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.
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
Religion is a protest against taking life for granted. There are no insignificant phenomena or deeds in this world, and it is through Judaism’s demands and far-reaching interference in our daily life that we are made aware of God as our steadfast Companion.
Halacha is the greatest chess game on earth. It is the Jewish game par excellence. For people who want to live a life of great meaning and depth, nothing is more demanding and torturous while simultaneously uplifting and mind-broadening. They love the rules because they are the way to freedom. Certainly chess is just a game, while Halacha, if properly understood and lived, deals with real life, deep religiosity, moral dilemmas, emotions, and intuitions far more significant in a person’s life than a chess game.
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.
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.
Young people are developing a fresh approach to what Judaism is really all about—open to new adventures. They are keenly aware that one cannot inherit Judaism but only discover it on one’s own through an often difficult spiritual struggle, and even warfare.
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.
without a strong religious component, conversion is a farce, just as it would be completely ridiculous to claim, conversely, that even though somebody is totally committed to all the mitzvot of the Torah and lives in its spirit, he or she would not be considered part of the Jewish people. He or she is, but we do not really know why or how. We need both components, religion and nationhood, but we cannot figure out how they relate to each other.