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.
Due to the long exile of the Jewish people, many Christian ideas have infiltrated Judaism through the back door. One such idea is the notion that saving the soul is more important than saving the body, and that the body is an obstacle to the soul. This idea is completely against the central tents of Judaism, and yet it has been adopted by certain parts of the Chareidi community.
Redemption does not happen overnight; it develops over a long period of intermediate hester panim, until the last stage in the drama of history is fulfilled. The story of Purim reminds us that such periods when God “hides” from us are temporary. It gives us a framework in which to understand our lives and remain optimistic, even in the midst of darkness.
Some of our greatest commentators have wrestled with the connection between the command to build the Mishkan (the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle) and the sin of the Golden Calf. It can be argued that the Mishkan was a concession to human weakness, and the same is true of the institution of spoken prayer!