's answer recorded before the conference
commenced and before the question was asked. As I recall, the
room was very quiet as we all absorbed this profound teaching.
Return to top