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.
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.
Learning Torah requires human authenticity; it means standing in front of a mirror and asking yourself the daunting question of who you really are, without masks and artificialities.
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.
We’re delighted to share with you a full-color bulletin with photos detailing what the David Cardozo Academy Think Tank has been up to this year – our regular activities plus an Open Think Tank for the public in March. There are also questions for you to ponder – it wouldn’t be the DCA Think Tank without them!
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.
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.
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.