I strongly believe that new ideas, ideologies and movements are God-given and have great religious meaning. This means that we are religiously obligated to incorporate them into Judaism—sometimes by just accepting them and other times by reworking them.
I am often attacked for my views, and I understand that. To question our views, with the implication that we may need to change our ways, is not always pleasant. But if we want to make sure that Judaism has a future, we have no option but to take that road.
The Talmud is the ongoing discussion of what God wants from us while, for the most part, not giving us a final answer and leaving us in limbo. Why is this? Because it is only through discussion and disagreement that a tradition can stay alive and be relevant. Once it is finalized, it will die. This is the reason that I object so strongly to the codification of Jewish law.
I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Spinoza had met the Kotzker. Both were obsessed with truth, but each approached it from a different point of view. In Spinoza’s pantheism, there is a strong Kabbalistic element but, simultaneously, a denial of a personal (biblical) God. However much some Spinoza scholars want to claim that all of his philosophy was based on pure reason, it is very clear that there are elements in his philosophy that reveal aspects of mysticism. Both were searching for God and knew no compromise.
What is holiness? It has something to do with the constant awareness that God is to be discovered in all that one does, speaks, thinks, and feels. But that’s nearly unattainable. How does one live up to this?