Meet the Flipsters

Conversations on the Bridge

A Conversation with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
(The complete Flip interview, with only minor edits, not found in the book)

Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi ( is the sage of a worldwide movement of Jewish renewal who encourages a meeting of his tradition with the psychological, ecological, and spiritual revolutions of our age. As the founder of the P’nai Or (Children of the Light) religious fellowship and the rabbinic chair of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Rabbi Schachter-Shalomi has inspired and guided a movement for an observant, deeply traditional Judaism that is at the same time gender-equal, environmentally aware (he coined the phrase “eco-kosher”), nonhierarchical, and grounded in renewed liturgy.

We asked the rabbi if he believes there is a spiritual flip underway. “Most people want an epiphany, but awareness doesn’t strike like lightning. It dawns gradually. Since the age of 16, I’ve experienced an incremental growth in my own awareness of what it means to be in the presence of the living God. And at this point in our history, that translates into humanity’s relationship to Earth. When you go deep into meditation, you can arrive at the place where you can feel and hear the pain of the planet. The Earth is sick and has emphysema as far as the atmosphere is concerned; blood poisoning as far as the water tables are concerned. The planet is a good planet, and if we were to live in a way that would allow it to heal, then all of us would be happier. So the issue is not so much transformation as healing. The first step is a change in our awareness, to realize that we are not at the center of everything, but rather, the planet is the center and we are like cells of that great organism.

“One thing any individual can do is find time to be disconnected from the onslaught of the media. We are constantly barraged by what the media are demanding and telling us that we never connect with our soul. That’s why I’m so excited about our Shabbat. If you have a Shabbat where you don’t turn on the TV and you don’t make phone calls and you stay in a place where you can be in touch with your soul, that makes a great deal of difference. I feel it’s not so much what you do in meditation as it is the fact that you’re not faced with the barrage of the media. I don’t think people can wake up as long as they’re in the trance. They’re constantly in the shopping mall mentality which urges us all to consume, consume, consume at any price. The media get pushed by their advertisers, and the advertisers want to push goods; they are not interested in people who can get along with less. The same thing is happening constantly in the political arena – spend, spend, spend. ‘Don’t think for yourselves; buy what you are being spoon-fed.’ Good news doesn’t make the headlines much. People can’t break the trance because it is so global, so encompassing. But what they can do is disconnect from it for a while.

“So many things in our lives today are absolutely good and wonderful, yet so many of us are depressed. Why should we be depressed? Because we know the world is depressed. And in some ways it looks like we still have some miles to go before we get to the place where it clears.

“On the other hand, there’s already a certain kind of dawning taking place. I see it in the way that Jewish renewal has become important to people, and there are so many other ways today in which people are doing good. Some people get turned on by Madonna, and some people get turned on by the Dalai Lama. It’s not an issue of right or wrong inspiration. The whole point is for people to wake up and escape that trance. Whoever gets to them, I am for it, as long as something happens to raise their awareness. ‘Lift up your eyes, and see what is above.’ And then the question becomes, ‘how is it going to be on the ground where people actually live?’ And I think it is so beautiful to see people paying attention to the things that require attention. Whenever I see these people in action, I feel very, very excited. I believe it is an evolution.

“But you know what? I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens by itself. I don’t think we can rest on our laurels. There’s a possibility that we won’t be able to win the race. Will destruction come or will we wake up collectively first? We have to exchange our old cosmology for one that is friendlier to life and to the planet. That’s why I am so happy that you’re doing this book, because the more people who become aware that they have to enter into the flip, the better things will be for the planet. There can’t be production at any cost. And there can’t be consumption at any cost. There has to be sustainability. If we can manage to get to that, I think we will all make it. And if we can’t, then I think it’s a dire situation ahead of us.”

The rabbi believes that we can find the wisdom we need across the generations. “I think our mother, the Earth, is making us aware of the needs that she has and one of the needs that she has is for us to act on our wisdom. Elders are the wisdom keepers. Yet the wisdom of the past cannot handle the complexity of our life today. You take a look and see how kids take to computers, for instance, and it’s really amazing. They can handle a lot more complexity than we can. And I think that’s a wonderful thing. There is an arousing. There are children coming down to Earth; they speak of them as the Indigo Children. And that’s just wonderful. There is a new spiritual sensibility emerging, but if you have ever seen a butterfly trying to get out of the chrysalis, it’s an agony, a struggle. It’s like a birth. And that’s why in Judaism we speak of this as the birth pangs of the messiah. If you collaborate with it, it goes more smoothly.”



The Flip, by Jared Rosen and David Rippe, illuminates a clear path to a vibrant enlightened world where millions of people already live and thrive. It describes in vivid detail and real examples evidence of an upside down world in decay and a Right Side Up world of authentic beings bright with possibility.
The Flip is an owner’s manual for the twenty-first century full of insights, conversations with recognized experts, thought leaders, and visionaries, and actionable exercises and tips you can use to begin your own personal flip.

To read more about The Flip and additional interviews from other luminaries, experts and bestselling authors, please visit

The Flip is available at your local bookstore or online at, Barnes & Noble, Joseph-Beth, and Borders.


Home | Excerpts | The Authors | Meet the Flipsters | Contest | Press

Copyright © 2006 The Flip. All Rights Reserved.

Web site by Celestia International

To view corrections, click here.