Every ordinary act should be turned into a kind of mitzvah, a spiritual challenge, making it a dignified encounter with God. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we are reminded that our deeds must redeem God’s presence and rescue Him from oblivion. In doing the finite we must be able to perceive the infinite.
The Temple whose destruction we mourn on the 9th of Av has no inherent value. It is only a means to something that no physical object can contain. On Tish’a B’Av, we do not mourn the loss of the Temple but rather the loss of its message, which we no longer seem to grasp.
Why do we use karpas—a green vegetable—dipped in salt water at the beginning of the Seder? Could it have something to do with the other meaning of karpas—fine woolen cloth? There is a lesson here, hidden in plain sight, about causality and Divine Providence.
When we read the text on the Seder night, we should be aware that it only provides the opening words. The real Haggada has no text. It is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. And, just as with the Torah, we have not even begun to understand its full meaning. We are simply perpetual beginners.
Purim Torah: How acting crazy helps your chess game!
מאז תקומתה של מדינת ישראל, ניצבת בלב הוויכוח הציבורי השאלה האם יש לנהל את המדינה על פי ערכים יהודים או דמוקרטיים. שני הערכים נראים כבלתי מתפשרים. היהדות מייצגת השקפת עולם תיאוקרטית שבה א-לוהים ממוקם במרכז. הוא המוקד והסמכות המוחלטת. לעומת זאת, על פי השקפת העולם הדמוקרטית מי שעומד במרכז הוא העם.
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.