The call of the hour on Yom Kippur is this: a full day is given to us to realize that our lives are undeserved. Life is only great when it is earned through a dignified response.
It is Divine humor that tells us to live with absurdity, and supreme holy witticism that asks us to live with laughter. We are asked to enjoy the journey and realize that there is no arrival.
Every ordinary act should be turned into a kind of mitzvah, a spiritual challenge, making it a dignified encounter with God. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur we are reminded that our deeds must redeem God’s presence and rescue Him from oblivion. In doing the finite we must be able to perceive the infinite.
To be given the opportunity to do teshuvah is an enormous privilege. It is a joy to be able to say I am sorry. This is the ultimate expression of religious optimism. Judaism teaches man that there is no karma that traps him, and no original sin that stands in his way. Man is free to re-engage with God and his fellow man. Whatever obstacles there may be, all that is required is the will to change his ways and the effort to work hard at it.
Jewish law contains a far-reaching codex for personal and environmental cleanliness that would seem novel and forward-thinking to many twenty-first century environmentalists. Unfortunately, these laws do not seem to be of great concern within many orthodox communities today. By implementing the Torah’s laws in this realm, orthodox communities will make a tremendous kiddush Hashem, which is in fact the purpose of being a Jew.
Paradoxically, the only way to create unity among different denominations is for all to recognize that they are fundamentally divided. We need to stop asking for compromise on the very beliefs that are matters of personal conscience and therefore categorical.
All discussions of why certain marriages or sexual relationships are forbidden are doomed to fail! No human reasoning is able to explain them in any consistent way. It is for this reason that religious thinkers should distance themselves from giving primary reasons for these prohibitions.
When a person learns Torah as a religious experience and hears its revelation, the gap of several thousand years—from the Revelation until now—no longer exists. Accordingly, Torah is given today
The Temple whose destruction we mourn on the 9th of Av has no inherent value. It is only a means to something that no physical object can contain. On Tish’a B’Av, we do not mourn the loss of the Temple but rather the loss of its message, which we no longer seem to grasp.
Louis Jacobs is not at all as radical as some would like to believe. In fact, some ultra-Orthodox thinkers were even more radical than Rabbi Jacobs but remained completely committed to Orthodox Halacha and the belief in Torah from Heaven.