Halacha is the greatest chess game on earth. It is the Jewish game par excellence. For people who want to live a life of great meaning and depth, nothing is more demanding and torturous while simultaneously uplifting and mind-broadening. They love the rules because they are the way to freedom. Certainly chess is just a game, while Halacha, if properly understood and lived, deals with real life, deep religiosity, moral dilemmas, emotions, and intuitions far more significant in a person’s life than a chess game.
Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo is the Founder and Dean of the David Cardozo Academy and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Rabbi Cardozo is the author of 13 books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew. He heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to dealing with the crisis of religion and identity amongst Jews and the Jewish State of Israel. Hailing from the Netherlands, Rabbi Cardozo is known for his original and often fearlessly controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated on an international level on social media, blogs, books and other forums.
Recent articles by Nathan Lopes Cardozo
I love to go to Limmud, to listen and to teach. Limmud is a place where I am challenged; where I hear new things (including some utter nonsense); where I can fall in love with my fellow Jews, laugh and cry with them, and share my commitment to and struggles with Judaism.
In the next 50 years, we will see radical changes in the condition and nature of the Jewish people, as well as in Orthodox Judaism and Halacha. While during the last 2,000 years Halacha was “exile-orientated” and “defensive,” we are slowly growing out of this. The sources that until now were the basis for Halacha will have to be replaced by new Orthodox / Israeli “prophetic” Halacha. The first signs of this are already taking place.
However blasphemous this may sound, the Kohein Gadol was to be the original pope. Basically, the papacy is a Jewish function, tasked not with the mission of spreading the gospel, but rather promulgating monotheism, morality and the Torah, as far as it is applicable to the non-Jewish world.
It is because of my awareness that any religious belief can be justified that I have become so critical of mainstream Orthodox Judaism and skeptical about the way I promulgate my own Judaism, in the way I see it. Do I believe in it only because it’s something I have grown into and feel at home and comfortable with, or is there something more that makes my Judaism’s claim to truth stand out from all the others?
A flame grows or diminishes depending on the combustibility of the material it comes in contact with. So it is with human openness to the divine. Their receptivity to the divinity of Torah is proportionate to the condition of their soul.
While most people today believe that one should not burden children with obligations, but rather allow them to make their own choices, Judaism teaches us that giving a child the feeling that he has a moral task to fulfill is giving him the option to experience immense joy.
Shabbat is the day on which we are asked to put aside all the profanity of clattering commerce and the fury of greed; of trying to convince ourselves that we are the absolute owners of this world. It is a day of protest against all the external pomp, glitter, and power. Its purpose is to turn the world into an island of tranquility in the stormy sea of worldliness, for one day each week.
Natural beauty, art, and music exist to disturb our complacency. Their purpose is to awaken in us a sense of wonder. And while beauty, art, and music facilitate that wonder, the role of religion is to provide us with the means to respond to it.
This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates the 71th anniversary of a marriage that has lasted more than 3,500 years. This may sound like a paradox, but it is the inescapable truth about the Land of Israel and the Jews. No marriage has lasted so long, been so deep in its commitment and so overwhelming in its love as the one between the Jews and their homeland.
I believe the world is constantly changing because this is the will of God. God doesn’t want a static world. From the very beginning, we see an evolving world that is constantly on the move and trying to improve itself (with ups and downs). New conditions express God’s will, and it follows that God wants Halacha to “change” accordingly.
On Pesach, which symbolizes the beginning of the Jewish people, Jews are once more reminded that their mission to become a light unto the nations can only start in the spirit of humility. Arrogance can never be the foundation of spirituality and moral integrity. It cannot inspire others, nor will it have a lasting effect.
It’s important to realize that nobody can inherit religion, not even from oneself. It has to be an ongoing discovery. I converted when I was 16, but over the years I’ve come to realize that to convert only once is almost meaningless.
Israel’s very existence is the manifestation of divine intervention in history to which it must attest. In Israel, history and revelation are one. Only in Israel do they coincide. While other nations exist as nations, the people of Israel exist as a reminder of God’s involvement in world history. Only through Israel is humanity directly touched by the divine.
It is a great joy to study Faith and Freedom: Passover Haggadah, With Commentary from the Writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. In this Haggadah, not only do we find very interesting insights by Rabbi Berkovits on themes that relate to Pesach, but we also get somewhat of an introduction to his philosophy and unique halachic approach in general.
Some appropriately irreverent thoughts to…well, no, not to ponder on the occasion of Purim.
I strongly believe that new ideas, ideologies and movements are God-given and have great religious meaning. This means that we are religiously obligated to incorporate them into Judaism—sometimes by just accepting them and other times by reworking them.
It is important to remember that great controversies are also great emancipators. They give us new and fresh insights. We are in dire need of them. We should not only allow them but encourage our students to advance them!
I am often attacked for my views, and I understand that. To question our views, with the implication that we may need to change our ways, is not always pleasant. But if we want to make sure that Judaism has a future, we have no option but to take that road.
The Talmud is the ongoing discussion of what God wants from us while, for the most part, not giving us a final answer and leaving us in limbo. Why is this? Because it is only through discussion and disagreement that a tradition can stay alive and be relevant. Once it is finalized, it will die. This is the reason that I object so strongly to the codification of Jewish law.