Some Jews should not be Jews and some non-Jews should be Jews. Authenticity, after all, cannot be inherited; it can only be nurtured. Ideally, only those who consciously take on the Jewish mission, and live accordingly, should be considered Jews. If not for the need for a Jewish people, it would have been better to have a Jewish faith community where people can come and go depending on their willingness to commit to the Jewish religious way and its mission – similar to how other religions conduct themselves.
A poem in praise of the holy city of Jerusalem, in the wake of the American announcement to designate Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Halacha is the practical upshot of unfinalized beliefs, a practical way of life while remaining in theological suspense. In matters of the spirit and the quest to find God, it is not possible to come to final conclusions. The quest for God must remain open-ended to enable the human spirit to find its way through trial and discovery.
Like the generation of the Tower of Babel, in which the whole world was “of one language and of one speech,” we are producing a religious Jewish community of artificial conformism in which independent thought and difference of opinion is not only condemned, but its absence is considered to be the ultimate ideal.
Rather than ignore the body, Halacha draws a person’s attention to its complexities. It informs human beings not to fall victim to grandiose dreams. There are limits to human existence, and it is exactly this fact that makes life a challenge and a joy.
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.
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.
Jewish tradition teaches that man was created in God’s image. Whatever this may mean, it definitely includes the fact that God created man in such a way that man, in desperate need to discover himself, would constantly search for Him. Freud, we believe, gave a most original interpretation of this fact. With his discovery of the father figure he may have uncovered the mechanism through which God created an idea of Himself as the ultimate Father in the human mind.