For the authentically religious personality, religion can be experienced and lived only in a state of originality. Any imitation of fellow worshipers is serving oneself and not God. In essence, religion is an attempt to search for God, the ultimate Original.
Avraham was an unparalleled leader and walked in front of everybody else. But he was also a captain who cared for the underdog and who pleaded with God not to leave the wicked people of Sedom and Amora behind.
Avraham learns that to be religious is to live with a God Who carries contradictions and incongruities. Consistent gods are idols because they don’t teach man how to live in a world that is full of dichotomies and inconsistencies. To be religious means to know how to navigate unresolvable conflicts, to be bold enough to negotiate, and to stand upright even when failing.
Noah does not represent genuine religiosity. Yes, many religious Jews believe that it is only in obedience that one must live one’s religious life. But that is not what the first Jew and authentic Judaism are all about. Judaism is a covenant between man and God, in which man is co-creator. God orders him to take action beyond His commandments. He is asked to build the world with the ingredients that God supplied at the time of creation. And when God destroys the world, it is man’s task to restore it.
There is little meaning in living by Halacha if one does not hear its grace. It is not a life of Halachic observance that we need, but a life of experiencing Halacha as a daily living music recital. Observance alone does not propel man to a level of existence where he realizes that there is more to life than the mind can grasp.
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.
To be righteous, with the full awareness that nobody will ever know the real story, and to have one’s deeds condemned, is one of the most painful human experiences and is a great tragedy. Only the knowledge that the One Above knows the real story, and the conviction that it is more important that others benefit from one’s deeds than to be assured of the recognition of one’s real intentions, gives the ultimate feeling of spiritual satisfaction for which the tzaddik strives.
Judaism suggests that at certain times God sends emanations to this world so as to awaken human beings to act, just as Pharaoh received his dreams in order that Joseph’s imprisonment would come to an end.
The Torah teaches us to erase Amalek’s memory by doing everything in our power not to give cause to hostile feelings within ourselves toward other nations.
We are not asked to dream the inconceivable. We are asked to dream what is actually achievable. It is the Halacha that rescues us from unrealistic dreams, substituting them with those that are viable. Mount Sinai and the giving of the law replaced impossible dreams with those that are within our grasp.