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.
I was recently asked by Rav Ari Ze’ev Schwartz of the Society of Independent Spirituality: Can you say a little about the educational and spiritual goals of your weekly articles? What do you want your readers to experience when they read these articles? How do you yourself experience these goals and articles? Here is my response.
Is God really perfect as we always maintain? God Himself tells Moshe Eheyeh asher eheyeh—I will be what I will be. Not “I am what I am” as the Septuagint mistranslates. But how can that be? It means that He is not yet what He should be and that He never will be. Apparently He is incomplete, because He seems capable of changing and moving toward perfection, but He will never be able to actually reach perfection. God is trapped in a contradiction. So, is God a verb? Always “godding”? Always imprisoned in a becoming mode? What then is God? An unending trial to be God?
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.
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.