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.
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
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.
I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Spinoza had met the Kotzker. Both were obsessed with truth, but each approached it from a different point of view. In Spinoza’s pantheism, there is a strong Kabbalistic element but, simultaneously, a denial of a personal (biblical) God. However much some Spinoza scholars want to claim that all of his philosophy was based on pure reason, it is very clear that there are elements in his philosophy that reveal aspects of mysticism. Both were searching for God and knew no compromise.
However much money Israel may make from hosting Eurovision, it is absolutely wrong and shameful that Israel’s leadership will allow violation of Shabbat on this occasion. It is self-evident that this has nothing to do with pikuach nefesh. Israel should cancel the Eurovision Song Contest if its organizers are not prepared to find a solution so that Israel can keep its head high and show the world what it means to stand for one’s principles.
What is holiness? It has something to do with the constant awareness that God is to be discovered in all that one does, speaks, thinks, and feels. But that’s nearly unattainable. How does one live up to this?
Faith is like music. It is true because of its beauty, not because of its intellectual certainty. It stems from impossible paradoxes, as well as a great deal of imagination that surpasses rationality and scientific or historical facts.
For me, praying is the admission that we need His help and that we are not God! I have to make myself aware that I need to praise Him because I am not His equal; not because He needs me for anything. But sometimes, as after a tragedy, I want to turn my prayer into a protest against God.
I was recently asked by Rav Ari Ze’ev Schwartz of the Society of Independent Spirituality: Can you say a little about the educational and spiritual goals of your weekly articles? What do you want your readers to experience when they read these articles? How do you yourself experience these goals and articles? Here is my response.
Is God really perfect as we always maintain? God Himself tells Moshe Eheyeh asher eheyeh—I will be what I will be. Not “I am what I am” as the Septuagint mistranslates. But how can that be? It means that He is not yet what He should be and that He never will be. Apparently He is incomplete, because He seems capable of changing and moving toward perfection, but He will never be able to actually reach perfection. God is trapped in a contradiction. So, is God a verb? Always “godding”? Always imprisoned in a becoming mode? What then is God? An unending trial to be God?
In last week’s Thoughts to Ponder (no 623), we published the first half of an interview with Rabbi Cardozo. At the end of his observations, Rabbi Cardozo discussed the codification and dogmatization of Jewish Law and religious beliefs as they took place in the diaspora and showed that these developments did not do justice to—and in fact opposed authentic Judaism. Here is the continuation of his arguments.
The Beauty of the Jewish tradition is that it is not always precise and consistent, because ife is not clear-cut or coherent. We need flexibility to work out the different opinions so that Jewish Law and beliefs stay fresh and thriving. The moment we codify or dogmatize it all, we destroy it.
We are in desperate need of bold ideas that will place the Torah in the center of our lives and make us receptive to God’s presence through a daring new encounter with Him. Let it be heroic. Not staid and comfortable, but painful and hard-won; a deep breath in the midst of the ongoing conflict ever-present in the heart of humankind.
To be righteous, with the full awareness that nobody will ever know the real story, and to have one’s deeds condemned, is one of the most painful human experiences and is a great tragedy. Only the knowledge that the One Above knows the real story, and the conviction that it is more important that others benefit from one’s deeds than to be assured of the recognition of one’s real intentions, gives the ultimate feeling of spiritual satisfaction for which the tzaddik strives.
Judaism suggests that at certain times God sends emanations to this world so as to awaken human beings to act, just as Pharaoh received his dreams in order that Joseph’s imprisonment would come to an end.
The Torah teaches us to erase Amalek’s memory by doing everything in our power not to give cause to hostile feelings within ourselves toward other nations.
We are not asked to dream the inconceivable. We are asked to dream what is actually achievable. It is the Halacha that rescues us from unrealistic dreams, substituting them with those that are viable. Mount Sinai and the giving of the law replaced impossible dreams with those that are within our grasp.
When even God can’ make a “mistake”, and admit it, we can rest assured that it is nothing less than honorable to act similarly.
If one invests in one’s faith by singing God’s praises during times of prosperity and good health, then, in the loneliness of difficult and sorrowful times, one may be able to continue believing in God’s faithfulness even when there is little evidence of such Divine allegiance.