When teaching, our rabbis’ and teachers’ personal conduct must be a reflection of what they impart in the classroom, as there is truly no better education than by example. Thought and practice must illuminate each other.
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Nobody can deny that Judaism today finds itself in a crisis that threatens to have devastating consequences. Instead of Judaism growing upward, vertically, it is becoming corpulent, growing horizontally. The growth of adherence to Halacha in the last few decades has clearly not been accompanied by a true religious revival. Genuine religiosity has nothing to do with the Yiddish expression of frumkeit, an untranslatable expression of routine religious observance.
To live a life of faith is to be prepared to live a committed religious life according to an inner belief of the heart and not because there is absolute empirical certainty. There is a constant need for questioning and rethinking one’s beliefs. In many ways, religion must be warfare—a fight against the indolence and callousness that stifles inquiry.
The breaking of idols and slaughtering of sacred cows is, in itself, a Jewish task that began with Avraham Avinu. Consequently, we should not be afraid to do so, or at least to discuss the possible need for change. This could raise some eyebrows in certain religious circles, and we might even become controversial. So, we must keep in mind that great controversies are also great emancipators. They often clarify and enhance essential philosophies behind majestic traditions.
Every generation must find its own way to God and subsequently to the Jewish tradition. From a religious point of view, were this not the case, there would be little reason for that generation to exist. What, after all, is the meaning of human existence if not to reveal another dimension of God’s multi-colored world and Torah, and thus to gain a greater understanding of self?
The very fact that today we encounter a serious endeavor to see Halacha as the only expression of Judaism, and that some halachic authorities constantly attempt to bring the hashkafa (religious philosophy) of Judaism back to finalized dogmas, is a clear indication that those very authorities try to Halacha-ize issues of faith. But doing so robs Judaism of its vital flowing life force. We need to understand that Halacha is the practical upshot of un-finalized beliefs, a practical way of living while remaining in theological suspense.
There are two schools of thought in Judaism, two types of batei midrash: the Bet Midrash of Moshe Rabbeinu and the Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu. Although both of them are integral parts of Judaism, the difference between them is critical. Judaism began as an existential movement in which all that humankind does, thinks, feels, and says is touched by the spirit of God. The Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu aims to teach in order to inspire a re-awakening and transformation of the soul. It is here that we find the roots of Judaism in their most central form.
In the last several years many upheavals have taken place in
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.
A Spiritual Short Autobiography by a Jew Who Should Never Have Been