The blowing of the shofar proves that we can surpass ourselves. On our own, using our vocal cords, we are unable to produce this sound – a terrifying penetrating resonance. Alone, we cannot produce a sound that comes close to the piercing and penetrating heavenly voice of the shofar, which can cause human beings to break down, pick themselves up again, and transform into new individuals.
In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem the leaders of the Jewish people despaired. But the ordinary Jews did not. Despite the total collapse of Jewish life, they opted for the impossible. They not to listen to their leaders, but continued building the nation of Israel, as they had previously been taught by the very sages who now despaired. Sometimes, the simple man has more faith in the Jewish future than the greatest Talmudic scholar.
A flame grows or diminishes depending on the combustibility of the material it comes in contact with. So it is with human openness to the divine. Their receptivity to the divinity of Torah is proportionate to the condition of their soul.
This year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut commemorates the 71th anniversary of a marriage that has lasted more than 3,500 years. This may sound like a paradox, but it is the inescapable truth about the Land of Israel and the Jews. No marriage has lasted so long, been so deep in its commitment and so overwhelming in its love as the one between the Jews and their homeland.
On Pesach, which symbolizes the beginning of the Jewish people, Jews are once more reminded that their mission to become a light unto the nations can only start in the spirit of humility. Arrogance can never be the foundation of spirituality and moral integrity. It cannot inspire others, nor will it have a lasting effect.
It is a great joy to study Faith and Freedom: Passover Haggadah, With Commentary from the Writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits. In this Haggadah, not only do we find very interesting insights by Rabbi Berkovits on themes that relate to Pesach, but we also get somewhat of an introduction to his philosophy and unique halachic approach in general.
Some appropriately irreverent thoughts to…well, no, not to ponder on the occasion of Purim.
On Simchat Torah we begin reading the Torah all over again. Even the greatest Torah scholars once again come to the conclusion that they need to reread it, since they failed bitterly the previous year. After all, we only start reading the first words and already we get stuck, unable to understand the actual meaning; and we can never really get beyond that place. While in the non-Jewish world the whole point is to finish a book, in Judaism we are all just perpetual beginners.
Running our world by remote control has not been good for our souls; and walking on the moon has not helped us to know our next-door neighbor any better. On the contrary, technological progress has robbed us of our own humanness. It is therefore most meaningful that one item has maintained its constancy. It carries a text that has had greater influence in the world than any other we know of. It has changed the universe as nothing else has; it encourages people to move, to discover, and to develop. But it is written on parchment, by the hand of a person, holding a quill, as if to say: Be yourself. Don’t get run over by the need for progress.
The call of the hour on Yom Kippur is this: a full day is given to us to realize that our lives are undeserved. Life is only great when it is earned through a dignified response.