Rabbi Olivier BenHaim on Nondual Judaism
by Emily Alhadeff
Rabbi Olivier BenHaim heads Seattle-based Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue, where he leads his congregation in rediscovering ancient Jewish mystical practices that have close analogs within the Eastern nondual spiritual practices and philosophy found in Buddhism and Hinduism. On behalf of Artocratic, Emily Alhadeff set out to discover how Rabbi Olivier could interpret as nondual a religion whose teachings are traditionally based on the idea of separateness. Rabbi Olivier, who after a crisis of Jewish faith began practicing Buddhism, came to Meditative Judaism through Seattle’s Rabbi Ted Falcon. Among his many goals, he seeks to support and engage Jews who have become interested in Eastern spirituality. His embrace of major elements from mystical and Chasidic traditions informs his rather alternative, sometimes radical ideas around such fundamental concepts as sin, the idea of Jews as the “chosen people,” and navigating the moral terrain of absolute and relative realities.