Ninety years ago, Rabbi Clifton Harby Levy (1867-1962) wrote:

Rabbi Clinton Harby Levy III“…The attainment of the Love of God is achieved only as we advance in:
the real contemplation of God, as found in the Universe and within ourselves;
the concentration on God as the Eternal and Infinite Source of all life and goodness;
the consecration of each human being to the Love of God.

The demonstration of our Love of God consists in our fuller obedience to every law, physical, mental and Spiritual, all of which emanate from God, and through which we prove our own Godliness.

Our Love of God is progressive, for it is in proportion to:
our deeper sense of God, the fuller consciousness of His immanence, within and about us;
our clearer comprehension of God’s laws as made manifest through scientist and Prophet;
our completer consecration to God through the more perfect following of all the laws, by which we are attuned to God.

As we advance in the apprehension of these laws we perfect ourselves through applying all of these principles to living. We do so easily and without strain because of our Love for God, the higher ethical motive. All fear is banished from consciousness because we are sure of the presence of God, and in that presence there can be no fear.

Every moment of life is inspired by this trust in God, flowing from our certainty of His nearness. We are near God as we are filled with consciousness of Him. We cannot live the better, higher life unless we are possessed of God. We are removed from God only as we close our consciousness to His love and mercy. But we can always return by the deep desire to become harmonized with His law and through that [become] attuned to Him.” [1]

Rabbi Clifton Harby Levy wrote the above c. 1927 — around 50 years before the beginning of what later became “The Jewish Renewal Movement” (initially inspired by the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi). 

The language might seem a bit stilted to us.
We are far less likely to address God as “Thou” and far more as “You” — if we are comfortable speaking of addressing God at all!
We are far less ready to consider ideas about God than we are to do meditative practices that might produce a personal experience, or to consider kabbalistic or hasidic ideas that are not well-understood by us; often not by the people teaching them, either.
We are far less responsive to prose, I think. Marshall Mcluhan thought so, too. We don’t read as much, as often, or for as long as Rabbi Levy’s audience did. I’ve laid out Rabbi Levy’s own words in a way that I hope comes easier to readers in our era.  

Yet, his guidance is central to the renewal of spiritual resources within the Jewish world.

The contemporary “Jewish Renewal” movement began, it seems to me, about bringing spiritual experience back into Jewish practice. Now, some 40 years after its commencement, it can be difficult to describe this movement, given the diversity of its expressions and concerns.

It also seems to me that another contrasting aspect of “Jewish Renewal” and Rabbi Levy’s “Jewish Science” was: While “Jewish Renewal” sought to bring greater spirituality to Jewish prayer and ritual, Rabbi Levy’s “Jewish Science” sought — often through prayer — to bring greater spirituality to all aspects of everyday life, including liturgical prayer and ritual. 

Rabbi Levy did not come from a background in Orthodox or Hasidic study. Yet — like hisClifton Harby Levy II colleague, Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein — he correctly identifies the heart of Judaism itself, and does so in a way that decades don’t obscure. 

Rabbi Levy was a good scholar and writer. If he was a less unique thinker than Martin Buber, or less a literary stylist than Rabbi A.J. Heschel, he nevertheless identifies, in the simplest, clear-est language possible, the essence of Jewish spirituality. 

His work, like that of his contemporaries Rabbi Lichtenstein and Rabbi Alfred Geiger Moses, is part of the spiritual treasure of Reform Judaism in specific, and Judaism in general. Under-appreciated and under-utilized, it is as relevant and applicable today as when first written. He touches timeless truths.


[1] Levy, Rabbi Clifton Harby; The Helpful Manual; © 1927, Bertha Strauss Memorial Publication Fund; p. 3-4