Joy is not a “peak experience” which climaxes and ends suddenly, but rather a plateau. It is not the ecstatic fire of the moment but the glow of growing from within.
The purpose of genuine religious life is to protest against this optical illusion and to teach us to refocus our spiritual spectacles. It is not that religion shows us something new. Rather, it shows us what we have seen all our lives but have never noticed, that there is dazzling goodness in this world. There is order instead of chaos; there is diversity, not just monotonous existence; and above all, there is the infinite grace of the human deed.
After a year in which we’ve personally felt a little bit of the Shi’abud Mitzraim—the bondage of Egypt—by way of the Pandemic—Pesach this year has an added meaning, bringing the Exodus a little closer to our own experience.
Judaism and the Jewish people are intertwined and interact in ways which nobody can fully grasp. Are we a religion, or a nation? If we are a religion, how can it be that somebody who does not believe in God or refuses to observe even one commandment still remains Jewish as long as he or she is born to a Jewish mother? And if we are a nation, how does religion come in, telling us who belongs to the nation and who does not? Any attempt to find a solution to this problem will always fail. This is one of the greatest mysteries of Jewish identity.
There are probably billions of people who are full-fledged “soul Jews” but don’t know it, and very likely never will. Perhaps it is these Jews whom God had in mind when He blessed Avraham and told him that he would be the father of all nations and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on the seashore.