While the Greek narrative focuses on “seeing,” the biblical perspective focuses on “hearing” the deeper internal dimension that eludes the naked eye.
I am taking the reader through the uncharted territories I traversed during my voyage of discovery. Only after I have taken the reader through the many mountains and valleys will I be able to reflect on my journey as a whole and attempt to articulate my holistic re-visioning of Judaism. I am guided by the Talmudic method of argumentation where ideas are raised and discussed; sometimes these ideas are accepted, while other times, they are rejected. There are instances where a final determination is never reached. At other times, the debate might suddenly continue many pages later or may even resume unexpectedly in a different Talmudic tractate altogether. It is in this spirit that this contemplative Autobiography is written.
After living in the Orthodox community for some years, I became deeply disturbed by the fact that many Orthodox Jews were not spiritual in the slightest. They were secular Jews who happened to be observant. These were all very nice people, but they were guilty of religious plagiarism. One religious day was identical to the previous day, without any new encounter with the Divine and the Torah. Everything was “under control,” to the point that any novel spiritual and intellectual struggle was completely absent. But most disturbing was my realization that I myself had become guilty of this!
Judaism has taught me that external experiences are of little importance when they remain trivialities. However, when these trivialities can be transformed into ways in which one can meet God, then the finite becomes infinite.
This new extensive autobiography, divided into short chapters, is not a book of memoirs, but a window into my soul. Besides the request to write it, it was also an assignment I had to undertake because an inner voice told me to do so. I could not escape the challenge.
To be an arbiter of Jewish law is to be the conductor of an orchestra. It is not coercion but persuasion that makes it possible for the other to hear the beauty of the music and to accept a halachic decision, just as one would willingly listen to the interpretation of a conductor—because one is deeply inspired.
Music raises the spoken word to a level that touches on prophecy. It gives it a taste of that which is beyond, and transforms it into something untouchable. Just as there is no way to demonstrate the beauty of music to a person who is completely deaf, so is there no way to explain the difference between a spoken word and one which is sung, unless one sings. It lifts a person out of the mundane and gives him a feeling of the imponderable, which is the entrance to joy. It sets the soul in operation and brings us near to the Infinite.
This is the last of a seven-part series on the thoughts of the Mei HaShiloach, the famous and highly unusual work by the Chassidic thinker, Rabbi Mordechai Joseph Leiner of Izbica. In this essay, Yehuda DovBer Zirkind discusses how the ideas of Mei HaShiloach may impact the future evolution of halachah. Many observations by the Mei HaShiloach touch on my opinion that Halacha will have to liberate itself from what we can only call “Defensive Halacha,” which became the norm while the Jewish people were living in exile.
This is the sixth part of our discussion on the philosophy of the Chassidic thinker, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica, author of the Mei HaShiloach, a most unusual work which in many ways goes far beyond the established norms of orthodox Halacha as we know it today. Yehudah DovBer Zirkind continues to discuss Rav Cardozo’s observations, and adds much important information and insights of his own.
The Mei HaShiloach’s highly unusual teachings are becoming more and more relevant in our days, as we face greater challenges to Halacha and the Jewish lifestyle. Among these challenges are the establishment of the State of Israel, numerous religious crises, and the challenge of modernity. Can Halacha—which can no longer rely on the strict adherence to its rules, but gets more and more dependent on its ideological and spiritual message and spirituality—guide us in the future?