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.
Ours is a future-orientated religion. We are not afraid of the latest technologies because they allow us to fulfill, in ways unimagined by our forefathers, the divine mandate to cure diseases, create more pleasant ways to live our lives, and make the world a better place. All this is beautifully expressed by our Sages, who direct us to become partners with God in the work of creation. But the very text that demands this does not allow for any changes in its content and bars us from using the latest technological devices in the writing of this same text! What is the message conveyed by this paradox?
In the emptiness and silence of the desert, an authentic inner voice can be heard while sitting in the sukkah, a hut that existentially gives protection but in no way physically shields. Its roof leaks and its walls fall apart the moment a wind blows. It is a place with no excuses. But it can only be experienced by a people of the wilderness; a people who are not rooted in a substance of physical limitations and borders; a people who are not entirely fixed by an earthly point, even while living in a homeland.
What is the source of religious passion? It is the awareness that something cannot become exhausted. To appreciate Judaism and see it as a blessing is to understand that just as the ocean is unfathomable, so Judaism transcends all interpretations. Understanding Judaism cannot be attained in the comfort of observing its laws or studying its texts. It occupies infinite space, beyond the limitations of the human mind and heart.
Because we Jews have experienced, as no other nation has, what indifference can lead to, it is our duty, more than anybody else, to care about our fellow human beings and be an example for the rest of the world.
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.
A fairy tale with much relevance to today’s times.
When confronted with death, our first reaction is consternation. We are stunned and broken. But slowly, our sense of shock gives way to a feeling of mystery. The mysterium magnum enters, and a new perspective makes itself known as a kind of revelation and elevation. Suddenly, our whole life, which we knew so well, gradually becomes concealed behind a great Secret. Our speech is silenced. Our understanding fails. There is only awe for the Other.