To set one’s schedule around fixed times—for prayers, for meals, for learning, etc.—does not only inject order into one’s life, but also meaning; and as such one gains an opportunity to sanctify those moments. The chaos of a week without order, of days without set times, is yet another manifestation of the secularization of society and the profanation of the sacred.
Halacha is the greatest chess game on earth. It is the Jewish game par excellence. For people who want to live a life of great meaning and depth, nothing is more demanding and torturous while simultaneously uplifting and mind-broadening. They love the rules because they are the way to freedom. Certainly chess is just a game, while Halacha, if properly understood and lived, deals with real life, deep religiosity, moral dilemmas, emotions, and intuitions far more significant in a person’s life than a chess game.
I love to go to Limmud, to listen and to teach. Limmud is a place where I am challenged; where I hear new things (including some utter nonsense); where I can fall in love with my fellow Jews, laugh and cry with them, and share my commitment to and struggles with Judaism.
In the next 50 years, we will see radical changes in the condition and nature of the Jewish people, as well as in Orthodox Judaism and Halacha. While during the last 2,000 years Halacha was “exile-orientated” and “defensive,” we are slowly growing out of this. The sources that until now were the basis for Halacha will have to be replaced by new Orthodox / Israeli “prophetic” Halacha. The first signs of this are already taking place.
However blasphemous this may sound, the Kohein Gadol was to be the original pope. Basically, the papacy is a Jewish function, tasked not with the mission of spreading the gospel, but rather promulgating monotheism, morality and the Torah, as far as it is applicable to the non-Jewish world.
It is because of my awareness that any religious belief can be justified that I have become so critical of mainstream Orthodox Judaism and skeptical about the way I promulgate my own Judaism, in the way I see it. Do I believe in it only because it’s something I have grown into and feel at home and comfortable with, or is there something more that makes my Judaism’s claim to truth stand out from all the others?
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.
While most people today believe that one should not burden children with obligations, but rather allow them to make their own choices, Judaism teaches us that giving a child the feeling that he has a moral task to fulfill is giving him the option to experience immense joy.
Natural beauty, art, and music exist to disturb our complacency. Their purpose is to awaken in us a sense of wonder. And while beauty, art, and music facilitate that wonder, the role of religion is to provide us with the means to respond to it.
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.