It’s important to realize that nobody can inherit religion, not even from oneself. It has to be an ongoing discovery. I converted when I was 16, but over the years I’ve come to realize that to convert only once is almost meaningless.
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.
I strongly believe that new ideas, ideologies and movements are God-given and have great religious meaning. This means that we are religiously obligated to incorporate them into Judaism—sometimes by just accepting them and other times by reworking them.
It is important to remember that great controversies are also great emancipators. They give us new and fresh insights. We are in dire need of them. We should not only allow them but encourage our students to advance them!
I am often attacked for my views, and I understand that. To question our views, with the implication that we may need to change our ways, is not always pleasant. But if we want to make sure that Judaism has a future, we have no option but to take that road.
The Talmud is the ongoing discussion of what God wants from us while, for the most part, not giving us a final answer and leaving us in limbo. Why is this? Because it is only through discussion and disagreement that a tradition can stay alive and be relevant. Once it is finalized, it will die. This is the reason that I object so strongly to the codification of Jewish law.
I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Spinoza had met the Kotzker. Both were obsessed with truth, but each approached it from a different point of view. In Spinoza’s pantheism, there is a strong Kabbalistic element but, simultaneously, a denial of a personal (biblical) God. However much some Spinoza scholars want to claim that all of his philosophy was based on pure reason, it is very clear that there are elements in his philosophy that reveal aspects of mysticism. Both were searching for God and knew no compromise.
What is holiness? It has something to do with the constant awareness that God is to be discovered in all that one does, speaks, thinks, and feels. But that’s nearly unattainable. How does one live up to this?
Faith is like music. It is true because of its beauty, not because of its intellectual certainty. It stems from impossible paradoxes, as well as a great deal of imagination that surpasses rationality and scientific or historical facts.
For me, praying is the admission that we need His help and that we are not God! I have to make myself aware that I need to praise Him because I am not His equal; not because He needs me for anything. But sometimes, as after a tragedy, I want to turn my prayer into a protest against God.