If one invests in one’s faith by singing God’s praises during times of prosperity and good health, then, in the loneliness of difficult and sorrowful times, one may be able to continue believing in God’s faithfulness even when there is little evidence of such Divine allegiance.
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.
Moshe asks God to reveal His name to him before he conveys the message to the Jews that He will redeem them from Egyptian bondage. God refuses to do so, and His answer is astonishing: “I will be Whoever I will be.” I am not a “what,” or a “when.” I am not even a “who.” There is no term you can use to describe Me. Any attempt to give Me an image is a serious violation of My very being. Any conclusive explanation of My deeds is idol worship. I permit you to describe Me in human terms only as long as you know that any such description will ultimately break down. No word can ever contain Me.
To be given the opportunity to do teshuvah is an enormous privilege. It is a joy to be able to say I am sorry. This is the ultimate expression of religious optimism. Judaism teaches man that there is no karma that traps him, and no original sin that stands in his way. Man is free to re-engage with God and his fellow man. Whatever obstacles there may be, all that is required is the will to change his ways and the effort to work hard at it.
Louis Jacobs is not at all as radical as some would like to believe. In fact, some ultra-Orthodox thinkers were even more radical than Rabbi Jacobs but remained completely committed to Orthodox Halacha and the belief in Torah from Heaven.
I am jealous of atheists because they are able to believe the unbelievable. And I, in my simplicity, cannot reach that state of belief.
The real struggle for moral liberty started the day after the exodus from Egypt. The first day was a given; it was the day of God, not of the people. It was the day of passivity and complete surrender. Only the next day did the spiritual labor of the human being begin, and that is therefore the first day of our spiritual elevation.
We Jews are messengers, but we have forgotten the message. It is our obligation to rediscover it and advance it into eternity. Our task is to be more than human, more than good, and more than pious, to surpass all these and once again become God’s stake in the future.
Rabbi Yochanan taught us that Jews can survive without Israel, as long as there is Torah, the portable homeland of the Jewish people. But Jews will not survive solely because of the existence of Israel—however powerful it may be—if Israel does not incorporate a large percentage of Jewish traditional resources.
Judaism is about an upheaval in the soul and the need to break with all sorts of idols. It is about living with spiritual trepidation in which man realizes that he was created from dust but has the ability to reach Heaven. Whether or not man succeeds will depend on his willingness to stand in awe.