Like the generation of the Tower of Babel, in which the whole world was “of one language and of one speech,” we are producing a religious Jewish community of artificial conformism in which independent thought and difference of opinion is not only condemned, but its absence is considered to be the ultimate ideal.
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
Israeli teachers should create tension in the classroom by presenting their own ideas about Judaism and Jewishness, and then wage war on them, asking the students to fight them with knives between their teeth and come up with new ideas. In that way, the students will begin to appreciate and love what Judaism is all about. And only then should the teachers introduce biblical, Talmudic and midrashic texts as part of the discussion.
If the Spanish-Portuguese community and Chief Rabbi Mervis give in to blatant blackmail by ultra-Orthodox elements then rabbis will no longer be able to speak their minds. The S&P and other communities will lose their independence and be subject to censure by all sorts of self-acclaimed rabbinical extremists, creating a situation that will terribly compromise Judaism.
For the sake of later generations—who would need to know that the ways of the Torah are ways of pleasantness, of the gentle word and not the hard strike—God denied Moshe the merit of living in the land. In this way, He made it clear to all that leaders who seek to turn Israel into a holy nation by way of threat or by force may very well bring disaster on themselves and their people.
When Orthodox rabbis are told that they are no longer able to speak their minds, offer new insights into Orthodox Judaism, or try to find solutions to serious problems by using innovative ideas, we are faced with a rabbinical world that is wearing blinders, is comprised of yes-people looking over their shoulders, and is generating a hazardous small-mindedness that has far-reaching effects.
The world is far from ideal, but it seems that we view our globe as we would a white paper with a black spot on it. When asked what we see, we say, “a black spot,” completely ignoring the white paper. It is only the odd, the out-of-place that catches our attention. Why is this?
It is difficult to argue that the Holocaust was caused by divine anger for the violations of Torah precepts and deliberate heresy. The curses in the Torah are meant to come down on those who, against better judgment, and with the full understanding that they are violating God’s will, decide to do so; but not on those who are confused by or are the victims of others’ misunderstandings.
Only BaMidbar, in the emptiness and silence of the desert, that the authentic Word can be heard—a Word stripped of all distractions. Naked, without any excuse. But it can be heard only by a people of the wilderness; a people who are not rooted in a substance of physical limitations and borders; a people who are not entirely fixed by an earthly point, even while living in a homeland. They are never satisfied with their spiritual conditions and are therefore always on the road, looking for more.
What gives us the right to bring a child into a religious covenant by way of circumcision, without his consent? Circumcision, after all, to be Jewish means to be part of a nation that is rooted in a covenant that asks Jews to risk their very existence for the sake of a moral and religious mission. How can we commit children to a lifelong mission that they may not wish to fulfill? On the other hand, what right do we have to bring children into the world without giving them a higher mission? What right do we have to throw children into this turbulent jungle, filling them with anxieties and uncertainties, without giving them a clue as to their higher purpose?
Living Judaism must be able to stand up against ideas that are highly un-Jewish and at the same time be open to new ideas. But this can be achieved only by fostering a notion of spiritual dissent rooted in eternal ideas that have the capacity to re-invent themselves. It can be accomplished only by radical thinking and audacity informed by deep learning and faith.
When contemplating the re-establishment of the State of Israel after nearly 2000 years of exile, no Jew should believe that the land is guaranteed to remain theirs forever. It could easily be taken away, as it has been in the past. If its inhabitants do not behave properly. If they hide behind the claim that they are observant or moral, while in fact they are fighting each other and disobeying the ethical dictates of God, the Book of Amos makes it clear that the State of Israel will not endure. Nor can we hide behind the abundance of Torah learning today to save us.
In the old days, it was a privilege to be mature. It was something people strived for. It meant maturity of attitude, well-considered opinions, and a great amount of experience and knowledge of how to deal with the problems of life. This is no longer the case.
Nothing is more dangerous for a person than to remain spiritually stale, and we are therefore required to count the 49 days of the Omer. In order to prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Shavuot and the giving of the Torah, we are asked to climb a ladder of 49 spiritual steps, each day adding another dimension to our souls.
Contrary to what is commonly believed, the story of the Exodus was mainly one of Divine silence, in which only occasionally a word of God entered the human condition. While Pesach Haggada relates the miracles, the “empty spaces” in between tell us of a frightening Divine silence of some 38 years. And just as our forefathers must have often wondered where God was all those years, so do we. But just as they made it through, so must we.
We need to ask ourselves a pertinent question: Is our aversion to sacrifices the result of our supreme spiritual sophistication, which caused us to leave the world of sacrifices behind us? Or, have we sunk so low that we aren’t even able to reach the level of idol worshipers who, however primitive we believe them to have been, possessed a higher spiritual level than some of us who call ourselves monotheists?
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.