The beauty of Judaism is its unconventional combination of colors. Like Rembrandt’s famous palette of colors, and unlike so many other traditions, Judaism perceives hidden layers that link its preternatural sensibility to an unknown reality. It transports all religious meaning, drawn from the creation and the Sinai revelation, to a plane where it then bursts out into a new creation.
When the kabbalists speak about the Torah’s uniqueness, they emphasize that the word of God came down to us through an infinite number of tzinorot (spiritual channels), each one revealing another aspect of the divine word. Every Jew at Sinai could only perceive the Torah through her or his own soul with its uniqueness in nature and intellect. And so it is in every generation. It is for this reason that Judaism is a tradition whose essential nature is a colorful argument for the sake of Heaven. That is one of its most distinctive features.
In his outstanding book, After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre, one of the most impressive philosophers of ethics today, calls for a return to tradition. But what, he asks, is a living tradition?
“When a tradition is in good order, it is always partially constituted by an argument about the goods, the pursuit of which gives that tradition its particular point and purpose. So when an institution – a university, say, or a farm or a hospital – is the bearer of a tradition of practice or practices, its common life will be partly, but in a centrally important way, constituted by a continuous argument as to what a university is and ought to be or what good farming is or what a good medicine is….A living tradition, then, is a historically extended, socially embodied argument….” (London, Duckworth, 1981, pp. 206 – 207.)
Argument is not always a conflict; it is often a combination of different points of view, all valid and of the greatest importance in keeping tradition alive. Leaving out even one point of view would do much harm to the completeness of the argument and the tradition. A real tradition is not monolithic; it is multifaceted. That is what makes it so beautiful. As with the paintings of Rembrandt, it requires varied perspectives. All occupy the same canvas and create a oneness while being totally different from each other. What they share is a common goal. They serve the same purpose: divine beauty. Rembrandt painted in a way that sometimes compelled him to continue one painting in his next one. Other times he kept working on the same canvas and by adding only one color he totally re-created the picture.
We wish to thank my dear friend and former educational director, Rabbi Francis Nataf, for the many beautiful years during which he helped shape the canvas of the David Cardozo Academy. Without him the academy would not be what it is today: a canvas of many colors and varied designs, deeply committed to yirat shamayim (the awe of Heaven) and the holiness of the Torah. Rabbi Nataf’s “Ideas,” which circulated bi-weekly via email, contain a wealth of intellectual depth and have been a source of great inspiration. I myself have learned so much from Rabbi Nataf’s insights. His deep understanding of the many dimensions of Jewish education was a constant eye opener that shaped my own perspectives and helped me grow. His quick grasp of Judaism’s many levels, which he shared in his lectures at the David Cardozo Academy, were most fascinating; and his refreshing insights into the Torah, which were published by the David Cardozo Academy in book form, will continue to inspire. We hope to see, one day, all five volumes of Redeeming Relevance on the five books of the Torah.
Above all, it is his personal friendship and integrity that stands out. While we did not always agree, we never engaged in an argument that was not for the sake of Heaven. It was always with dignity and love. “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies,” said Aristotle.
Rabbi Nataf will continue painting his art in his future position in Jewish education, and we wish him great success. We hope that occasionally he will come to share his insights with our academy.
As the David Cardozo Academy continues on its journey, establishing new programs and initiatives, making contributions to Jewish religious life and thought, we welcome Daniel Sheer as our new executive director. Daniel (40) and his wife Nava live in Modi’in and are blessed with three children. A sensitive soul, and possessing quality and style, he has for many years held an important position at the Jerusalem branch of Yad Sarah, an organization known to us all. He has also gathered invaluable experience by developing various programs throughout the Jewish world. Daniel will reorganize the David Cardozo Academy and take it to new levels. We extend to him a warm welcome – Baruch Haba – and pray that the new colors he will apply to our canvas will bring about a great sanctification of God’s name and His Torah.
We wish both Rabbi Nataf and Daniel Sheer much hatzlacha (success) in their respective future endeavors. May they enjoy good health and simcha (happiness), together with their families, and may the Lord of the Universe bless them.