The divine instructions relating to the building and the architecture of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) are laid out in great detail; not even the smallest nuance is excluded, and nothing is left to human imagination. Preciseness stands out, and every pin and string is mentioned. This is in total opposition to the spiritual condition and devotion required of every Israelite when helping to erect the Mishkan, which called for personal input, creativity and inspiration. How do we reconcile these contradictions: formality versus spontaneity; total commitment to the letter of the law versus unprecedented emotional outbursts of religious devotion? Are such notions not mutually exclusive and irreconcilable?
While I greatly admire Rabbi Soloveitchik’s essays such as The Lonely Man of Faith, I wonder why he never addressed some of the issues that keep many people away from Orthodoxy, such as the issue of Torah Min HaShamayim and Bible criticism. It may be true that the Rav avoided the issue of Bible criticism out of principle. But if so, then he was out of touch with reality. At the time, Bible criticism was a major topic of discussion, as it still is. This subject is of utmost importance, and if anyone could have dealt with it head-on it was the Rav.
Why continue to praise God for a hidden miracle when it seems that even hidden miracles came to an end with the Holocaust? This question should be on the mind of every Jew who celebrates Purim.
Some appropriately irreverent thoughts to…well, no, not to ponder on the occasion of Purim.
Learning Torah is equivalent to standing at Sinai. Learning Torah is hearing it and consequently seeing its contents transmitted at Sinai in the here and now. So the learning of its text is a religious happening, the experience of something that normally can only be recalled.
The Israelites’ experience of slavery had made them utterly convinced that mankind at large was anti-Semitic. God therefore sent them a righteous gentile by the name of Yitro, to impress upon them that the non-Jewish world includes remarkable people, who not only possess much wisdom but actually love the people of Israel and contribute to Jewish life.
Rav Soloveitchik himself was a traditionalist, who combined that ideology with religious Zionism and tried very hard to give it a place in the world of philosophy and modernity. He was unable to overcome the enormous tension between these two worlds and so became a “lonely man of faith,” with no disciples but with many students, each one of whom claimed their own Rav Soloveitchik. The truth is that the real Rav Soloveitchik was more than the sum total of all of them – a man of supreme greatness who was a tragic figure.
Only when making a sincere effort to reduce the pain of one’s fellow human beings can one be called a great person! Chief Rabbis, as well as other halachic authorities who do not apply this approach, are not only inadequate religious leaders, but they also become an obstacle to Judaism and should step down. Allowing them to maintain their authority is a sheer disgrace.
Judaism declares that emotions are what make a person; they are real and of crucial importance. In fact, emotions are central to a person’s existence, since they are the foundation of moral behavior. It is for this reason that Judaism views God as an emotional Being. By metaphorically attributing emotions to God, they are raised to a supreme state. If God has emotions such as love, mercy, jealousy and anger, then they must be genuine, important, and not ignored when found in humans.
Religious condemnations, whether by bans or by other means, reflect negatively on those who issue them. Truth will not be served by imposing bans and issuing condemnations, but only by honest investigation and dialogue.