The blowing of the shofar proves that we can surpass ourselves. On our own, using only our vocal cords, we are unable to produce this sound—a terrifying, awesome, penetrating resonance. This is a sound that can cause us to break down, pick ourselves up again, and transform ourselves into new individuals.
While the Greek narrative focuses on “seeing,” the biblical perspective focuses on “hearing” the deeper internal dimension that eludes the naked eye.
My non-Jewish background allows me to understand the non-Jewish mindset and explain Judaism to those for whom it is entirely foreign.
Rosenzweig was seeking to transform “the maximum of what is alien” into Judaism’s greater glory. The task of Teshuva is to convert negative aspects that are seemingly detrimental to Judaism into a positive force that can enhance Judaism. Can “hearing” other religions be part of this?
I am taking the reader through the uncharted territories I traversed during my voyage of discovery. Only after I have taken the reader through the many mountains and valleys will I be able to reflect on my journey as a whole and attempt to articulate my holistic re-visioning of Judaism. I am guided by the Talmudic method of argumentation where ideas are raised and discussed; sometimes these ideas are accepted, while other times, they are rejected. There are instances where a final determination is never reached. At other times, the debate might suddenly continue many pages later or may even resume unexpectedly in a different Talmudic tractate altogether. It is in this spirit that this contemplative Autobiography is written.
This is Chapter 5 of my Contemplative Autobiography. It is the story of how I rediscovered—and continue to rediscover—what I believe to be authentic Judaism. It is the story of a search for deep religiosity and the re-engagement with Halacha, which I view as musical notes written by the Great Maestro to be played by each one of us on the strings of our souls.
This is Chapter 4 of my Contemplative Autobiography. It is the story of how I rediscovered—and continue to rediscover—what I believe to be authentic (Orthodox?) Judaism. It is the story of a search for deep religiosity and the re-engagement with Halacha, which I view as musical notes written by the Great Maestro to be played by each one of us on the strings of our souls.
As I reexamined my Jewish observance, I found that my dilemma was not about the existence of God per se but the practical consequences of this question in terms of determining an appropriate lifestyle. Pascal’s wager asks “What is the correct way to live in case God exists?”
No one can inherit religion, neither from one’s parents nor from one’s teachers. Only by embarking on a relentless quest for truth can we reap the rewards of personal discovery.
After living in the Orthodox community for some years, I became deeply disturbed by the fact that many Orthodox Jews were not spiritual in the slightest. They were secular Jews who happened to be observant. These were all very nice people, but they were guilty of religious plagiarism. One religious day was identical to the previous day, without any new encounter with the Divine and the Torah. Everything was “under control,” to the point that any novel spiritual and intellectual struggle was completely absent. But most disturbing was my realization that I myself had become guilty of this!
Judaism has taught me that external experiences are of little importance when they remain trivialities. However, when these trivialities can be transformed into ways in which one can meet God, then the finite becomes infinite.
This new extensive autobiography, divided into short chapters, is not a book of memoirs, but a window into my soul. Besides the request to write it, it was also an assignment I had to undertake because an inner voice told me to do so. I could not escape the challenge.
To be an arbiter of Jewish law is to be the conductor of an orchestra. It is not coercion but persuasion that makes it possible for the other to hear the beauty of the music and to accept a halachic decision, just as one would willingly listen to the interpretation of a conductor—because one is deeply inspired.
Music raises the spoken word to a level that touches on prophecy. It gives it a taste of that which is beyond, and transforms it into something untouchable. Just as there is no way to demonstrate the beauty of music to a person who is completely deaf, so is there no way to explain the difference between a spoken word and one which is sung, unless one sings. It lifts a person out of the mundane and gives him a feeling of the imponderable, which is the entrance to joy. It sets the soul in operation and brings us near to the Infinite.
It is clear a greater number of secular Israelis would like to become more observant. However, for various practical reasons, or due to social pressures, they are unable to make this switch. One of the great challenges, if not the greatest, is Shabbat, the only official day of rest in Israeli society, when people enjoy visiting people, or meeting friends at a restaurant. But none of this is possible without the use of cars or taxis and with no open restaurants. Here are some suggestions to overcome these obstacles
The people of Israel, according to Jewish tradition, are not the authors of the Torah. Rather, the Torah is the author of the people. As a covenant between God and humankind, the Torah is what brought the people into being. Moreover, despite the fact that the people have often violated the commanding voice of this text, it created the specific and unique identity of the Jewish nation.
A poem for Yom Yerushalayim.
The Coronavirus has once more confronted us with the absence of God in modern times. This absence is often seen as the cause for much secularism. No longer, it is argued, are there enough indications for God’s interference in the national and private affairs of mankind. Is there another way to look at this seeming absence? Might we find God in silence?
The new reality in the age of COVID-19 forces us to break with the monotony that most of us are used to. Almost all of us jump into routine every morning – whether it’s a job, or the need to sleep, eat, or entertain ourselves. And now, the corona virus suddenly forces us to rethink everything, making us wonder what this life of ours is really all about.
Announcing a new initiative by the Cardozo Academy Think Tank: a series of guest essays by Yehudah DovBer Zirkind, based on Rabbi Cardozo’s discussion of the Mei Hashiloah, Torah and Halacha.