Some Jews should not be Jews and some non-Jews should be Jews. Authenticity, after all, cannot be inherited; it can only be nurtured. Ideally, only those who consciously take on the Jewish mission, and live accordingly, should be considered Jews. If not for the need for a Jewish people, it would have been better to have a Jewish faith community where people can come and go depending on their willingness to commit to the Jewish religious way and its mission – similar to how other religions conduct themselves.
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
A poem in praise of the holy city of Jerusalem, in the wake of the American announcement to designate Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Halacha is the practical upshot of unfinalized beliefs, a practical way of life while remaining in theological suspense. In matters of the spirit and the quest to find God, it is not possible to come to final conclusions. The quest for God must remain open-ended to enable the human spirit to find its way through trial and discovery.
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.
Rather than ignore the body, Halacha draws a person’s attention to its complexities. It informs human beings not to fall victim to grandiose dreams. There are limits to human existence, and it is exactly this fact that makes life a challenge and a joy.
When teaching, our rabbis’ and teachers’ personal conduct must be a reflection of what they impart in the classroom, as there is truly no better education than by example. Thought and practice must illuminate each other.
Nobody can deny that Judaism today finds itself in a crisis that threatens to have devastating consequences. Instead of Judaism growing upward, vertically, it is becoming corpulent, growing horizontally. The growth of adherence to Halacha in the last few decades has clearly not been accompanied by a true religious revival. Genuine religiosity has nothing to do with the Yiddish expression of frumkeit, an untranslatable expression of routine religious observance.
To live a life of faith is to be prepared to live a committed religious life according to an inner belief of the heart and not because there is absolute empirical certainty. There is a constant need for questioning and rethinking one’s beliefs. In many ways, religion must be warfare—a fight against the indolence and callousness that stifles inquiry.
The breaking of idols and slaughtering of sacred cows is, in itself, a Jewish task that began with Avraham Avinu. Consequently, we should not be afraid to do so, or at least to discuss the possible need for change. This could raise some eyebrows in certain religious circles, and we might even become controversial. So, we must keep in mind that great controversies are also great emancipators. They often clarify and enhance essential philosophies behind majestic traditions.
Jewish tradition teaches that man was created in God’s image. Whatever this may mean, it definitely includes the fact that God created man in such a way that man, in desperate need to discover himself, would constantly search for Him. Freud, we believe, gave a most original interpretation of this fact. With his discovery of the father figure he may have uncovered the mechanism through which God created an idea of Himself as the ultimate Father in the human mind.
Ours is a future-orientated religion. We are not afraid of the latest technologies because they allow us to fulfill, in ways unimagined by our forefathers, the divine mandate to cure diseases, create more pleasant ways to live our lives, and make the world a better place. All this is beautifully expressed by our Sages, who direct us to become partners with God in the work of creation. But the very text that demands this does not allow for any changes in its content and bars us from using the latest technological devices in the writing of this same text! What is the message conveyed by this paradox?
In the emptiness and silence of the desert, an authentic inner voice can be heard while sitting in the sukkah, a hut that existentially gives protection but in no way physically shields. Its roof leaks and its walls fall apart the moment a wind blows. It is a place with no excuses. But it can only be experienced 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.
What is the source of religious passion? It is the awareness that something cannot become exhausted. To appreciate Judaism and see it as a blessing is to understand that just as the ocean is unfathomable, so Judaism transcends all interpretations. Understanding Judaism cannot be attained in the comfort of observing its laws or studying its texts. It occupies infinite space, beyond the limitations of the human mind and heart.
Because we Jews have experienced, as no other nation has, what indifference can lead to, it is our duty, more than anybody else, to care about our fellow human beings and be an example for the rest of the world.
Every generation must find its own way to God and subsequently to the Jewish tradition. From a religious point of view, were this not the case, there would be little reason for that generation to exist. What, after all, is the meaning of human existence if not to reveal another dimension of God’s multi-colored world and Torah, and thus to gain a greater understanding of self?
The very fact that today we encounter a serious endeavor to see Halacha as the only expression of Judaism, and that some halachic authorities constantly attempt to bring the hashkafa (religious philosophy) of Judaism back to finalized dogmas, is a clear indication that those very authorities try to Halacha-ize issues of faith. But doing so robs Judaism of its vital flowing life force. We need to understand that Halacha is the practical upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of living while remaining in theological suspense.
There are two schools of thought in Judaism, two types of batei midrash: the Bet Midrash of Moshe Rabbeinu and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu. Although both of them are integral parts of Judaism, the difference between them is critical. Judaism began as an existential movement in which all that humankind does, thinks, feels, and says is touched by the spirit of God. The Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu aims to teach in order to inspire a re-awakening and transformation of the soul. It is here that we find the roots of Judaism in their most central form.
A fairy tale with much relevance to today’s times.
When confronted with death, our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and broken. But slowly, our sense of shock gives way to a feeling of mystery. The mysterium magnum enters, and a new perspective makes itself known as a kind of revelation and elevation. Suddenly, our whole life, which we knew so well, gradually becomes concealed behind a great Secret. Our speech is silenced. Our understanding fails. There is only awe for the Other.
In Biblical days the Halacha was astir while the world was sleeping. Today the world is astir while the Halacha is sleeping. Only when it wakes up and starts to challenge our society with novel ideas and rulings will it once more be the vital mover of Jewish life. It must be prepared to look inward, challenge its own verdicts and once again understand that its main function is to protest and rebel.