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?
In these trying times, it is of great value to focus on spiritual matters that may move us to a different plain. This will give us comfort, broaden our minds and enlarge our souls, as we carefully follow all the health regulations prescribed by our authorities. Here is the fourth part of Yehudah DovBer Zirkind’s reflections on the ideas of the Mei HaShiloach and my own comments.
The two different approaches to the Torah: the “perfect Torah” and the “evolving Torah” approaches are related to a broader theological question about the nature of the mitzvot: Do the mitzvot reflect God’s ultimate and unconditional will (kvayachol), or do they reflect God’s instrumental will for humanity, providing an instruction manual for how to redeem the world? In other words, is the main purpose of the mitzvot for the sake of God (i.e. that humankind should fulfill God’s wishes) or for the sake of man (i.e. that God’s plan for humanity should be realized)?
The giving of the Torah has radically altered the course of Judaism and we cannot revert to a pre-Torah age. Nevertheless, Rabbi Cardozo believes that the vision and spirit of this formative era, i.e. the vibrancy of an inchoate and incipient Judaism – or to borrow a metaphor from biology, a “stem cell” based Judaism – should be kept alive and maintained as a counterweight against the ethos of textual fixation and rigid Halachic codification which is so prevalent within the contemporary Orthodox Jewish world.