“To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer...we ask not because we doubt but because we believe.”
“Education means teaching a child to be curious, to wonder, to reflect, to enquire. The child who asks becomes a partner in the learning process, an active recipient. To ask is to grow. ”
“Small acts of kindness can change and humanise our world.”
“The good we do live on in others and it is the most important things that does.”
“Every time we harm someone, that harm rebounds on us and others.”
“We should feel enlarged by the people who are different.”
“Can we see the trace of God in the face of a stranger?”
“We achieve greatness by handing our values onto the next generation and empowering them to go and build the future.”
“To be immortal all you need to do is engrave your values on the minds of your children.”
“Good leaders create followers. Great leaders create leaders.”
“True greatness is showing respect to the people other people dont notice. The people who show respect win respect.”
“The crimes of religion have one thing in common. They involve making God in our image instead of letting Him remake us in His.”
“Tomorrow’s world is born in what we teach our children today.”
“Wars are won by weapons but it takes ideas to win a peace. ”
“It is not our task to conquer or convert the world or enforce uniformity or belief. It is our task to be a blessing to the world. ”
“Freedom is won by making space for the people not like us.”
“The battle for freedom is never finally won but must be fought in every generation.”
“Pesach is where the past does not die but lives, in the chapter we write in our own story and in the story we tell our children.”
“Freedom is a moral achievement, and without a constant effort of education it atrophies and must be fought for again.”
“Pesach is the story of the defeat of probability by the force of possibility. It defines what it is to be a Jew: a living symbol of hope.”
“The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”
“We are as great as the challenges we have the courage to undertake”
“Love transforms us. It makes us beautiful in the eyes of those who love us. It makes us real.”
“Love is what redeems us from the prison cell of the self and all the sickness to which the narcissistic self is prone – from empty pride to deep depression to a sense of nihilism and the abyss. ”
“Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of days, is a time when we do more than confess and seek atonement for our sins. Its the supreme day of Teshuvah, which means returning, coming home. To come home we have to ask who we are and where we truly belong. It is a day when we reaffirm our identity.”
“The single most important lesson of Yom Kippur is that its never too late to change, start again, and live differently from the way weve done in the past. God forgives every mistake weve made so long as we are honest in regretting it and doing our best to put it right. Even if theres nothing we regret, Yom Kippur makes us think about how to use the coming year in such a way as to bring blessings into the lives of others by way of thanking God for all He has given us.”
“More than Yom Kippur expresses our faith in God, it is the expression of Gods faith in us.”
“To those who fully open themselves to it, Yom Kippur is a life-transforming experience. It tells us that God, who created the universe in love and forgiveness, reaches out to us in love and forgiveness, asking us to love and forgive others. God never asked us not to make mistakes. All He asks is that we acknowledge our mistakes, learn from them, grow through them, and make amends where we can.”
“Forgiveness breaks the irreversibility of the past. It is the undoing of what has been done. Repentance and forgiveness - the two great gifts of human freedom - redeem the human condition from tragedy.”
“What has given Yom Kippur its unique place on the map of the Jewish heart is that it is the most intensely personal of all the festivals. Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot are celebrations of Jewish memory and history. They remind us of what it means to be a member of the Jewish people, sharing its past, its present and its hopes. Rosh HaShana, the anniversary of creation, is about what it means to be human under the sovereignty of God. But Yom Kippur is about what it means to be human under the sovereignty of God. But Yom Kippur is about what it means to be me, this unique person that I am. It makes us ask, What have I done with my life? Whom have I hurt or harmed? How have I behaved? What have I done with Gods greatest gift, life itself? What have I lived for and what will I be remembered for?”
“The only sane response to anti-Semitism is to monitor it, fight it, but never let it affect our idea of who we are. Pride is always a healthier response than shame.”
“Aggadah.. is rabbinic Judaism’s domain of pluralism, the realm in which the truth of one side of the argument does not entail the falsity of the other… Halakhah constitutes the rules of the language of Judaism. Aggadah represents the many different statements possible within it.”
“ Words are often born when the phenomenon they name is under threat. The adjective ‘orthodox’ first appears in a Jewish context in France in the early nineteenth century in the course of the debate about Jewish citizenship in the new nation state. For the first time in the modern world the traditional terms of Jewish existence were thrown into question. Alternatives were proposed. Some argued that Judaism must change. Those who disagreed were given the label ‘orthodox’. Only when something is challenged does it need a name. Until then it is taken for granted.”
“The importance of adjectives and ideologies into Orthodoxy is a symptom of the breakdown, socially, of the structures of community and intellectually, of the tradition of argument which is the dialogue between Torah and its application to a given age.”
“The beauty of justice is that it belongs to a world of order constructed out of universal rules through which each of us stands equally before the law. Hessed, by contrast, is intrinsically personal. We cannot care for the sick, bring comfort to the distressed or welcome a visitor impersonally. If we do so, it merely shows that we have not understood what these activities are. Justice demands disengagement… Hessed is an act of engagement. Justice is best administered without emotion. Hessed exists only in virtue of emotion, empathy and sympathy, feeling-with and feeling-for. We act with kindness because we know what it feels like to be in need of kindness. We comfort the mourners because we known what it is to mourn. Hessed requires not detached rationality but emotional intelligence. ”
“Where tzedakah is a gift or loan of money, hessed is the gift of the person.”
“What is chessed? It is usually translated as ‘kindness’ but is also means ‘love’ – not love as emotion or passion, but love expressed as deed. ”
“Faiths, as we know, unite and divide. They unite by dividing: by identifying an ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them’. Hence both the good and harm they do come hand-in-hand. We are the children of the light; they are the children of the darkness. That generates light but also darkness. There is only one non-utopian way of creating the good without the harm, and that is to create programmes of what in Hebrew is called chessed, in Latin caritas, or in English, loving kindness, across boundaries. We must love strangers as well as neighbours, in the simple sense of love-as-deed, practical help. That imperative flows from the covenant of human solidarity, and in a national context, from the covenant of citizenship. ”
“The best way of breaking down barriers between people or communities is through simple, unforced acts of kindness. One act can undo years of estrangement.”
“Acts of kindness never die. They linger in the memory, giving life to other acts in return.”
“Sometimes we have too little confidence as parents. We underestimate how much our children want to hear from us the stories that give sense and purpose to our lives, and will one day give them strength.”
“To be a parent is to be willing to take one’s child and walk, hand in hand, part-way on the Jewish journey, showing that we are prepared to live by the faith we want him or her to continue.”
“You achieve immortality not by building pyramids or statues – but by engraving your values on the hearts of your children, and they on theirs, so that our ancestors live on in us and we in our children, and so on until the end of time.”
“Judaism is a religion of continuity. It depends for its very existence on the willingness of successive generations to hand on their faith and way of life to their children, and on the loyalty of children to the heritage of their past.”
“I know of nothing more moving than watching children pray. When I visited synagogues I always try to spend a few moments in the children’s service, seeing the faces of young girls and boys as they say the Shema, or listen to stories taken from the weekly Sidrah, or sing their first Jewish songs. Here as nowhere else I witness the miracle of Jewish continuity, the simple yet infinitely subtle way in which we pass on our faith to our children. There is nothing more precious we can give them. One day they will discover – as we who have been there before them discovered – that the siddur is nothing less than our route to the Divine presence.”
“The first recorded words of man to God in the history of the covenant are a plea for there to be future generations.”
“As we look back on this extraordinary century – the century in which Yom ha-Shoah, Yom ha-Atzma’ut and Yom Yerushalayim were added to the Jewish calendar – we have cause to wonder and give thanks. I cannot fathom the mysteries of the Holocaust. But I know this, that after one of the greatest tragedies in human history, the Jewish people has emerged from the valley of the shadow of death and found independence and sovereignty in the land of its birth, and freedom and affluence in most countries of the diaspora. But one question reverberates throughout the Jewish world today. What will God have given us if we gain all else and lose our own children?”
“The secret of Jewish continuity is that no people has ever devoted more of its energies to continuity. The focal point of Jewish life is the transmission of a heritage across the generations. Time and again in the Torah we are drawn to dramas of the next generation. Judaism’s focus is its children.”
“Change is not threatening, so long as we keep firm hold of the values by and for which we live. We can travel with confidence so long as we have a map. We can jump with safety knowing that there is someone to catch us as we fall.”
“We are changed, not by what we receive, but by what we do.”
“When the world out there is changing faster than the world in here – in our mental and emotional responses – our environment becomes bewildering and threatening.”
“Change has become part of the texture of life itself, and there are few things harder to bear than constant flux and uncertainty.”
“Now we choose because we choose. Because it is what we want; or it works for us; or it feels right to me. Once we have dismantled a world in which larger virtues held sway, what remain are success and self-expression, the key values of an individualistic culture.”
“All significant change in human behaviour takes place at the microcosmic, not the macrocosmic level. It belongs not to social forces or trends, but to the here-and-now of single individuals.”
“There is one respect in which each of us has precisely the same strength as Moses. Namely, the strength to choose. There is no hand of heaven – no physiological, genetic, psychological or Providential compulsion – that forces us to act one way rather than another. The fear of heaven is not in the hands of heaven; therefore the fear of heaven is as live an option to us as it was to Moses. Here is indeed a thing which, if it is small for Moses is small for us.”
“The section of Orthodoxy which has most successfully negotiated modernity has been the group that took the most negative view of modernity and most strenuously resisted it”
“One distinctive feature of charedi religiosity is its high consistency between belief and practice and the willingness of its adherents to place principle over economic progress”
“The Bible is interested not on physis, but in nomos: not in the laws that govern nature, but in the moral laws that should govern humankind. The Greek translation of Torah, the Jewish name for the Mosaic books, is Nomos, ‘law’. Hence the Bible does not begin with the birth of Homo sapiens, a biological species, hundreds of thousands of years ago, but much later, with the discovery of monotheism some six thousand years ago. The critical moment seems to have been the dawn of individual self-consciousness.”
“Greatness, even for God, certainly for us, is not to be above people but to be with them, hearing their silent cry, sharing their distress, bringing comfort to the distressed and dignity to the deprived. The message of the Hebrew Bible is that civilizations survive not by strength but by how they respond to the weak; not by wealth but by how they care for the poor; not by power but by their concern for the powerless. What renders a culture invulnerable is the compassion it shows to the vulnerable.”
“The story of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, extending across a thousand years in real time, is of the progressive withdrawal of divine intervention and the transfer of responsibility to human beings.”
“Philosophy teaches truth-as-system, the Bible teaches truth-as-story.”
“The message of the Hebrew Bible is that serving God and our fellow human beings are inseparably linked, and the split between the two impoverishes both.”
“My grandparents were not born in this country. Many, even most, of the Jews in Britain had grandparents who came here in the great wave of immigration from Eastern Europe between 1990 and 1914. We are Anglo-Jews of the third generation. It is an almost universal law that inherited wealth lasts three generations, not more. The same applies to inherited Judaism. Ours is the last generation that can still remember booba and zeida from the heim, with their fluent Yiddish and undiminished Yiddishkeit. Ours is the last generation for whom Jewish identity can be sustained by memory alone. The Rebbe of Ger once pointed out that the ‘four sons’ of the Haggadah represent four generation. The wise sons is the immigrant generation who still lives the traditions of the ‘home’. The rebellious son is the second generation, forsaking Judaism for social integration. The ‘simple’ son is the third generation, confused by the mixed messages of religious grandparents and irreligious parents. But the child who cannot even ask the question is the fourth generation. For the child of the fourth generation no longer has memories of Jewish life in its full intensity. Our children are children of the fourth generation.”
“After the Shoah, one phrase came to encapsulate the collective response of world Jewry: ‘Never again.’ Never again would we stand by defenceless as Jews were dying because they were Jews. Yet, albeit in a radically different form, it is happening again. Admittedly, it is not Jews who are dying. But it is no less significant from the perspective of Jewish continuity. Judaism and Jewish identity are dying: that which made us Jews and gave shape and meaning to our lives. Every nation that suffered casualties during the Second World War has since repopulated itself. Except the Jewish people. For every Jewish child who perished in the Holocaust there is a child today who could have been enjoying a free and secure Jewish identity, but is not, because its parents have divorced, or because one of its parents is not Jewish, or because it has no understanding or knowledge of what it is to be a Jew.”
“When I was last in America.. my eye was caught by a story on the front page of the New York Times. It was headed ‘The Assimilating Bagel’, and the tale it told was this. A bagel was once a hard, round roll with a large hole in the centre. It was a Jewish delicacy which you ate with cream cheese or smoked salmon and temporarily forgot the troubles of the world. But according to the New York Times the bagel was subtly changing. Its crust was getting softer. The hole was getting smaller. Little by little, the bagel was assimilating into a bun. For ‘bagel’ read ‘Jewry’ and the metaphor is clear. Jewish identity in America is vanishing with frightening, unprecedented speed.”
“The responsible life is one that responds. In the theological sense it means that God is the question to which our lives are an answer.”
“To be a Jewish child is to learn how to question.”
“To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a compelling testimony to the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to go further, higher, deeper. Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith – that history is not random, that the universe is not impervious to our understand, that what happens to us is not blind chance. We ask, not because we doubt, but because we believe. ”
“Questioning is at the heart of Jewish spirituality.”
“To ask is to grow.”
“In Judaism, to be without questions is not a sign of faith, but a lack of depth.”
“Antisemitism is never ultimately about Jews. It is about a profound human failure to accept the fact that we are diverse and must create space for diversity if we are to preserve our humanity.”
“Antisemitism begins with Jews, but it never ends with them. A world without room for Jews is one that has no room for difference, and a world that lacks space for difference lacks space for humanity itself.”
“Antisemitism – the hatred of difference - is an assault not on Jews only, but on the human condition as such.”
“Jews cannot fight antisemitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate. It would be the greatest mistake for Jews to believe that they can fight it alone. The only people who can successfully combat antisemitism are those active in the cultures that harbour it.”
“The old anti-Semitism, a product of nineteenth-century European romantic nationalism, is not the same as the new, however old the recycled myths. You cannot fight hate transmitted by the Internet in the way you could fight hate that belonged to the public culture.”
“Antisemitism – the hatred of difference – is an assault not on Jews only but on the human condition as such.”
“For Jews, the response to anti-Semitism must be to fight it but never to internalize it or accept it on its own terms. ”
“Racial anti-Semitism was a more deadly form than any of its predecessors, because whereas religious convictions can be renounced, races can only be exterminated.”
“Anti-Semitism is not a unitary phenomenon, a coherent belief or ideology. Jews have been hated because they were rich and because they were poor; because they were capitalists and because they were communists; because they believed in tradition and because they were rootless cosmopolitans; because they kept to themselves and because they penetrated everywhere. Antisemitism is not a belief but a virus. The human body has an immensely sophisticated immune system which develops defences against viruses. It is penetrated, however, because viruses mutate. Antisemitism mutates. ”
“Those bound by a covenant, voluntarily undertake to share a fate. They choose to link their destinies together. They accept responsibilities to and for one another. Covenants redeem the solitude of the ‘lonely crowd’.”
“Covenant is the politics of quest: for the promised land, the place of freedom, the society that honours the dignity of all.”
“To enter into a covenant, like deciding to marry or have a child, is to take a risk, an act of faith in an unknown, unknowable future.”
“A covenant is what turns love into law, and law into love.”
“What is the secret of Jewish survival?.. Faith suggests an answer. At Sinai, Israel and God entered into a solemn and mutually binding pledge: the covenant. Israel would dedicate itself to God. God, in turn, would protect Israel. The Jewish people would exist, in Jeremiah’s words, as long as the sun and the stars and the waves roared in the sea. Israel would be God’s witness, and their eternity would mirror His. Jews survived for a simple reason. Interwoven in our history was something larger than history: Divine Providence.”
“Secular and liberal Jews are part of the covenant, participants in Judaism’s bonds of collective responsibility, to be related to with love, dignity, and respect. This offends the modern self, which demands to be respected not for what it is but for what it believes and does. It is, in terms of modern consciousness, an imperfect solution. But perfect solutions are not to be found this side of the messianic time.”
“The affirmation of Jewish life after the Holocaust is itself is testimony that the covenant survives and that the voice of God continues to be heard, however obliquely and obscurely by the contemporary heirs of those who stood at Sinai.”
“At the core of Jewish faith is the idea of covenant, the mutual commitment between God and the people Israel. But the covenant embodies a specific tension. One the one hand, it is immune to history. Its text, the Torah, and the way of life it commands, are Divine, eternal, immutable, unchanging. On the other hand, the covenant is realised in history… Judaism is thus a metahistorical and historical faith, peculiarly poised between timelessness and time.”
“When there are no shared standards, there can be no conversation, and where conversation ends, violence begins.”
“Without a moral vision, we will fail. And that vision, to be shared, can only emerge from conversation – from talking to one another and listening to one another across boundaries of class, income, race and faith.”
“Society is a conversation scored for many voices. But it is precisely in and through that conversation that we become conjoint authors of our collective future, rather than dust blown by the wind of economic forces. Conversation – respectful, engaged, reciprocal, calling forth some of our greatest powers of empathy and understanding – is the moral form of a world governed by the dignity of difference.”
“In a debate one side wins, the other loses, but both are the same as they were before. In a conversation neither side loses and both are changed, because they now know what reality looks like from a different perspective. That is not to say that either gives up its previous convictions. That is not what conversation is about. It does mean, however, that I may now realize that I must make space for another deeply held belief, and if my own case has been compelling, the other side may understand that it too must make space for mine.”
“The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation, speaking our fears, listening to the fears of others, and in that sharing of vulnerabilities discovering a genesis of hope.”
“The new media have the power to defeat most forms of conflict resolution. They are themselves vehicles of conflict creation and conflict intensification.”
“One belief, more than any other is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideas. It is the belief that those who do not share my faith – or my race or my ideology – do not share my humanity.”
“Religious believers cannot stand aside when people are murdered in the name of God or a sacred cause. When religion is invoked as a justification for conflict, religious voices must be raised in protest. We must withhold the robe of sanctity when it is sought as a cloak for violence and bloodshed. If faith is enlisted in the cause of war, there must be an equal and opposite counter-voice in the name of peace. If religion is not part of the solution, it will certainly be part of the problem”
“I remain convinced that, in many conflict zones throughout the world, if religion does not become part of the solution, it will be part of the problem. We have not yet learned what it is for religion to be a force for peace… Faith persists. So does religious conflict. In the short term, wars are won by weapons; in the long run, by ideas. We need new ideas about what it means to honour human difference while at the same time renewing the global covenant of mankind.”
“In our communities we value people not for what they earn or what they buy or how they vote but for what they are, every one of them a fragment of the Divine presence. We hold life holy. And each of us is lifted by the knowledge that we are part of something greater than all of us, that created us in forgiveness and love, and asks us to create in forgiveness and love. Each of us in our own way is a guardian of values that are in danger of being lost, in our short-attention-span, hyperactive, information-saturated, wisdom-starved age. And though our faiths are profoundly different, yet we recognize in one another the presence of faith itself, that habit of the heart that listens to the music beneath the noise, and knows that God is the point at which soul touches soul and is enlarged by the presence of otherness. We celebrate both our commonalities and differences, because if we had nothing in common we could not communicate, and if we had everything in common, we would have nothing to say. You have spoken of the Catholic Church as a creative minority. And perhaps that is what we should all aspire to be, creative minorities, inspiring one another, and bringing our different gifts to the common good.”
“A community of faith.. cuts across boundaries. It brings together what other institutions keep apart.”
“Communities of faith are where we preserve the values and institutions that protect our humanity”
“The more friendship I share, the more I have. The more love I give, the more I possess. The best way to learn something is to teach it to others. The best way to have influence is to share it as widely as possible. These are the things that operate by the logic of multiplication not division, and they are precisely what is created and distributed in communities of faith: friendship, love, learning and moral influence, along with those many other things which only exist by virtue of being shared.”
“Being faithful to one tradition and yet a blessing to others, is one of the great themes of the Bible. And it deserves to be, of our time.”
“A community of communities needs two kinds of religious strength: one to preserve our own distinct traditions, the other to bring them to an enlarged sense of the common good.”
“Community is society with a human face – the place where we know we’re not alone.”
“Community is the human expression of Divine love. It is where I am valued simply for who I am, how I live and what I give to others. It is the place where they know my name.”
“Morality can no longer be predicated of the state, for we have become too diverse to allow a single morality to be legislated. Nor can it be located in the individual, for morality cannot be private in this way. We have neglected the third domain: that of community.”
“Neither the individual nor the state is where we discover who we are and why… Beyond the most basic rules necessary for the maintenance of the most rudimentary social order, morality lives in communities and the traditions which sustain them.”
“The new technologies, by uniting people globally, divide people locally. They strengthen non-national affiliations. They can make people feel more Hindu or Muslim or Jewish than British, They turn ethnic minorities into ‘diasporas’, people whose home and heart is elsewhere. They amplify fear and erode trust. They simplify issues and weaken the politics of nuance and compromise.”
“Global communications, especially the internet, have in effect abolished space, or at least our experience of space. Yet the nation state was predicated on space. It was a political-social-economic-cultural phenomenon that thought together a group of people, however heterogeneous, because they lived in the same region. They might be quite different, but they were neighbours. They occupied the same territory. They shared the same language. They lived under the same political system. They were part of the same economy. When my family came to Britain, they were opting to share its fate. They were sacrificing their past for the sake of what they saw as a better future. They were moving home. Today, thanks to globalization and the ease and low real cost of travel, no one has to make that choice any more. What then becomes of identity? Britain is where we are, but in what sense is it who we are? Citizens of the world, we no longer have a sense of the local, which is where identity begins. The nation state is fragmenting before our eyes. What, in such a world, is the meaning of the word ‘home’?”
“Every technological civilization faces two opposing dangers. One is the hubris that says: we have godlike powers, therefore let us take the place of God. The other is the fear that says: in the name of God, let us not use these godlike powers at all. Both are wrong. Each technological advance carries with it the possibility of diminishing or enhancing human dignity. What matters is how we use it. The way to use it is in covenant with God, honouring His image that is mankind.”
“Information technology has not only transformational possibilities but also deep ethical implications. Worldwide, the number of children - girls especially – who lack adequate education is a scandal. It means that most will remain disadvantaged throughout their lives. Schools, curricula, the training of teachers, the provision of computers, and low cost downloading of information should be key forms of international aid and voluntary assistance to developing countries. No other single intervention offers greater prospects of enhancing economic opportunities for everyone, and for moving us forward in the long, hard journey to universal human dignity.”
“New communication technologies make possible new modes of relationship, new social, economic and political structures, and thus new ways of understanding the human situation under God.”
“By keeping mitzvot, following the commandments – or more precisely, bringing God, the voice of the world that ought to be, into the world that is – we bring heaven down to earth.”
“Civility and civil society look like different things. One is a personal matter of manners, sensitivity, politeness, tact. The other is a social phenomenon: associations, congregations, communities of commitment. What connects them is concern for the welfare of others, a refusal to let everything be determined by politics or economics, an insistence that human beings owe one another a respect that is no coerced or paid for, but simply because they are human beings. Civility and civil society represent the power of the personal in a world of impersonal forces. They create friendships in societies where we are thrown together as strangers. They are oases of togetherness in the anonymity of urban life and the lonely crowd. They cut across conflict and competition. If we lose civility, and if civil society becomes politicized, the future of freedom is in danger.”
“Perhaps the secret of Jewish survival through 4,000 years lies in the fact that we’ve always tried to put children first.”
“Consumption is a poor candidate for salvation.”
“The Jews who came to Britain as refugees, among them my late father, became passionately British as well as Jewish. They saw no contradiction between the two; nor should we. In the secular state there is no incompatibility between religious and national identities. None the less, a sense of collective belonging does not happen without sustained and focused effort. I argued then, and believe still, that each of us has to learn to be ‘bilingual’, at home in two identities, one we share with fellow believers, the other we share with fellow citizens.”
“Because we are different we each have something unique to give – not to ourselves and our communities alone but to all of us and the life we share. This means integration without assimilation. There are, and will continue to be, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and all the other shades of the rainbow. But what we make, we make together.”
“Those who are confident in their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faith of others.”
“Nothing has proved harder in the history of civilization than to see God, or good, or human dignity in those whose language is not mine, whose skin is a different colour, whose faith is not my faith and whose truth is not my truth.”
“The faith of Israel declares the oneness of God and the plurality of man.”
“The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image ”
“Nature, and humanly constructed societies, economies and polities, are systems of ordered complexity. That is what makes them creative and unpredictable. Any attempt to impose of them an artificial uniformity in the name of a single culture or faith, represents a tragic misunderstanding of what it takes for a system to flourish. Because we are different, we each have something unique to contribute, and ever contribution counts.”
“The proposition at the heart of monotheism is not what it has traditionally been taken to be: one God, therefore one faith, one truth, one way. To the contrary, it is that unity creates diversity. The glory of the created world is its astonishing multiplicity: the thousands of different languages spoken by mankind, the hundreds of faiths, the proliferation of cultures, the sheer variety of the imaginative expressions of the human spirit, in most of which, if we listen carefully, we will hear the voice of God telling us something we need to know. That is what I mean by the dignity of difference.”
“One of the most profound religious truths Judaism ever articulated was that God loves diversity; He does not ask us to serve Him in the same way.”
“Judaism argues that despite the irreducible differences between faith and cultures, all people are the children of one God.”
“Since mankind in its diversity cannot be reduced to a single image, so God cannot be reduced to a single faith or language. God exists in difference and thus chooses as His witness a people dedicated to difference.”
“The multiplicity of faiths is not a tragedy but the gift of God, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves and yet lives in lives quite different from ours.”
“The great challenge to religions in a global age is whether, at last, they can make space for one another, recognizing God’s image in someone who is not in my image, God’s voice when it speaks in someone else’s language.”
“There is one God, and there are many faiths. That tells us that God is bigger than religion, even though we need religion to speak to God. Religions are like languages. The existence of English does not refute, replace or supersede the existence of French, Italian or Urdu. Each language preserves a unique set of sensibilities. There are things you can say in one that you cannot translate, without loss, into others. That is why we are enlarged by their multiplicity and would be impoverished if one disappeared. Nonetheless, they describe the same reality, as religions reach out to the one God. They do not, should not, threaten one another. To believe otherwise is to mistake religion for God.”
“We have great difficulty in recognising the integrity – indeed the sanctity – of those who are not in our image, whose faith and traditions and culture and language are not like ours. None the less we are told, and must struggle to see, that the wholly other, he or she who is not in our image, is yet in God’s image.”
“Faiths are like languages. There are many of them, and they are not reducible to one another. In order to express myself at all, I must acquire a mastery of my own language.. But as I venture out into the world I discover that there are other people who have different languages which I must learn if we are to communicate across borders.”
“We have to learn to speak to those we do not hope to convert, but with whom we wish to live.”
“The only adequate response to the fear and hatred of difference is to honour the dignity of difference. That is the Jewish message to the world.”
“Judaisms great contribution to humanity [has been] to show that one can be other, and still human, still a loyal and active citizen, still make contributions to every field of human endeavour, still be loved by God and held precious in his sight.”
“What makes us different is what we are; what unites us is what we do.”
“I write as one who believes in the dignity of difference. If we were all the same, we would have nothing unique to contribute, nor anything to learn from others. The more diverse we are, the richer our culture becomes, and the more expansive our horizons of possibility. But that depends on our willingness to bring our differences as gifts to the common good. It requires integration rather than segregation, and that in turn means that we must have a rich and compelling sense of the common good. Without it, we will find that difference spells discord and creates, not music, but noise. ”
“To love God is to recognize His image in a human face, especially one whose creed, colour or culture is different from ours.”
“The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognise Gods image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideals are difference from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in His.”
“The very fact that we are different means that what I lack, someone else has, and what someone else lacks, I have.”
“Our very dignity as persons is rooted in the fact that none of us – not even genetically identical twins – is exactly like any other.”
“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”
“It is in our difference that we are most Divine, and by respecting our differences we do most to bring God into the world.”
“There is nothing inevitable about Jewish identity in the diaspora, and there never was. In Israel one is Jewish by living in a Jewish state, surrounded by a Jewish culture and Jewish institutions. But elsewhere, being Jewish means going against the grain, being counter-cultural.”
“Israel does not negate the diaspora, because Judaism is a matter of holy lives as well as holy places.”
“Just as the existence of the state of Israel posed the problem of the meaning of redemption, so the persistence of the diaspora raises the problem of the meaning of exile.”
“I called one of my 1990 Reith Lectures ‘Demoralization’, and I deliberately chose that ambiguous word. There is a deep connection between ethics and the human spirit, between morality and morale. If we lose the former, the latter begins to fail.”
“The invocation of da’at torah in the sense of a uniquely and universally correct solution to questions that admit of none is untraditional and destructive of other values that are unquestionably central to Torah, not least of keneset yisrael itself. Its use could only be justified as a concession to crisis.”
“I value Jewish culture, but not because it will guarantee that Jews will have Jewish grandchildren. It will not.”
“We live at one of those moments when our consciences are wiser than our culture.”
“Crises happen when we attempt to meet the challenges of today with the concepts of yesterday.”
“As long as Adam and his wife were living in the Garden of Eden he called her ‘woman’ and blamed her for their sin. Only as they left Eden to face hardship together did he name her Eve, meaning ‘the source of life’. Far from being grounds for divorce, it is the crises the bring us together, showing us how, by sharing our vulnerabilities, we can discover strength.”
“Crimes against humanity are not crimes against humanity alone. They are crimes against God, even when – especially when - they are committed in the name of God.”
“People have killed in the name of God. But their crimes do not rival the crimes of those who have killed believing that they were gods.”
“Creativity without failure is like being lifted to the top of a mountain without the climb. It may be fun, but it is not an achievement.”
“Our ability to see and do the unexpected is the link between human creativity and freedom.”
“Where there is no loyalty, there is no friendship; where no friendship, no trust; and where no trust, no true relationship.”
“It is easier to understand the moral constraints on action when we believe that there is someone to whom we owe responsibility, that we are not owners of the planet, and that we are covenantally linked to those who will come after us.”
“Covenantal relationships – where we develop the grammar and syntax of reciprocity, where we help others and they help us without calculations of relative advantage – are where trust is born, and without them there would be no selves and no contracts.”
“Judaism is the ambitious attempt to build a society out of covenantal relationships, associations of free individuals, each respecting the integrity of the other, bound only by words, moral commitments, given, received and honoured in trust.”
“Emunah means that I take your hand and you take mine and we walk together across the unknown country called the future. It is what I call a covenantal relationship. That is our relationship with God. It is also the relationship of marriage.”
“Every child in Britain should be taught two skills: contract-making and covenant-making. Contract is about association for self-interest; conveant is about association in shared identity. Both are important life skills. Contract teaches us the logic of non-zero-sumness. Life is not a match in which you either win or lose. Creative, lateral thought can often create win-win scenarios. Covenant teaches us about relationships: love and loyalty, commitment and responsibility. Teaching children about covenant-making will help them in later life to build families and communities, based on a regard for the other as well as self. It will also help them answer one of the most difficult of life’s questions: Who and I?”
“Covenant is a binding commitment, entered into by two or more parties, to work and care for one another while respecting the freedom, integrity and difference of each. Covenant is politics without power, economics without self-interest. What difference does it make? For one thing, it gets us to think about the common good, the good of all-of-us-together.”
“Fundamentalism is the belief that timeless religious texts can be translated directly into the time-bound human situation, as if nothing significant has change. But something has changed: our capacity for destruction and the risk that conflict will harm the innocent.”
“We have not yet reflected sufficiently on how to renew our religious commitments and with them our most basic social institutions, and that in an age of transition there is a great danger of secular and religious extremisms creating conflicts for which we are ill prepared.”
“We are here, I believe, because someone wanted us to be; who created us in love; who knows our fears, hears our cries, and believes in us more than we believe in ourselves, lifting us when we fall, giving us strength when strength fails, who forgives our mistakes as long as we acknowledge that they were mistakes; who holds us in his everlasting arms and who, though others may reject us, never does. And if all that should prove untrue, then I would rather be accused of taking the risk of believing the best about existence than of having taken refuge in the safety of believing the worst.”
“The cost of emancipation was that Jews would have to undergo that most characteristic change of modernity: the privatisation of faith.”
“The sudden change in the social situation of the Jew occasioned, throughout the nineteenth century, a deep internal debate about the terms and meaning of Jewish existence in the modern world. The old certainties, set forth in the Bible and refined by almost two millennia of rabbinic Judaism, were shaken. A single century gave birth to more dissension on how to define Jewish identity than the whole of the preceding seventeen centuries combined.”
“Man was not made for the service of economies; economies were made to serve mankind; and men and women were made - so I believe - to serve one another, not just themselves. We may not survive while others drown; we may not feast while others starve; we are not free when others are in servitude; we are not well when billions languish in disease and premature death.”
“Markets depend on virtues not produced by the market, just as states depend on virtues not created by the state.”
“Unlike the battlefield, the market is an arena in which both sides can win.”
“If anything has a moral dimension, economics does.”
“The only thing that makes social or economic trends inevitable is the belief that they are”
“It is precisely those who challenge most strongly who are the great exemplars of faith”
“Faith is the call to human responsibility”
“The faith of Israel declares the oneness of God and the plurality of man.”
“Jewish faith is the supreme expression of reality as it responds to and affirms the personal.”
“For Judaism, faith is cognitive dissonance, the discord between the world that is and the world as it ought to be.”
“Faith is born not in the answer but in the question, not in harmony but in dissonance.”
“When Jews speak of life, they do so amidst memories of death. That is why, for me, faith is no simple, naïve, optimistic affirmation. It needs enormous strength, emotional and intellectual, to have faith in the human story.”
“Faith is not about optimism but about courage, the courage to face an unknown future knowing that we are not alone, that God is with us, lifting us when we fall, signalling the way.”
“Faith is the ability to face the future knowing that we are loved and, being loved, find the power to love in return. Faith is a marriage; marriage is an act of faith.”
“Faith is not certainty. It is the courage to live with uncertainty. It is not knowing all the answers.”
“Faith is the space we create for God”
“The problem of faith is not God but mankind. The central task of religion is to create an opening in the soul.”
“Faith is what redeems us from loneliness and humanizes the world.”
“Faith is about the dignity of the personal and it can never be obsolete.”
“The majesty of faith is that it teaches us to see what exists, not merely what catches our attention.”
“Faith is not a complex set of theological propositions. It is simpler and deeper than that. It is about not taking things for granted. It is a sustained discipline of meditation on the miracle of being.”
“There is such a thing as an ecology of hope, and it lies in restoring to our culture a sense of family, community and religious faith… If Judaism and the history of the Jewish people have a message for our time, it is surely this. Faith in the future changes lives and rebuilds the ruins of Jerusalem.”
“Faith is the space where God and humanity touch.”
“Faith is not measured by acts of worship alone. It exists in the relationships we create and it lies deep in our moral commitments.”
“For Judaism, the search for religious certainty through science or metaphysics is not merely fallacious but ultimately pagan. To suppose that God is scientifically provable is to identify God with what is observable, and this for Judaism is idolatry.”
“Faith is not certainty but the courage to live with and for God in the presence of uncertainty and to hear the voice of God even in the heart of the whirlwind.”
“If the unredeemed are not, at some level, objects of moral concern, possessing independent integrity and rights, then faith itself becomes morally untenable.”
“Living traditions constantly interpret their canonical texts. That is what makes fundamentalism – text without interpretation – an act of violence against tradition. In fact, fundamentalists and today’s atheists share the same approach to texts. They read them directly and literally, ignoring the single most important fact about a sacred text, namely that its meaning is not self-evident. It has a history and an authority of its own. Every religion must guard against a literal reading of its hard texts if it is not to betray God’s deeper purposes.”
“Once the family is seen as the place where the ethical enterprise begins – something the Bible conveys dramatically by making ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ the first of all the commands – then traditional sexual ethics becomes not one alternative among many in a sexually pluralistic world, but the only persuasive way of life for those who want to engage in the ethical undertaking.”
“The definition of Jews as the people-that-dwells-alone does great harm to Jewish peoplehood. Essentially it defines Jews as victims. It says that Jews are the people who, historically, have been subject to persecution, isolation and alienation…This is the wrong way to think of Jewish peoplehood. Jews are a people of faith, not fate alone. Jews are choosers, not victims; co-authors of their destiny, not swept by the winds of circumstance.”
“The Jewish people exists in all its bewildering complexity because it is both a religion and a nation, a faith and a fate. Remove either element and it will fall apart.”
“Without the covenant of faith, there is no covenant of fate. Without religion, there is no global nation.”
“Jews are a people of faith, not fate alone. Jews are choosers, not victims; co-authors of their destiny, not swept by the winds of circumstance.”
“In the transition from exodus to Sinai, from am to edah, Jewish identity itself is transformed from passive to active, from fate to faith, from a people defined by what happens to it to a people defined by the social order they are called on to create.”
“At Sinai, the Israelites were transformed from a community of fate into a community of faith, from an am to an edah, meaning a body of politic under the sovereignty of God, whose written constitution was the Torah.”
“Judaism is a supreme expression of religion as freedom, and hence of the priority of faith over fate”
“There is no faith humans can have in God equal to the faith God must have in humankind to place us here as guardians of the vastness and splendour of the universe. We exist because of God’s faith in us.”
“Having faith in God means having faith in other people, and the measure of our righteousness lies in how many people we value, not in how many we condemn.”
“Behind the ethic of responsibility is the daring idea that more than we have faith in God, God has faith in us.”
“Jewish faith is not about believing the world to be other than it is. It is not about ignoring evil, the darkness and the pain. It is about courage, endurance and the capacity to hold fast to ideals even when they are ignored by others. It is the ability to see the world for what it is and yet still believe that it could be different.”
“Creation testifies not merely to God’s power but also, as it were, to His belief in mankind. At the heart of religion is not just the faith we have in God. No less significant is the faith God has in us.”
“Faith is the defeat of probability by the power of possibility.”
“Belief in God is an assertion of human dignity in the face of humiliation, and of hope in the midst of the dark night of despair. It is a refusal to accept evil as inevitable, but at the same time an acknowledgement that we cannot leave redemption entirely to God.”
“Faith lives, breathes and has its being in the world of relationships, in the respect we pay our marriage partner, the steadfastness with which we bring up our children, and the way we extend the feeling of family to embrace neighbours and strangers in acts of hospitality and kindness.”
“Faith begins with the search for meaning, because it is the discovery of meaning that creates human freedom and dignity. Finding God’s freedom, we discover our own.”
“Our task is to be true to our faith and a blessing to others, regardless of their faith”
“It was as a faith that Jews were born as a people, and it is as a faith that Jews survive as a people. Leave faith out of the Jewish equation and what is left is a body without a soul.”
“Jews kept faith alive. Faith kept the Jewish people alive.”
“Leave faith out of the Jewish equation and what is left is a body without a soul.”
“The antidote to fear is faith, a faith that knows the dangers but never loses hope.”
“If I were to sum up what faith asks us to be, I would say: a healing presence.”
“Faith is the refusal to let go until you have turned suffering into a blessing.”
“Faith does not mean certainty. It means the courage to live with uncertainty. It does not mean having the answers, it means having the courage to ask the questions and not let go of God, as he does not let go of us. It means realising that God creates divine justice but only we, acting in accord with his word, can create human justice – and our very existence means that this is what God wants us to do.”
“In Judaism, faith is not acceptance but protest, against the world that is, in the name of the world that is not yet but ought to be. Faith lies not in the answer but the question – and the greater the human being, the more intense the question.”
“Faith isn’t certainty. It’s the courage the live and even celebrate in the very heart of uncertainty, knowing that God is with us, giving us the strength to meet any challenge that undiscovered country called tomorrow may bring.”
“Faith doesn’t mean living with certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty, knowing that God is with us on that tough but necessary journey to a world that honours life and treasures peace.”
“Faith is a form of attention. It is a sustained meditation on the miraculousness of what is, because it might not have been.”
“To have faith, as Judaism understands it, is to recognize God’s image in the weak, the powerless, the afflicted, the suffering, and then to fight for their cause.”
“The duty I owe my ancestors who died because of their faith is to build a world in which people no longer die because of their faith.”
“Jewish faith is not a metaphysical wager, a leap into the improbable. It is the courage to see the world as it is, without the comfort of myth or the self-pity of despair, knowing that the evil, cruelty and injustice it contains are neither inevitable nor meaningless but instead a call to human responsibility - a call emanating from the heart of existence itself.”
“There are other cultures, other civilizations, other peoples, other faiths. Each has contributed something unique to the total experience of mankind. Each, from its own vantage point, has been chosen. But this is ours. This is our faith, our people, our heritage.”
“Jewish faith is not about believing the world to be other than it is. It is not about ignoring the evil, the darkness and the pain. It is about courage, endurance and the capacity to hold fast to ideals even then they are ignored by others. It is the ability to see the world for what it is and yet still believe that it could be different. It is about not giving up, not letting go.”
“Faith is neither rational nor irrational. It is the courage to make a commitment to an Other, human or divine. It is the determination to turn ought into is. It is the willingness to listen to a voice not my own, and through hearing, find the strength to heal a fractured world. It is truth made real by how I live.”
“On Shabbat we live creation. Learning Torah we live revelation. Performing acts of hessed, covenantal love, we live redemption. We do not philosophize about these things, we enact them. Jewish faith is not primarily about creeds or theologies; it is not faith thought, but faith lived.”
“The key word of the twenty first century is ‘globalisation’. For most, it is the newest of the new. For Jews it is the oldest of the old. Since the Babylonian exile twenty-six centuries ago, certainly since the Roman era two thousand years ago, Jews lived at great distances from one another, yet they were connected by a thousand gossamer strands of the spirit. They were the world’s first and, until recently, its only global people.”
“It is no accident that freedom occupies a central place in the Hebrew Bible but only a tenuous place in the annals of science. The relationship of soul to body or mind to brain, is precisely analogous to the relationship of God to the physical universe. If there is only a physical universe, there is only brain, not mind, and there is only the universe, not God. The non-existence of God and the non-existence of human freedom go hand in hand.”
“Without compromising one iota of Jewish faith or identity, Jews must stand alongside their friends, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or secular humanist, in defence of freedom against the enemies of freedom, in affirmation of life against those who worship death and desecrate life.”
“The story of the Bible is the tangled tale of the consequences of God’s fateful gift of human freedom. Faith, or more precisely, faithfulness, is born where the freedom of human beings meets the freedom of God in an unconstrained act of mutual commitment.”
“The history of the past three centuries has been the story of the progressive dethronement of the idea of human freedom.”
“Freedom is lost when it is taken for granted. We have taken ours for granted for too long.”
“Freedom means more than losing your chains. It involves developing the capacity to think, feel and act for the benefit of others.”
“True freedom – cherut – is the ability to control oneself without having to be controlled by others, accepting voluntarily the moral restraints without which liberty becomes licence and society itself a battle-ground of warring instincts and desires.”
“Freedom begins with exodus but it reaches its fulfilment in the acceptance of a code of conduct, the Torah, freely offered by God, freely accepted by the people. The counting of the Omer is thus an act of retracing the steps from individual freedom to a free society.”
“When contracts displace covenants and means replace ends, we are left with freedom without meaning, which is certainly more pleasant but not necessarily more fulfilled than meaning without freedom.”
“Of all the great religions, Judaism has the strongest conception of the freedom and dignity of the individual, beginning with the principle that the human person as such is the one bearer of the image of God.”
“Freedom is the political transformation that occurs only through personal transformation.”
“The Jewish people were, from the outset, called on to live out the truth that the free God desires the free worship of free human beings, and that therefore it must construct a society whose members never take freedom for granted.”
“God, who led His people from slavery to freedom, desires the free worship of free human beings”
“Forgiveness is the only way to live with the past without being held prisoner by the past”
“Every act of forgiveness mends something broken in this fractured world. It is a step, however small, in the long, hard journey to redemption.”
“Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean abandoning the claims of justice. It does mean, however, an acknowledgement that the past is past and must not be allowed to cast its shadow over the future. Forgiveness heals moral wounds the way the body heals physical wounds.”
“God is envisaged as both judge and parent; when law and love, justice and mercy, join hands. God forgives, and in so doing, teaches us to forgive.”
“Forgiveness is, and can only be, a relationship between free persons: between the forgiven, who has shown that he or she can change, and the forgiver who has faith that the other person will change.”
“Forgiveness is, in origin, a religious virtue. There is no such thing as forgiveness in nature.”
“In a world without forgiveness, evil begets evil, harm generates harm, and there is no way short of exhaustion or forgetfulness of breaking the sequence. Forgiveness breaks the chain. It introduces into the logic of interpersonal encounter the unpredictability of grace. It represents a decision not to do what instinct and passion urge us to do. It answers hate with a refusal to hate, animosity with generosity. Few more daring ideas have ever entered the human situation. Forgiveness means that we are not destined endlessly to replay the grievances of yesterday. It is the ability to live with the past without being held captive by the past. It would not be an exaggeration to say that forgiveness is the most compelling testimony to human freedom. It is about the action that is not reaction. It is the refusal to be defined by circumstance. It represents our ability to change course, reframe the narrative of the past and create an unexpected set of possibilities for the future...In the face of tragedy, forgiveness is the counternarrative of hope. It is not a moral luxury, an option for saints. At times it is the only path through the thickets of hate to the open spaces of coexistence.”
“The fact that we have deconstructed the family – morally, psychologically, economically, politically – is the single most fateful cultural development of our times.”
“If we care about the common good, the cohesion of society and the support it gives to individuals, the family must be at the very heart of our concern.”
“Time to sit together, eat together, be in one another’s company, sharing our problems, our frustrations, our hopes, the simple things that turn a stable family, at its best, into the poetry of everyday life.”
“In truth, the whole of Jewish consciousness is tied to the strength of the family. For without an ordered family we could not envisage an ordered world.”
“Through love as the bond between parents and children we understand the love of God for mankind. Through the trust that grows in families, we discover what it is to have trust in God and His world.”
“Families are not ideal worlds. They are significant precisely because they are real worlds with people we know and trust. Working out our tensions with them, we learn how to resolve tensions with society. They are where we count, where we make a difference, where we first find that others are there for us and we must be there for them. And, yes, they have their share of pain. It is the pain of life lived in relationship. Without it we could not learn to love.”
“Families are the crucible of our humanity. They are the miniature world in which we learn how to face the wider world.”
“It is within the family that the three great ethical concerns arise: welfare, or the care of dependents; education, or the handing on of accumulated wisdom to the next generation; and ecology, or concern with the fate of the world after our own lifetime.”
“Faith, family and community are.. mutually linked. When one breaks down, the others are weakened. When families disintegrate, so too does the sense of neighbourhood and the continuity of our great religious traditions. When localities become anonymous, families lose the support of neighbours, and congregations are no longer centres of community. When religious belief begins to wane, the moral bonds of marriage and neighbourly duty lose their transcendental base and begin to shift and crumble in the high winds of change. That is precisely what has happened in our time and the loss, though subtle, is immense.”
“The family as a religious institution is what holds much of our moral world in place. It lies behind our ideas of individual dignity and freedom, or social kinship and concern, and our sense of continuity between the future and the past. Lose it and we will lose much else as well.”
“If changing the family would change the world, might not protecting the family be the best way of protecting our world?”
“The central underlying proposition of the halakhah is that it articulates, within the limits of human understanding, the will of God as set forth in the Torah.”
“Torah does not change. But in one sense, halakhah does change… Halakhah is the application of an unchanging Torah to a changing world. Halakhah changes so that the Torah should not change”
“Halakhah aims at creating an ideal society, but it must always be workable within a real society”
“The Greeks worshipped human reason, the Jews, divine revelation. The Greeks gave the West its philosophy and science. The Jews, obliquely, gave it its prophets and religious faith.”
“However dark the world, love still heals. Goodness still redeems.”
“If we were able to see how evil today leads to good tomorrow – if we were able to see from the point of view of God, creator of all – we would understand justice but at the cost of ceasing to be human.”
“The greatest gift is to be able to give, and the life we lead is measured by the good we do.”
“The good we do does live after us, and it is by far the most important thing that does”
“It is difficult to talk about the common good when we lose the ability to speak about duty, obligation and restraint, and find ourselves only with desires clamouring for satisfaction.”
“The very fact that bad things are newsworthy is the most telling evidence of the fundamental goodness of our world.”
“The God of Israel is the God of all humanity, but the religion of Israel is not, and is not intended to be, the religion of all humanity.”
“The truth at the beating heart of monotheism is that God is greater than religion; that He is only partially comprehended by any faith. He is my God, but also your God. He is on my side, but also on your side. He exists not only in my faith, but also in yours.”
“There is a difference between God and religion. God is universal, religions are particular. Religion is the translation of God into a particular language and thus into the life of a group, a nation, a community of faith. In the course of history, God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims. Only such a God is truly transcendental – greater not only than the natural universe but also than the spiritual universe articulated in any single faith, any specific language of human sensibility.”
“God is the distant voice we hear and seek to amplify in our systems of meaning, each particular to a culture, a civilisation, a faith. God is the One within the many; the unity at the core of our diversity; the call that leads us to journey beyond the self and its strivings, to enter into otherness and be enlarged by it, to seek to be a vehicle through which blessing flows outwards to the world, to give thanks for the miracle of being and the radiance that shines wherever two lives touch in affirmation, forgiveness and love.”
“I have sought God, not through philosophical proofs, scientific demonstrations or theological arguments; not through miracles or mysteries or inner voices or sudden epiphanies; not by ceasing to question or challenge or doubt; not by blind faith or existential leap; certainly not by abandonment of reason and an embrace of the irrational. These things have brought many people to God. But they have also brought many people to worship things that are not God, like power, or ideology, or race. Instead I have sought God in people – people in themselves seemed to point to something or someone beyond themselves.”
“God creates order; it is man who creates chaos.”
“Far from being timeless and immutable, God in the Hebrew Bible is active, engaged, in constant dialogue with his people, calling, urging, warning, challenging and forgiving.”
“ God is the soul of being in whose freedom we discover freedom, in whose love we discover love, and in whose forgiveness we learn to forgive.”
“Where what we want to do meets what needs to be done, that is where God wants us to be.”
“There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of God’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call. It may take a lifetime to learn how to find these things, but once we learn, we realise in retrospect that it all ever took was the ability to listen. When God calls, he does not do so by way of universal imperatives. Instead, he whispers our name – and the greatest reply, the reply of Abraham, is simply hineni: ‘Here I am’, ready to heed your call, to mend a fragment of your all-too-broken world.”
“We know God less by contemplation than by emulation. The choice is not between ‘faith’ and ‘deeds’, for it is by our deeds that we express our faith and make it real in the life of others and the world.”
“God, by giving us free will, empowered us to make mistakes. He never asked us to be perfect. All He asked was that we try our best, own up to our mistakes when we make them, and try a little harder next time. Once we believe in a forgiving God, then it doesn’t matter if other people lose faith in us. It doesn’t even matter if we lose faith in ourselves. Because somewhere someone has faith in us; and God never loses that faith.”
“God did not create the universe as a scientist in a laboratory, or as a technocrat setting in motion the big bang but rather as a parent giving birth to a child.”
“Once of the classic roles of religion has been to preserve a space – physical and metaphysical – immune to the pressures of the market. When we stand before God we do so regardless of what we earn, what we own, what we buy, what we can afford. We do so as beings of ultimate, non-transactional value, here because someone – some force at the heart of being – called us into existence and summoned us to be a blessing.”
“A God of your side as well as mind must be a God of justice who stands above us both, teaching us to make space for one another, to hear each other’s claims and to resolve them equitably. Only such a God would be truly transcendent – greater not only than the natural universe but also than the spiritual universe capable of being comprehended in any one language, any single faith. Only such a God could teach mankind to make peace other than by conquest and conversion, and as something nobler than practical necessity.”
“God no more wants all faiths and cultures to be the same than a loving parent wants his or her children to be the same.”
“God is God of all humanity, but no single faith is or should be the faith of all humanity.”
“God, the creator of humanity, having made a covenant with all humanity, then turns to one people and commands it to be different in order to teach humanity the dignity of difference. Biblical monotheism is not the idea that there is one God and therefore one truth, one faith, one way of life, On the contrary, it is the idea that unity creates diversity.”
“God is the call to human responsibility, the voice that we hear only if we first learn how to listen, the voice that summons us to act.”
“No other religion has shared the idea of a single God with many names, who has set His image on each of us, but with whom we can talk, each faith in its own language, each in its own way.”
“[God] chose the powerless to teach that He is not to be found in power, and people who neither shared the faith of others nor imposed their faith on others to teach that there is not one way to His presence, but many.”
“The Hebrew Bible speaks of a God who not only loves, but who loves precisely those who are otherwise unloved – the younger rather than the elder; the weak, not the strong, the few, not the many.”
“The God to whom we speak in prayer is not the ultimate power but the ultimate person, the Other in whom I find myself.”
“The greatest discovery of the Hebrew Bible was not monotheism, the idea that there is only one God, but the idea that God is personal, that at the core of reality is something that responds to our existence as persons. The assertion of Jewish faith, deeply human in its implications, is that God is the objective reality of personhood.”
“God is the creator of the natural world, but He has left space for man to become the creator of the social world.”
“God is found less in nature than in human society, in the structures we make to honour His presence by honouring His image in other human beings.”
“God is to be found in words, that these words to be found in the Torah, and that they form the basis of the covenant – the bond of love- between God and the Jewish people.”
“The greatest kindness God ever does for us is that He never lets us know in advance what we’re letting ourselves in for.”
“God is the music of all that lives, but there are times when all we hear is noise. The true religious challenge is to ignore the noise and focus on the music.”
“God is reality with a human face, the mirror without which we cannot see ourselves.”
“In finding God, our ancestors found themselves. Discovering God, singular and alone, they found the human person, singular and alone.”
“God often chooses circuitous routes but it helps to know that where we are, now, is where we need to be.”
“Once in a while God lets us see the script.”
“God has given us many universes of faith but only one world in which to live together.”
“Whether it was because of Judaism’s strong sense of God’s transcendence or our long experience of exile, Jews found God in the when rather than the where.”
“God is to be found less in the ‘I’ than in the ‘We’, in the relationships we make, the institutions we fashion, the duties we share, and the moral lives we lead.”
“Together with a separation of man from God and the world goes an estrangement of man from himself.”
“Humour is first cousin to hope.”
“Despair is not a Jewish emotion. Od lo avda tikvatenu: our hope, we say, has never been destroyed. For there is a Jewish way of telling the story of our situation… What happens is not chance but a chapter in the complex script of the covenant which leads, mysteriously but assuredly, to our redemption. Crisis in Jewish history has always led to renewal, not despair. So it must be now.”
“God lives wherever we open our eyes to his radiance, our hearts to his transforming love.”
“Creating the universe, God made a home for human beings. Making the sanctuary, human beings made a home for God.”
“God lives in the room we make for him in the human heart”
“More than the Bible is interested in the home God made for man, it is concerned with the home man makes for God”
“The greatest challenge as Judaism has seen it is not to ascend from earth to heaven through the journey of the soul, but to bring the Divine presence from heaven to earth and share it with others.”
“It is easy for an infinite creator to make a home for humanity. It is hard for us to make a home for God. That is why making the sanctuary takes up so much more space in the narrative than the birth of the universe.”
“In the beginning God created the world as a home for humanity. Since then He has challenged humanity to create a world that will be a home for Him. God lives wherever we treat one another as beings in His image.”
“In the beginning, God created the world. Thereafter He entrusted us to create a human world which will be, in the structures of our common life, a home for the Divine presence. That command still addresses us with its momentous challenge, the persisting call of faith.”
“If you were to ask what our response to the Holocaust should be, I would say this: Marry and have children, bring new Jewish life into the world, build schools, make communities, have faith in God who had faith in man and make sure that His voice is heard wherever evil threatens. Pursue justice, defend the defenceless, have the courage to be different and fight for the dignity of difference. Recognize the image of God in others, and defeat hate with love. Twice a year, on Yom ha-Shoah and the Ninth of Av, sit and mourn for those who died and remember them in your prayer. But most of all, continue to live as Jews.”
“Precisely because the Final Solution was addressed to the biological, not the theological, community of Jews, it reinforced the traditional understanding of keneset yisrael as a community of birth, not faith alone. If the covenant of hate did not distinguish between religious and secular Jews, believers and heretics, neither can its only possible redemption, the covenant of love.”
“The Holocaust raised in its most acute form the question of the interpretation of suffering. But the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 raised the no less intractable question of the interpretation of redemption.”
“Rather than engaging in theological reflection on the Holocaust, the survivors of the Chassidic and yeshiva communities of Eastern Europe concentrated on having children to replace a lost generation and rebuilding their shattered townships and institutions in Israel and America, as if to say that death is redeemed only in new life.”
“The attempt to eliminate the people of God was an attempt to eradicate the presence of God from the human situation. The fact that after Auschwitz the Jewish people still lives and can still affirm its faith is the most powerful testimony that God still lives.”
“If Jews were condemned to die together, shall we not struggle to find a way to live together?”
“We have not yet learned how to integrate the holocaust into Jewish consciousness as we once integrated the exodus or the destruction of the Temples. The reason is clear. The holocaust does not point anywhere but everywhere.”
“To live and bear witness to their suffering, to live and give meaning to their suffering is a command by which all post-holocaust Jews stand bound.”
“To be a Jew is to know that over and above history is the task of memory.”
“There is a profound difference between history and memory. History is his story – an event that happened sometime else to someone else. Memory is my story – something that happened to me and is part of who I am. History is information. Memory, by contrast, is part of identity. I can study the history of other peoples, cultures and civilizations. They deepen my knowledge and broaden my horizons. But they do not make a claim on me. They are the past as part. Memory is the past as present, as it lives on in me. Without memory there can be no identity.”
“To build a society of freedom, you have to let go of hate.”
“We must answer hatred with love, violence with peace, resentment with generosity of spirit and conflict with reconciliation.”
“More than hate destroys the hated, it destroys the hater.”
“Happiness is not far away. It is here, but first we have to know how to look.”
“Happiness is not made by what we own. It is what we share.”
“You can see religion as a battle, a holy war, in which you win a victory for your faith by force or fear. Or you can see it as a candle you light to drive away some of the darkness of the world. The difference is that the first sees other religions as the enemy. The second sees them as other candles, not threatening mine, but adding to the light we share. What Jews remembered from that victory over the Greeks twenty-two centuries ago was not a God of war but the God of light. And it’s only the God of light who can defeat the darkness in the human soul.”
“Hanukkah is about the freedom to be true to what we believe without denying the freedom of those who believe otherwise. It’s about lighting our candle, while not being threatened by or threatening anyone else’s candle.”
“Halakhah was inclusive as Judaism itself was inclusive”
“Sa’adia Gaon.. stated that only halakhah, Jewish law, joined Jews together into a people. What then becomes of peoplehood once the majority of Jews worldwide – some 80 per cent… no longer see themselves as bound by halakhah?”
“The inclusivist faith is that Jews, divided by where they stand, are united by what they are travelling towards, the destination which alone gives meaning to Jewish history: the promised union of Torah, the Jewish people, the land of Israel, and God.”
“Pluralism conceives Jewish unity in terms of modern consciousness. Inclusivism conceives it in terms of traditional consciousness. The two.. collide at the most fundamental conceptual level.”
“Orthodoxy is the decision to continue to understand tradition in the traditional way, as objective truth and external authority. Pluralism arises when a movement initially conceived in opposition to a tradition seeks to reaffirm its links with that tradition within the framework of a non-traditional consciousness.”
“The difference between Jewish inclusivism and pluralism.. is this. Inclusivism asserts that there is an authoritative set of beliefs that constitute Jewish faith. It involves, among other things, belief in the divine revelation of the Torah and the authority of rabbinic tradition, interpretation, and law…Inclusivism preserves Orthodoxy while not excluding the non-Orthodox from the covenantal community. A Jewish pluralist, on the other hand, would argue that liberal, Reform, Conservative, and secular Judaisms are equally legitimate ways of understanding the Jewish destiny. None is an error.”
“The search for God is the search for meaning. The discovery of God is the discovery of meaning. And that is no small thing, for we are meaning-seeking animals. It is what makes us unique. To be human is to ask the question, ‘Why?’”
“We may be dust of the earth, the debris of exploded stars, a concatenation of blindly self-replicating genes, but within us is the breath of God.”
“In striving to listed to the more-than-human, human beings learned what it is to be human, for in discovering God, singular and alone, they eventually learned to respect the dignity and sanctity of the human person, singular and alone.”
“ We remain fallible people, all too often falling short of what we are called on to become. Yet those who followed Abraham’s call gave rise to moments of graciousness that lifted our small and insignificant species to great heights or moral, spiritual and aesthetic beauty.”
“We have conquered every distance except one – the distance between human beings”
“God in making humanity conferred on us the right and duty to see things from a human point of view.. Making us human, not divine, God calls on us to judge and act within the terms of our humanity.”
“If only we remembered that, yes, God is on our side, but He is also on the other side, we might stand a chance of realizing that, under the eye of heaven we are all on the same side, the side of humanity.”
“We learn to love humanity by loving specific human beings.”
“We are not insignificant, nor are we alone. We are here because someone willed us into being, who wanted us to be, who knows our innermost thoughts, who values us in our uniqueness, whose breath we breathe and in whose arms we rest; someone in and through whom we are connected to all that is.”
“Behind us lies a bloodstained history of inquisitions, crusades and jihads. But beyond that lies Genesis’ momentous disclosure that every human being – the unredeemed, the infidel, the other – is still the image of God.”
“Just as the natural environment depends of biodiversity, so the human environment depends on cultural diversity, because no one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth; no one civilization encompasses all the spiritual, ethical and artistic expressions of mankind.”
“There have been protests.. against the erosion of the natural environment.. but there has been no equivalent protest at the erosion of our human environment, the world of relationships into which we bring our children. How, I have often asked, can we devote our energies to saving planet earth for the sake of future generations while neglecting our own children who are our future generations?”
“There is no greater defence of human dignity than the phrase from the first chapter of the Bible that dared to call the human being ‘the image of God’.”
“The Bible radicalizes the human spirit with its vision of human dignity.”
“In creating humanity, God empowers humanity. He grants dignity – radical, ontological dignity – to the fact that human beings are not gods. Infinity confers a blessing on finitude by recognizing that it is finite, and love it because it is. God not only speaks, he also listens, and in listening gives humankind a voice – Abraham’s voice.”
“More than wealth and power, education is the key to human dignity.”
“The ironic yet utterly humane lesson of history is that what renders a culture invulnerable is the compassion it shows to the vulnerable. The ultimate value we should be concerned to maximize is human dignity – the dignity of all human being, equally, as children of the creative, redeeming God.”
“Hope is not costless in the way that optimism is. It carries with it a considerable price. Those who hope refuse to be comforted while the hoped-for outcome is not yet reached. Given their history of suffering, Jews were rarely optimists. But they never gave up hope. That is why, when the prophets saw evil in the world, they refused to be comforted.”
“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The Hebrew Bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope.”
“The deepest difference between linear and covenantal time is that whereas the first gives rise to optimism, the latter leads to hope. These two concepts, often confused, are in fact utterly different. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage – only a certain naivety – to be an optimist. It takes courage to sustain hope. No Jew – knowing what we do of the past, of hatred, bloodshed, persecution in the name of God, suppression of human rights in the name of freedom – can be an optimist. But Jews have never given up hope.”
“One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Knowing what we do of our past, no Jew can be an optimist. But Jews have never – despite a history of sometimes awesome suffering – given up hope”
“Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”
“The Jewish way is to rescue hope from tragedy. However dark the world, love still heals. Goodness still redeems. Terror, by defeating others, ultimately defeats itself, while the memory of those who offered kindness to strangers lives on.”
“Hope is ultimately a religious emotion. It is born in the conviction that we are more than a bling concatenation of ‘selfish genes’. That may be one way of describing what we are, but it is not all we are, and to believe otherwise is to be deaf to the music of life itself.”
“Far from being simple or naïve, hope demands, creates and is the expression of indomitable moral courage.”
“History does not give rise to hope; hope gives rise to history.”
“Hope is the narrow bridge across which we must walk if we are to pass from slavery to redemption, from the valley of death to the open spaces of new life.”
“Hope is the ability to combine aspiration with patience; to be undeterred by setbacks and delays; to have a sense of the time it takes to effect change in the human heart; never to forget the destination even in the midst of exile and disaster.”
“Intellectual honesty is a precondition for the religious life”
“If you want to know the strength of the Jewish people, ask them to give, and then count the contribution. To win the Jewish battle, the battle of the spirit, the victory of heart, mind and soul, you do not need numbers. You need dedication, commitment, study, prayer, vision, courage, ideals and hope. You need to offer people tough challenges through which to grow.”
“Numerically, Jewry is small, but in terms of its contributions to civilisation, it is vast.”
“The Torah contains a remarkable perspective on demography. In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses: ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them.’ In other words, it is hazardous to count Jews… At most times in our history we have been a tiny people… Nevertheless, Jews did more than survive. Throughout history we have been at the epicentre of world history… The Judaic heritage shaped and continues to shape Western civilisation… Why then is it hazardous to count Jews? Because when we take a census we are basing out strength on numbers. Jewish strength has never lain in numbers. When we count Jews there is a serious danger that we will be demoralised, realising that we are so few. When a people depends – as the Jewish people depends – on its spirit and sense of pride, demoralisation can be nothing short of catastrophic. It can lead to despair, and from despair to defeat.”
“To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope. Every ritual, every command, every syllable of the Jewish story is a protest against escapism, resignation and the blind acceptance of fate. Judaism, the religion of the free God, is a religion of freedom. Jewish faith is written in the future tense. It is belief in a future that is not yet but could be, if we heed Gods call, obey His will and act together as a covenantal community. The name of the Jewish future is hope.”
“To be a Jew is to join the journey of our people, the story of Pesach and the long walk across centuries and continents from exile to homecoming.”
“To be a Jew is to hear a voice from the past, summoning us to an often tempestuous and never less than demanding future, and knowing inescapably that this is the narrative of which I am a part.”
“To be a Jew is to know that one cannot be indifferent when one’s people are suffering.”
“To be a Jew is to be part of a history touched, in a mysterious yet unmistakable way, by the hand of Providence.”
“Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism, and they are embarrassed by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism”
“What is wrong in Jewish life today is that we have forgotten Zis gut zu zein a Yid, It’s good to be a Jew”
“To be a Jew is to see nothing as merely natural, not even the process of bringing a new generation into the world.”
“To be a Jew is to argue with heaven for the sake of heaven.”
“To be a Jew is to have the courage to refuse easy answers and to reject either consolation or despair. God exists; therefore life has a purpose. Evil exists; therefore we have not yet achieved that purpose. Until then we must travel, just as Abraham and Sarah travelled, to begin the task of shaping a different kind of world.”
“I am a Jew because, knowing the story of my people, I hear their call to write the next chapter. I did not come from nowhere; I have a past, and if any past commands anyone this past commands me. I am a Jew because only if I remain a Jew will the story of a hundred generations live on in me. I continue their journey because, having come this far, I may not let it and them fail. I cannot be the missing letter in the scroll.”
“To be a Jew, now as in the days of Moses, is to hear the call of those who came before us and know that we are the guardians of their story.”
“If to live is to love life, then to be a Jew is to love Jewish life”
“When Jews ask the question Why be Jewish? we know that we are in the presence of a major crisis in Jewish life”
“To be a Jew [is to] inherit a faith from those who came before us, to live it and to hand it on to those who will come after us. To be a Jew is to be a link in the chains of the generations.”
“To be a Jew is to be a member of the people of the covenant, an heir to one of the world’s most ancient, enduring and awe-inspiring faiths. It is to inherit a way of life which has earned the admiration of the world for its love of family, its devotion to education, its philanthropy, its social justice and its infinitely loyal dedication to a unique destiny. It is to know that this way of life, passed on from parents to children since the days of Abraham and Sarah, can only be sustained through the Jewish family; and knowing this, it is to choose to continue it by creating a Jewish home and having Jewish children.”
“If we are Jews it is because our ancestors were Jews and because they braved much and sacrificed more to ensure that their children would be Jews. Can we do less?”
“As individuals, there is nothing remarkable about Jews. There have been many theories, Jewish and non-Jewish, which attribute to us an innate genius, a racial gift, a genetic endowment, a mystic difference. None is convincing. Removed from our traditions, our past, our way of life and our community, within three generations or less we merge into the wider landscape and become invisible. Individually we are ordinary. Collectively we become something else… though we might not be born great or achieve greatness, our history thrusts greatness upon us. We are more than individuals. We are part of a collective history and destiny, perhaps the strangest and most miraculous the world has ever known. That is our inheritance, and the most important thing we can do is to hand it on to our children.”
“The word ‘Jew’ testifies to conflict. Before there were Jews, there was Israel, the people chosen by God to be the bearer of his covenant. After the death of Solomon the people split in two, into a northern kingdom of ten tribes called Israel, and a southern kingdom called Judah, though it comprised the tribe of Benjamin as well. In the eighth century BCE the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and its population deported. Rapidly they merged with the surrounding peoples, losing their language, their distinctive faith, and their identity. They assimilated and disappeared from the pages of history, to be remembered as the lost ten tribes. Those who remained were yehudim, Judeans, or, as the word gradually evolved from Greek to Latin to English, Jews. The history of the world takes us inexorably back to the first great division in Israel’s memory. It was not the last.”
“Until Israelis and Palestinians are able to listen to one another, hear each other’s anguish and anger and make cognitive space for one another’s hopes, there is no way forward.”
“In Israel, Jewish life is a community of fate. There Jews, from the most secular to the most pious, suffer equally from war and terror, and benefit equally from prosperity and peace. Judaism, in Israel, is a presence you breathe, not just a religion you practise. In Israel as nowhere else, Jewishness is part of the public domain, in the language, the landscape, the calendar. There you can stand amid the ruins and relics of towns that were living communities in the time of the Bible and feel the full, astonishing sweep of time across which the Jewish people wrestled with its fate as Jacob once wrestled with the angel. And there you become conscious, in the faces you see and the accents you hear, of the astonishing diversity of Jews from every country and culture, brought together in the great ingathering as once, in Ezekiel’s vision, the dismembered fragments of a broken people joined together and came to life again. That is why, for Diaspora Jews, spending time in Israel is an essential and transformative experience of Jewish peoplehood and why Birthright, the American programme aimed at sending all young Jews to Israel, is so successful. At the same time, it is equally important that young Israelis spend time in the Jewish communities of the Diaspora. There they discover what it is to live Judaism as a covenant of faith, something many of them have never fully experienced before.”
“Israel is the only place in the world where Jews can create a society, and that is a religious task even though Israel is a secular state.”
“The very existence of Israel is as near to a miracle as we will find in the sober pages of empirical history.”
“The day will come, when the story of Israel in modern times will speak not just to Jews, but to all who believe in the power of the human spirit as it reaches out to God, as an everlasting symbol of the victory of life over death, hope over despair. Israel has achieved great things.It has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It’s taken an ancient language, the Hebrew of the Bible, and made it speak again. It’s taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. Israel has taken a tattered, shattered nation and made it live again. Israel is the country whose national anthem, Hatikva, means hope. Israel is the home of hope.”
“At the heart of Jewish faith is Jerusalem, the holy city whose name is peace. Has a people ever loved a city so deeply for so long? Almost every prayer in the Jewish prayer book includes a prayer for Jerusalem. The word itself figures more than 900 times in the Bible. Jerusalem, David’s city, the place where the Temple stood, home of the Divine presence, the place where, still today, you can feel God’s closeness as nowhere else. And though all that remains of the Temple is one wall, still to stand and pray in that spot is to feel the presence of three thousand years of Jewish prayers and tears and hopes.”
“How do you live with the constant threat of violence and war? That takes faith. Israel is the people that has always been sustained by faith, faith in God, in the future, in life itself. And though Israel is a secular state, its very existence is testimony to faith: the faith of a hundred generations that Jews would return; the faith that led the pioneers to rebuild a land against seemingly impossible odds; the faith that after the Holocaust the Jewish people could live again; the faith that, in the face of death, continues to say: choose life.”
“Though Israel has had to fight many wars, from the very beginning it sought peace. The Hebrew language has two words for strength: koach and gevurah. Koach is the strength you need to win a war. Gevurah is the courage you need to make peace. Israel has shown both kinds of strength. But peace is a duet not a solo. It cannot be made by one side alone. If it could, it would have been made long ago.”
“When Jews began to rebuild their home in Israel, they had to do things they hadn’t done for centuries. They had to cultivate land that had never been cultivated before, from the rocky hills of the Galil to the desert wastes of the Negev. On barren lands they made farms, in desolate landscapes they built villages. They had to integrate wave after wave of olim, new arrivals from across the globe. They had to build a society and create the political and economic infrastructure of a nation. And in some ways the most remarkable of all: they made the decision to revive Hebrew, the language of the Bible, and turn it, after more than two thousand years, into a living tongue again. ”
“Jews never relinquished the dream of return. Wherever they were, they prayed about Israel and facing Israel. The Jewish people was the circumference of a circle at whose centre was the holy land and Jerusalem the holy city. For centuries they lived suspended between memory and hope, sustained by the promise that one day God would bring them back.”
“It is difficult to reflect deeply on the rebirth of Israel without sensing the touch of heaven in the minds of men and women, leading them to play their parts in a drama so much greater than any individual could have executed, even conceived.”
“Israel’s centrality in current Jewish self-definition rests precisely on its conceptual ambiguity and on a tacit agreement, pragmatically justified, not to push clarification too far.”
“Statehood has changed the context but not the substance of the religious struggle, namely preserving fidelity to Torah in an age of non-belief.”
“The State of Israel has in itself transformed the terms of Jewish life and brought to the forefront a serious of theological questions that had laid dormant or disattended since the end of the biblical period.”
“For Jewish peoplehood to be a concept that embraces a continuity of Jewish life, past, present and future, there must be an asymmetry between Israel and the diaspora: the asymmetry between a permanent home and a temporary dwelling. That Jews have spent the vast majority of their history away from home and that most Jews today do not live there neither compromises nor contradicts the fact that Jewish life is a life lived toward Israel. A pluralism of ‘centres’ of Jewish life is as unavailable as a pluralism of ‘truths’ of Jewish faith”
“Israel has made all Jews, both its own and those of the diaspora, feel more at home in the world. At the same time, under the impact of Israel’s political isolation, it has served to emphasise the ‘not-at-homeness’ of the Jew”
“Whatever is the condition of Jews today, it is not what was expected. One example: In the early summer of this year, twenty thousand Jews gathered in Madison Square Garden to celebrate the completion of a seven year cycle of Talmud study. Not obviously an epoch-making even, until we recall that little over a century earlier, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of his day, Leopold Zunz, had predicted that by the twentieth century there would be no one left to understand a rabbinic text… The trajectory mapped out by Judaism in the late twentieth century has run counter to prediction.”
“The paradox of Jewish modernity, then, is that Jewish religious life is organized into structures into which tradition does not fit.”
“If Jews distrust the world, they will not seek to understand it and learn how to make their case and win allies in the world. They will see antisemitism where other factors are at work. They will lend Jewish identity a negativity that will encourage many young Jews to leave rather than stay. They will fall into the trap of moral solipism, of talking to themselves in terms only intelligible to themselves. The phrase a people that dwells alone will become a self-fulfilling prophecy that will not augur well for the future of Jews, Judaism or Israel.”
“Jewishness is not an ethnicity but a living lexicon of ethnicities.”
“At some stage Jews stopped defining themselves by the reflection they saw in the eyes of God and started defining themselves by the reflection they saw in the eyes of their Gentile neighbours.”
“When it was hard to be a Jew, people stayed Jewish. When it became easy to be a Jew, people stopped being Jewish.”
“Pesach is the festival of Jewish identity. It is the night on which we tell our children who they are.”
“Jews were commanded to become the people who never forget. And they never did.”
“The history of my family is where my identity begins”
“Jewish identity …is not only a faith, but a fate. It is not an identity we assume, but one into which we are born.”
“If Jewish survival is problematic, it is because Jewish identity itself is problematic”
“Jews have survived catastrophe after catastrophe, in a way unparalleled by any other culture. In each case they did more than survive. Every tragedy in Jewish history was followed by a new wave of creativity.”
“No Jew who knows Jewish history can be an optimist.”
“Jewish history begins in miracles, but culminates in human responsibility. What changes us is not what is done for us by God, but what we do in response to his call.”
“History, for Torah, is neither random nor predetermined. It is not meaningless but it is not prescripted either. It is the story of the relationship between God and Abraham’s extended family. Its categories are those of fidelity and faithlessness, exile and return, attempted flight and perpetual reminders that the covenant, once undertaken, cannot be rescinded.”
“The invention of the alphabet was the birth of the possibility of universal literacy and the beginning of the end of hierarchical societies.”
“Why, generally, have faith schools become so popular in a profoundly secular society? One can only speculate. But the following might reflect the thoughts of many traditionally minded parents. The wider society is no longer congruent with our values. We do not want our children taught by fashionable methods that leave them bereft of knowledge and skills. We do not want them to have self-esteem at the cost of self-respect, won by hard work and genuine achievement. We do not want them to be taught that every difference of behaviour reflects an equally valid lifestyle. We do not want them to be moral relativists, tourists in all cultures, at home in none. We do not want to take the risk of our children taking drugs or alcohol or becoming sexually promiscuous, still less becoming teenage mothers (or fathers). Many parents do not want there to be a massive gap between their children’s values and their own. They do not want moral values undermined by a secular, sceptical, cynical culture. Nor do they believe that the countervailing influences of place of worship, supplementary schooling and home will be enough. For the values of the wider secular culture are not confined to school. They are present in the every-more-intrusive media of television, the internet, YouTube, MySpace, and the icons of popular culture.”
“Teachers open our eyes to the world. They give us curiosity and confidence. They teach us to ask questions. They connect us to our past and future. They’re the guardians of our social heritage. We have lots of heroes today – sportsmen, supermodels, media personalities. They come, they have their fifteen minutes of fame, and they go. But the influence of good teachers stays with us. They are the people who really shape our life.”
“Long ago the Jewish people came to the conclusion that to defend a country you need an army. But to defend a civilization you need schools. The single most important social institution is the place where we hand on our values to the next generation – where we tell our children where we’ve come from, what ideals we fought for, and what we learned on the way. Schools are where we make children our partners in the long and open-ended task of making a more gracious world.”
“To defend a country, you need an army. But to defend humanity, you need education.”
“To defend a land you need an army, but to defend freedom you need education. You need parents, families and homes and a constant conversation between the generations. Above all you need memory – the kind of memory that never forgets the bread of affliction and the bitter herbs of slavery.”
“Jewry is one of the paradigm cases of a group that predicated the idea of a society of equal human dignity not on the distribution of wealth or power but on access to education; and it worked.”
“Throughout the centuries, when the cast majority of Europe was illiterate, Jews maintained an educational infrastructure as their highest priority. It is no exaggeration to say that this lay at the heart of the Jewish ability to survive catastrophe, negotiate change and flourish in difficult circumstances.”
“Education – the ability not merely to read and write but to master and apply information and have open access to knowledge – is essential to human dignity. I have suggested that it is the basis of a free society. Because knowledge is power, equal access to knowledge is a precondition of equal access to power.”
“Education is the single greatest key to human dignity.”
“To defend a country, you need an army. But to defend an identity, you need a school. Judaism is the religion of the book, not the sword.”
“A free society - that precarious balance between the conflicting principles of liberty and order - exists not through the rule of law alone, but through a system of education that allows every individual to internalize the law and thus become its master, not its slave.”
“One of the most stunning gestures of Judaism was to overturn the whole idea of a hierarchy of knowledge, for if there are inequalities of learning, they will be replicated through all other social structures, giving some people unwarranted power over others. This is the great insight of the Jewish vision, from which all else followed: A free society must be an educated society, and a society of equal dignity must be one in which education is universal.”
“To defend a land, you need an army. But to defend freedom, you need education. You need families and schools to ensure that your ideals are passed on to the next generation and never lost, or despaired of, or obscured. The citadels of liberty are houses of study. Its heroes are teachers, its passion is education and the life of the mind. Moses realized that a people achieves immortality not by building temples or mausoleums, but by engraving their values on the hearts of their children, and they on theirs, and so on until the end of time.”
“About a year ago I received an invitation to lunch with the Prime Minister.. At the same time I received an invitation to take part in the opening ceremony of a new Jewish school in London. Both events were on the same day, at roughly the same time. I could not attend both. Which took precedence?... Governments sustain society, but education sustains the world. On that occasion I regretfully declined the Prime Minister’s invitation and opened the school.”
“The fate of the Jews in the diaspora was, is and predictably will be, determined by their commitment to Jewish education.”
“A generation of young Jews, those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, has been liberally exposed to literature, films and lectures about the Holocaust, and it is this generation which is choosing to marry out of Judaism at the rate of one in two. The reason is not hard to find. As one Holocaust historian, disturbed by the obsessive interest in the Shoah, put it: our children will learn about the Greeks and how they lived, the Romans and how they lived, and the Jews and how they died. Unlike traditional Jewish education, Holocaust education in itself offers no meaning, no hope, no way of life.”
“The paradox is that Judaism traditionally had no place for the concept of a denomination. Orthodoxy maintains that belief. The result is that liberal Judaisms and Orthodoxy are condemned to systematic mutual misunderstanding, a situation that leads to division without providing any shared language through which division might be transcended. Ideologically, Judaism recognizes neither denominations not sects. Sociologically, it is currently organized into just those forms. Ideologically, Judaism is inclusive of all Jews. Sociologically, exclusivist attitudes prevail in just those sectors of Orthodoxy that most strive to maintain continuity with the past.”
“Within Judaism.. Orthodoxy, Conservatism, Reform, and Reconstructionism are regularly portrayed as the four Jewish denominations. Those who think in these terms see such a description as just that: neutrally descriptive. But it contains a momentous hidden premise. It imports pluralism into Judaism. And this itself is an accommodation to secularization. Orthodoxy does not, and cannot, make this accommodation. It recognizes pluralism along many axes. It recognizes at least some other faiths as valid religious options for non-Jews. It recognizes, within Judaism itself, different halakhic traditions: Ashkenazi and Sephardi, for example, or Hasidic or Mitnagdic. Beyond halakhah, it legitimates a vast variety of religious approaches: rationalist and mystical, intellectual and emotional, nationalist and universalist, pietist and pragmatic. But it does not recognize the legitimacy of interpretations of Judaism that abandon fundamental beliefs or halakhic authority. It does not validate, in the modern sense, a plurality of denominations. It does not see itself as one version of Judaism among others.”
“A situation can arise in which Orthodoxy, Reform, Israel and the diaspora can each claim, within their own terms of reference, that the Jewish future is bright and that they are its inheritors. Each can argue that the others are insecure and under threat. These four ways of interpreting the present are radically incompatible with one another. But they reinforce the reluctance of each to come to terms with the existence of the others”
“The problem that threatens to render all contemporary Jewish thought systematically divisive is not the absence, but paradoxically, the presence, of a shared language. Jews use the same words but mean profoundly different things by them... Jews are, to use Bernard Shaw’s phrase, divided by a common language.”
“Jewish unity is a cause that is not advanced by the advocacy of one point of view over another. It demands the difficult but not impossible exercise of thinking non-adjectivally as a Jew: not as a member of this or that group, but as a member of an indivisible people.”
“If unity is to be a value it cannot be one that is sustained by the hostility of others alone.”
“Recent history – the Holocaust, and the sense of involvement that most Jewish throughout the world feel in the fate of Israel – has convinced us that the Jewish destiny is indivisible. We are implicated in the fate of one another. That is the substantive content of our current sense of unity. But it is a unity imposed, as it were, from outside. Neither anti-Semitism nor anti-Zionism, we believe, makes distinctions between Jews. Hence our collective vigilance, activity, and concern. But from within, in terms of its own self-understanding, the Jewish people evinces no answering solidarity. External crisis unites Jews; internal belief divides.”
“Jewish unity exists as an idea. Why then should it not exist as a fact?”
“I do not believe Jews have a monopoly of wisdom. Yet I was born a Jew, and I cannot betray the hundred generations of my ancestors who lived as Jews and were prepared to die as Jews, who handed their values on to their children, and they to theirs, so that one day their descendants might be free to live their faith without fear, and be a source of inspiration to others, not because Jews are any better than anyone else, but because that is our story, our heritage, our task, to be a source of hope against a world of despair.”
“The single most important challenge facing the Jewish people, in Israel and the Diaspora, is to recover the Jewish story.”
“Judaism is the truth that can only be told as a story, the truth that unfolds in the course of history, as part of the experience of a people who undertake a long journey, extended over many generations and continued by the act of passing on their memories and hopes to their children so that they never forget where they came from and where they are going.”
“Jewish spirituality, at least since rabbinic times, finds its most significant context at the level neither of the individual nor the state, but in a series of settings midway between them, namely, the family, the bet ha-midrash and bet ha-knesset – the fellowships of learning and praying – and the kehillah, the community.”
“The Jewish task remains to be the voice of hope in an age of fear, the countervoice in the conversation of humankind.”
“The only people capable of threatening the future of the Jewish people are the Jewish people.”
“Believing themselves to be alone, Jews will find themselves alone.”
“One of the advantages of being a people with four thousand years of history is that, wherever Jews find themselves, they have been here before.”
“The Jewish people are ancient but still young; a suffering people still suffused with moral energy; a people who have known the worst fate can throw at them, and can still rejoice. They remain a living symbol of hope.”
“Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere, need to recover a sense of purpose. Until you know where you want to be, you will not know where to go.”
“Jews need to recover faith – not simple faith, not naïve optimism, but faith that they are not alone in the world.”
“The people of the Bible were the first to conceive of the possibility of a society of universal literacy and equal dignity.”
“World Jewry is small, painfully so. But the invisible strands of mutual responsibility mean that even the smallest Jewish community can turn to the Jewish people worldwide for help and achieve things that would be exceptional for a nation many times its size.”
“To be a Jew is to be part of the ongoing dialogue between earth and heaven that has persisted for two thirds of the recorded history of civilization and whose theme is as urgent now as at any time in the past: to build a society that honours the human person in our differences and commonalities, our singularity and interdependence.”
“For as long as Jews are Jews, they contribute something unique to the intellectual, spiritual and moral life of society. So that if Jews are no longer Jews there is a missing voice, an empty place, in the conversation of mankind.”
“The Jewish people live, and still bear witness to the living God.”
“The Jewish people in its very being constitutes a living protest against a world of hatred, violence and war.”
“No nation has dedicated itself more thoroughly than have the Jews to the proposition that ideas have power, that human freedom consists of our ability to see the world differently and thus begin to transform it.”
“The relationship between God and Israel was sometimes tempestuous, often strained, but never broken. The Jewish people would be the bearers of God’s presence in a sometimes godless, often unjust and violent world. In eras that worshipped the collective – the nation, the state, the empire – they spoke about the dignity and sanctity of the individual. In cultures that celebrated the right of the individual to do his or her own thing, they spoke of law and duty and mutual responsibility.”
“Jews were always a tiny people, yet our ancestors survived by believing that eternity is found in the simple lives of ordinary human beings. They found God in homes, families and relationships. They worshipped God in synagogues, the first places ever to become holy because of the mere fact that people fathered there to pray. They discovered God in the human heart and in our capacity to make the world different by what we do. They encountered God, not in the wind or the thunder or the earthquake, but in words, the words of Torah, the marriage contract between God and the people He took as His own. They studied those words endlessly and tried to put them into practice. They brought heaven down to earth, because they believed that God lives wherever we dedicate our lives to Him.”
“Every Jew is a letter. Each Jewish family is a word, every community a sentence, and the Jewish people at any one time are a paragraph. The Jewish people through time constitute a story, the strangest and most moving story in the annals of mankind.”
“It was then [in 1967,] that I knew that being Jewish was not something private and personal but something collective and historical. It meant being part of an extended family, many of whose members I did not know, but to whom I nonetheless felt connected by bonds of kinship and responsibility.”
“Jews did more than survive under seemingly impossible circumstances. They maintained their distinctiveness against every inducement – sometimes benign, often brutal – to assimilate or convert. To every crisis they responded with renewal. Heirs to one of the world’s oldest faiths, they remained perennially young, creative, challenging, revolutionary. In each generation they embellished their ancient faith with new customs and interpretations and made it gleam as if it had just been given. Whenever the opportunity arose they enriched the life of the larger society in which they lived. Through thirty-seven long and difficult centuries they remained faithful to the mandate given by God to Abraham in the first words of covenantal history: ‘Through you shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ And we are their heirs.”
“Today,.. as we stand as if on a mountain peak surveying the breathtaking landscape of Jewish history, we know this: that those who sought to destroy the people of the covenant gather dust in the museums of mankind while am Yisrael chai, the people Israel lives. Ancient Egypt is no more. The Moabites have long since disappeared. The Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans successively strode the stage of world dominion. Each empire played its part, said its lines, and each in turn has gone… But the Jews survive.”
“Jewish mystics used to preface their performance of a religious act with a dedication, le-shem yichud: ‘For the sake of the unification of the Holy One, blessed be He With His Divine Presence.’ Their acts ‘mended’ a ‘broken’ world. A similar dedication is needed now: ‘For the sake of the unification of the Jewish People with Torah.’ A religious act should seek to mend a divided Jewish people”
“The fundamental idea of Judaism was and is that we bring God into the world through daily acts and interactions, precisely as the book of Genesis portrays the religious drama in terms of ordinary lives. ”
“Judaism is not a religion of continuing revelation, but rather one of continuing interpretation. ”
“There is no ultimate ownership in Judaism. What I possess belongs to God, and I am merely its legal guardian. ”
“Judaism is the systematic rejection of tragedy in the name of hope. ”
“In Judaism, God is not in the answer but in the question. ”
“The conceptual structure of Judaism, with its belief in one God and many faiths, is as near as we have yet come to a world view that does justice to diversity while at the same time acknowledging the universal human condition ”
“Where Christianity sees man as in need of being saved, and Islam calls on him to submit to the will of God, Judaism advances the daring idea that man and God are partners in the work of creation. Faith is the call to human responsibility. ”
“For Judaism… the criterion of the good society is not wealth, power or prowess but the simple question: does it respect the individual as image of God? ”
“Judaism is an ongoing moral revolution. ”
“For Judaism, religious faith is not mysterious. It needs no sacrifice of the mind, no leap into the void. It is precisely like the gesture of commitment I make in a human relationship when I pledge myself to another, whose body I can see but whose consciousness must always be beyond my reach. My capacity to form relationships tells me that though I can never enter someone else’s mind, I can reach out beyond the self and, joining my life to an other, create the things that exist only in virtue of being shared: trust, friendship and love. So, though I can never enter the consciousness of God, I can still pledge myself to Him in faithfulness, listening to His voice as it is recorded in the Torah and responding to His affirmation of my personhood. Together we bring into being what neither God-without-man nor man-without-God could create: a society of free persons respecting one another’s freedom. ”
“At the heart of Judaism is a covenant of love. ”
“Jewish life, though it is made up of simple and sometimes repetitive deeds, is the way in which I am connected to a set of revolutionary ideas, monumental in their scope, utterly humane in their effect, which became real in the lives of individuals who make up the Torah scroll of the Jewish people as it has lived its story through the centuries and continents. ”
“The significance of Judaism to the moral environment of mankind is not just that it thought new truths, though it did. It is that Jews continue to live them, so that if Judaism were to cease to exist, something fundamental to Western civilization would die. ”
“The faith of Judaism, beginning with Abraham, reaching its most detailed expression in the covenant of Sinai, envisaged by the prophets and articulated by the sages, is that, by acting in response to the call of God, collectively we can change the world. The flames of injustice, violence and oppression are not inevitable. The victory of the strong over the weak, the many over the few, the manipulative over those who act with integrity, even though they have happened at most times and in most places, are not written into the structure of the universe. They may be natural, but God is above nature, and because God communicates with man, man too can defeat nature. Judaism is the revolutionary moment at which humanity refuses to accept the world that is. ”
“Judaism is a uniquely restless faith. ”
“Judaism begins not in wonder that the world is, but in protest that the world is not as it ought to be. It is in that cry, that sacred discontent, that Abraham’s journey begins. ”
“Judaism is the insistence that history does have a meaning. ”
“Judaism is God’s perennial question mark against the conventional wisdom of mankind ”
“The Jewish journey is not just a physical one but a spiritual, moral and political one as well. That is what has long given it a significance beyond itself. It is not just a Jewish journey, but the human journey in a particularly vivid form. It has inspired not only Jews, but all those who, having read the Hebrew Bible, have come to the conclusion that our lives have a moral purpose, that redemption can be sought in this world with all its imperfection, and that by our efforts we can leave society better than we found it. The Mosaic books and those of the prophets have echoed throughout human history, moving men and women to dedicate their lives to the uncertain proposition that by constant struggle we can reduce suffering and enhance dignity not for ourselves alone but for all those amongst whom we live ”
“Judaism contains a distinctive and highly articulated vision of society, but it is not one that can be translated into conventional political categories. Its emphasis on community, compassion and social justice led one generation to identify Judaism with socialism. Its equally strong insistence on individual responsibility led another generation to identify it with the New Right and the minimalist state. But Judaism is not the one nor the other but a religious culture that encompasses both. ”
“Judaism… is not an abstract moral system grounded in reason, but rather a revealed moral tradition grounded in covenantal relationships and the historic experience of powerlessness and suffering.”
“if Judaism, either in Israel or the diaspora, fails to win the admiration of observers, it will fail ultimately to win the emulation of Jews themselves.”
“Judaism speaks of the Torah as a private covenant with the Jewish people: ‘He has revealed His word to Jacob, His laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation.’ (Tehillim 147:19-20). On the other hand, it projects the values of Torah against the backdrop of mankind. ‘Observe them carefully’, says Moses about the commandments, for this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say: This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.’ (Devarim 4:6). A Jewish perspective is both inward and outward, concerned to maintain a critical distance from other cultures while at the same time engaging their attention and ultimately admiration. To be a Jew is to be a witness to the world of the presence of God”
“Judaism is a faith. But it is the faith of a particular people. It is more than a set of truths and commands. It is a people to whom those truths and commands are addressed and in whose lives they are embodied. The future of the covenant depends on the future of the people of the covenant. Theology, in Judaism, is dependent on demography.”
“Jewish history begins in the choice of a family, the Divine election of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their children…The choice of Abraham was the election of a family. Judaism is difficult to define in conventional categories. It is not simply a religious faith, for a secular Jew is still a Jew. It is not simply a nationality, a state, a country or a land, for the Jew who lives outside Israel is still a Jew. It is not a race or mode of ethnicity, for there are Jews of many races and colours and backgrounds and cultures. Judaism embraces these things, but it is something other than and prior to them all. To be a Jew is to be a member of a family”
“This is the paradox. In their own land, the place where every other nation is to some degree united, Jews were split beyond repair. In dispersion, where every other nation has assimilated and disappeared, they remained distinctive and, in essentials at least, united. There is something surpassingly strange about Jewish peoplehood.”
“Today’s Jewry is both uncompromisingly divided and unprecedentedly united: divided by religious difference, but united by a powerful sense – reinforced by the Holocaust and the State of Israel – of a shared history, fate, and responsibility.”
“Unity is undeniably a Jewish value, but not necessarily and in all circumstances a supreme and overriding one.”
“For some Orthodoxy thinkers, the division of the Jewish people into Orthodoxy and others, deeply tragic though it is, does not sanction the pursuit of unity at the cost of other values. Creating unity in the short term, if it involved abandoning covenantal imperatives that traditionally constituted Jewish peoplehood, would be both impossible and undesirable: impossible because it would mean abandoning values that are non-negotiable, undesirable because pluralism might result in greater disunity in the long term.”
“Almost all Jewish groups in Israel and the diaspora express a commitment to Jewish survival, peoplehood, and unity. But the interpretation of those concepts different systematically from group to group.”
“It is no longer possible to be a Jew tout court. The noun, to convey anything at all, now needs to be qualified by an adjective, perhaps several. There are Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Liberal, Reconstructionist, and secular Jews. There are Israeli and diaspora Jews, Zionists and non-Zionists. Each label is further divided. Zionists are religious or secular. Religious Zionists are messianic or pragmatic. And so on. Jewish existence has become adjectival existence.”
“Judaism is the principled defeat of tragedy in the name of hope. ”
“Judaism is the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind. ”
“Judaism is a religion of holy words, because it believes in a transcendental God, a God who cannot be seen, felt, touched, represented in images or icons, a God beyond the universe unlike anything within the universe. The only ultimate connection between an infinite God and finite human beings is language. In revelation God speaks to us. In prayer we speak to God. Language is the narrow bridge across the abyss between soul and soul, whether the relationship is between two people, or between myself and the Self of the universe. Language is the redemption of solitude. ”
“Judaism is the only civilisation whose key texts are anthologies of argument. ”
“Judaism is about conversation. It is the only religion known to me in which human beings talk to, argue and remonstrate with God. ”
“Judaism is about relationships. The Greeks asked, What exists? Jews asked, What is the relationship between the things that exist? ”
“Judaism is the ongoing conversation of the Jewish people with itself, with heaven and with the world. It is a conversation scored for many voices, often in the argumentative mode. ”
“When people made Judaism easy, they found that their children preferred other ways of life. ”
“Judaism survived two thousand years of exile, not because it was easy but because it was difficult, sometimes heartbreakingly so. ”
“Judaism is about sanctifying life, not just commemorating death. ”
“Jews and Judaism combine two phenomena that nowhere else coincide. Jews are a nation, and Judaism is a religion. There are nations that contain many religions. There are religions whose adherents are spread across many nations. What is unique is the way in which Judaism combines both. ”
“Judaism was never meant for Jews alone. It contains a message for all humanity, and much in the twenty-first century will depend on whether this message or a different one prevails. Judaism belongs to the human conversation, and we must take the trouble to share our ideas with others, and let others share theirs with us. ”
“Judaism is the guardian of an ancient but still compelling dream. To heal where others harm, mend where others destroy, to redeem evil by turning its negative energies to good: these are the mark of the ethics of responsibility, born in the radical faith that God calls on us to exercise our freedom by becoming his partners in the work of creation. That seems to me a life-affirming vision: the courage to take the risk of responsibility, becoming co-authors with God of the world that ought to be. ”
“Judaism is a collective faith. Despite its principled attachment to the dignity of the individual, its central experiences are not private but communal. We pray together. On 9 Av (the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple), we mourn together. On the Day of Atonement we confess together. ”
“Judaism is God’s perennial question-mark against the condition of the world. That things are as they are is a fact, not a value. Should it be so? Why should it be so? Only one who asks whether the world should be as it is, is capable of changing what it is. ”
“Judaism is not a religion that reconciles us to the world. It was born as an act of defiance against the great empires of the ancient world ”
“Judaism is a complex and subtle faith, yet it has rarely lost touch with its simple ethical imperatives. We are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world, a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make it a place of justice and compassion where the lonely are not alone, the poor not without help; where the cry of the vulnerable is heeded and those who are wronged are heard. ”
“Judaism is God’s question-mark against the random cruelties of the world. It is His call to us to ‘mend the world’ until it becomes a place worthy of the Divine presence, to accept no illness that can be cured, no poverty that can be alleviated, no injustice that can be rectified. To ask the prophetic question is not to seek an answer but to be energized to action. ”
“Judaism is a particular covenant with the universal God, because it is only in and through our particularity that we are fully human, and it is only through the institutions of particularity – families, communities, languages and traditions, each with its own local character – that we protect and sustain our humanity. ”
“There is nothing in Judaism of nostalgia for the pre-technological simplicities of a mythical past, paradise lost, a remembered Eden. But even a faith as focused on this world as Judaism, insists on limits. There are times and places - the Sabbath, festivals, daily prayer, the home, the school, the house of study - into which the market and its siren voice may not intrude. ”
“From its inception, Judaism was a living protest against hierarchical societies that give some, but not all, dignity, power and freedom. Instead it insisted that if any individual is sacred, then every individual is, because each of us is in the image of God. ”
“Judaism is about the miracle of unity that creates diversity. ”
“Judaism is a particularlist monotheism. It believes in one God but not in one religion, one culture, one truth. The God of Abraham is the God of all mankind, but the faith of Abraham is not the faith of mankind. ”
“One of the paradoxes of Judaism is that, though it is a religion of commands (mitzvot), biblical Hebrew contains no word that means ‘to obey’. Instead it uses the word shema, which means to hear, to understand and to respond – to listen in the fullest range of senses. I believe that God is summoning us to a new act of listening, going back to the sources of our faith and hearing in them something we missed before, because we did not face these challenges, this configuration of dilemmas before. In religions of revelation, discoveries are rediscoveries, a discernment of something that was always there but not necessarily audible from where our ancestors stood. God’s word is for all time, but our act of listening is of this time; and the challenge is to discern within that word, as it speaks to us now, a narrative of hope. ”
“Judaism is not a truth addressed to all mankind. It is a summons to us, mediated through more than a hundred generations of our ancestors, written in the history of their lives and now confronting us as our heritage and responsibility. ”
“Judaism is not a theory, a system, a set of speculative propositions, an ism. It is a call and it bears our name. ”
“No religion has given God a more human face, or humanity a more awesome challenge, or history a more hope-laden script. None has more deeply challenged us, its guardians, to grow; and none has paid greater respect to critical intelligence and human responsibility. ”
“Hitler was not wrong when he called conscience a Jewish invention. That is one reason why I am a Jew. A world, a nation, a religion that does not have room for Judaism or Jews is a world, a nation, a religion that does not have room for humanity. ”
“Judaism led ordinary people to lead extraordinary lives. ”
“Much of Judaism is about creating those structures of togetherness in a way that honours individuality and yet brings us together to create the things that exist only by virtue of being shared. ”
“Judaism is an egalitarian faith, but throughout the biblical era Israel remained a hierarchical society. There were kings and priests, dynastic rulers of the temporal and spiritual domains. Only when these disappeared could Israel genuinely become a kingdom, all of whose members were priests. ”
“Morality is civilization’s greatest attempt to humanize fate ”
“Morality has had a hard time of it in the past half-century. It has come to represent everything we believe ourselves to have been liberated from: authority, repression, the delay of instant gratification, all that went with the religious, puritanical, Victorian culture of our grandparents. Virtues once thought admirable – modesty, humility, discretion, restraint – are now dusty exhibits in a museum of the cultural curiosities. Words like ‘duty’, ‘obligation’, ‘judgement’, ‘wisdom’ either carry a negative charge or no meaning at all. What I have never seen clearly stated is the simple fact that systems of morality were (not always, but sometimes) an attempt to fight despair in the name of hope, and recover human dignity by reinstating us as subjects not objects, the authors of our deeds and of our lives. ”
“Abrahamic monotheism speaks on behalf of the poor, the weak, the enslaved. It tells a story about the power of human freedom, lifted by its encounter with the ultimate source of freedom, to create structures of human dignity. It bodies forth a vision of a more gracious world. It tells us that no one is written off, no one condemned to be a failure. It tells the rich and powerful that they have responsibilities to those who lack all that makes life bearable. It invites us to be part of a gentle revolution, telling us that influence is greater than power, that we must protect the most vulnerable in society, that we must be willing to make sacrifices to that end, and most daringly of all, that love is stronger than death. It sets love at the epicentre of the world: love of God, love of the neighbour, love of the stranger. If natural selection tells us anything, it is that this faith, having existed for longer than any other, creates in its followers an astonishing ability to survive. ”
“The meaning of the system lies outside the system. Therefore, the meaning of the universe lies outside the universe. That was the revolution of Abrahamic monotheism. ”
“Monotheism, by discovering the transcendental God, the God who stands outside the universe and creates it, made it possible for the first time to believe that life has a meaning, not just a mythic or scientific explanation. ”
“Monotheism was the first system in world history to postulate the fatherhood of God and thus the brotherhood of mankind. ”
“Modernity is the move from fate to choice, and we can no longer reasonably claim that the way things are is how they were destined to be. ”
“Modernity is the transition from fate to choice. But at the same time it dissolves the commitments and loyalties that once lay behind our choices. ”
“More than by its philosophical sophistication, modern Orthodoxy will be judged by its capacity to safeguard Jewish continuity which is, in the last analysis, the continuity of the Jewish family. ”
“The relationship between modern and traditionalist Orthodoxy is asymmetrical. The former recognizes the validity of the latter; the latter deny it to the former. The modernists argue for an Orthodox pluralism, while the traditionalists frequently argue that theirs is the only valid interpretation of the rabbinic heritage. ”
“Midrash is a child of prophecy, though, in another sense. The prophets were interpreters of history. They spoke to their generation and their times. Lacking prophecy, the rabbis turned to biblical text to hear, within the word spoken for all time, the specific resonance for this time. Unlike peshat, the ‘plain, simple, or accepted meaning’, midrash is the hermeneutic quest for the meaning of the text as if it were spoken, not then but now. Midrash is interpretation in the context of covenantal time, the word spoken in the past but still active in the present. It is an exercise in conscious and deliberate anachronism (the secular equivalent would be a performance of a Shakespeare tragedy in modern dress, the better to feel its force as contemporary, rather than classical, drama). It is prophetic in the sense of interpreting current events in the light of the Divine word. Midrash is the attempt on the part of the sages to understand their own times as a continuation of the narrative of the covenant. ”
“History is complex, but memory is clear. ”
“Without memory, there is no identity, and without identity we are cast adrift into a sea of chance, without compass, map or destination. ”
“Memory is our best guardian of liberty ”
“Marriage is the most personal and intimate of all forms of human association, and the deepest matrix of faith. We can face any future without fear if we know we will not face it alone. There is no redemption of solitude deeper than to share a life with someone we love and trust, who we know will never desert us, who lifts us when we fall and believes in us even when we fail. ”
“Marriage, sanctified by the bond of fidelity, is the nearest life gets to a work of art. ”
“God lives in the unadorned heart of the human situation, in the covenantal love between husband and wife on which the republic of faith is built. ”
“Marriage is a journey across an unknown land with nothing to protect you from the elements except one another ”
“We can sometimes be so busy making a living that we hardly have time to live. ”
“Love is what redeems us from the prison cell of the self and all the sickness to which the narcissistic self is prone – from empty pride to deep depression to a sense of nihilism and the abyss. ”
“The only force equal to a fundamentalism of hate is a counter-fundamentalism of love. ”
“Love is stronger than hate; freedom more powerful than its enemies; and the human spirit too resilient to be intimidated for long. ”
“Loving God more does not entitle me to love people less. ”
“For life to have personal meaning, there must be people who matter to us, and for whom we matter, unconditionally and non-substitutably. ”
“Believing and doing are part of a single continuum, and both are a measure of a living relationship characterised by loyalty. ”
“To find meaning in life is to find something we are called on to do, something no one else can do. Discovering that task is not easy. There are depressive states in which we simply cannot do it on our own.. But once we have found it, our life takes on meaning and we recover the will to live. ”
“Judaism, the religion of the God of life, whose greatest prophet said at the end of his life, ‘Now choose life’, is a sustained call to the sanctification of life. ”
“The things we spend most of our time pursuing turn out to be curiously irrelevant when it comes to seeing the value of a life as a whole. ”
“It is difficult to feel depressed when you remember fairly constantly that life is a gift. ”
“Just as we’re concerned at the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink, so we should care about the clarity of the words we speak. Waffle, obfuscation and impenetrable jargon are to communication what global warming is to the earth’s atmosphere. Debase language and you erode the very environment of thought. ”
“We cannot edit God out of the language and leave our social world unchanged. ”
“Judaism is not a religion of the solitary self, the soul in private communion with God. It is about the life we share, and the things we create together. ”
“Morality belongs no less in the boardroom than in the bedroom, in the market-place as much as in a house of prayer ”
“What morality restores to an increasingly uncertain world is the idea of responsibility – that what we do, severally and collectively, makes a difference, and that the future lies in our hands. ”
“Morality is integral to the ecology of hope because it locates social change at a level at which we can make a difference through the acts we do, the principles by which we live, and the relationships we create. ”
“Morality is taught by being lived. It is learned by doing. ”
“Moral education is not simply learning to make choices. It is becoming part of a community with a particular tradition, history and way of life. ”
“For some years we have known that unrestricted pursuit of economic growth has devastated our physical environment. Pollution, waste and the depletion of natural resources have disturbed that ‘natural strip of soil, air and water.. in which we live and move and have our being.’ No one intended it. It happened. But having happened, we can no longer ignore it… But as well as a physical ecology, we also inhabit a moral ecology, that network of beliefs, relationships and virtues within which we think, act and discover meaning. For the greater part of human history it has had a religious foundation. But for the past two centuries, in societies like Britain, that basis of belief has been profoundly eroded. And we know too much about ecological systems to suppose that you can remove one element and have the rest unchanged. There is, if you like, a God-shaped hole in our ozone layer. And it is time that we thought about moral ecology too. ”
“For Jews, and not only Jews, the religious voice is above all a moral voice… No idea in the Hebrew Bible has been more influential than this, that society is founded on a moral covenant between its members, vested in an authority that transcends all earthly powers, and whose most famous symbol is the Ten Commandments engraved in stone ”
“The world we build tomorrow is born in the prayers we say today ”
“Prayer is the act of listening to God listening to us. ”
“A blessing is an expression of the miracle of simple things. ”
“Making a blessing over life is the best way of turning life into a blessing. ”
“To thank God is to know that I do not have less because my neighbour has more. I am not less worthwhile because someone else is more successful. Through prayer I know that I am valued for what I am. I learn to cherish what I have, rather than be diminished but what I do not have. ”
“Like music, prayer is a natural expression of human longing, evidence of the image of God within us all. But like music, prayer is also something we learn and inherit. One generation passes on its most powerful melodies to the next. So too Judaism has always passed on its most moving prayers to its children. We pray as our ancestors prayed, and because of this their spirit lives on in us. ”
“The siddur is the map of the Jewish heart. Through its words we retrace the steps taken by countless generations of Jews as they turned from their private hopes and fears to journey towards the presence of God. ”
“Covenantal politics is a politics of new beginnings, of a people pledging themselves to one another and to the common good, a politics of ‘we, the people’. It is a politics of moral principle and collective responsibility. ”
“Politics is about power, and at the heart of the Abrahamic vision is a critique of power. Power is a fundamental assault on human dignity. When I exercise power over you, I deny your freedom, and that is dangerous for both of us. ”
“Politics is about power and the distribution of resources. It is not about the psychology of self-esteem or the allocation of blame. When these boundaries are blurred, the result is deeply damaging to the good group-relations on which an ethnically and religiously diverse society depends. ”
“If we were completely different we could not communicate. If we were exactly alike we would have nothing to say. Politics is the art of living with difference, and how we deal with it shapes much else in our world. ”
“The Exodus is the inexhaustible source of inspiration to all those who long for freedom. It taught that right was sovereign over might; that freedom and justice must belong to all, not some; that, under God, all human beings are equal; and that over all earthly powers is the supreme power, the King of Kings, who hears the cry of the oppressed and who intervenes in history to liberate slaves. ”
“Pesach is an intensely political festival. It is about the central Jewish project: constructing a society radically unlike any that had existed before and most that have come into being since. It poses a fundamental question: can we make, on earth, a social order based not on transactions of power but on respect for the human person – each person – as ‘the image of God’? ”
“By reciting the Haggadah, Jews give their children a sense of connectedness to Jews throughout the world and to the Jewish people throughout time. ”
“Moses, confronted with his mission, asked Who am I? The modern Jew uses the same words but asks a different question. For Moses the doubt was about personal worthiness. For the modern Jew the doubt is about personal identity. ”
“Tikkun olam involves the recognition that the world does need repair, rather than Stoic acceptance of ascetic denial. ”
“Though a vast distance separates the infinity of God from the finitude of man, something unites us, the moral enterprise of perfecting the world, in respect of which we are ‘partners of the Holy One, blessed be He, in the work of creation’ ”
“Power is to be used not to impose truth, but to preserve peace. ”
“I wonder if anyone who has not known the depths of Jewish suffering through the ages can understand how deeply the desire for peace is etched in the heart of almost every Jew ”
“Isaiah spoke of utopian peace. The sages sought ways of achieving a lesser, more immediate goal, namely civil peace, cohesiveness and an absence of strife between different groups within a single society. The ‘ways of peace’ is a non-utopian programmes for peace in the imperfect world of the here-and-now. ”
“Whenever a religion speaks of peace, it means ‘peace on our terms’. Whatever the language in which it is couched, the argument tends to take this form: ‘Our faith speaks of peace; our holy texts praise peace; therefore, if only the world shared out faith and our texts there would be peace.’ Tragically, this path does not and cannot lead to peace because it is predicated on the conversion of the world – to our religion or ideology conceived as a global truth or universal salvation. Peace thus conceived is part of the problem, not part of the solution. ”
“Though war needs physical courage, peace needs moral courage, the courage to break with the past and turn enemies into friends ”
“Power grows from the barrel of a gun but peace is born in the human heart ”
“The single greatest mistake, and it’s been made many times in history, is to believe that peace is a zero-sum game. If I win, you lose. If I suffer, you gain. It isn’t so. The truth is the opposite. From violence both sides suffer. From peace, both sides gain. That is why no one does a service to peace by demonizing one side and making heroes of the other. Peace is a duet scored for two voices; and someone who thinks that one voice can win by drowning out the other just hasn’t understood what a duet is. ”
“Whenever Jews pray, we end with a prayer for peace and at that point we take three steps backward. To make peace you have to make space for someone else. You have to give up a little of your dream for the sake of someone else’s dream. ”
“From war, no one gains. From peace, everyone benefits. ”
“One day we will learn the lesson of peace, that war never solved any conflict in the long run; that in victory the victor too is defeated; that in conquering others we diminish ourselves; that only in and through peace do we honour the image of God that is mankind. ”
“Judaism has a dual concept of peace: the end-of-days peace envisioned by the prophets, [and] the modern modest here-and-now peace articulated by the sages in their concept of darkhei shalom, a set of rules for friendly coexistence with those with whom you disagree. ”
“We will make peace only when we learn that God loves difference and so, at last, must we. God has created many cultures, civilizations and faiths but only one world in which to live together – and it is getting smaller all the time. ”
“There is a fundamental difference between the end-of-days peace of religious unity and the historical peace of compromise and coexistence. The pursuit of the former can sometimes be the most formidable enemy of the latter. ”
“Peace involves a profound crisis of identity. The boundaries of self and other, friend and foe, must be redrawn. ”
“Peace in the Judaic sense will come not when all nations are conquered (as in tribalism) or converted (as in universalism) but when, under God’s sacred canopy, different nations and faiths make space for one another. ”
“Peace in the home is where world peace begins ”
“Attaching no significance to liberal Jews’ description of their own actions and intentions allows Orthodoxy to include individuals within the halakhic community while excluding their ideologies… But it does so by devaluing the legitimacy of any interpretation of Judaism that lies outside the parameters of traditional faith. ”
“The parcelling of Orthodoxy into right, left and centrist positions, or into an antinomy of modernism against traditionalism, is a symptom of the collapse of overarching structures of community and the fragmentation of Orthodox life into non-communicating organisational enclaves. The cause is social, the effect intellectual, and the loss spiritual. ”
“There is no meaningful ideological sense that can be attached to phrases like right-wing, left-wing or centrist, modern or traditional Orthodoxy. For these is no unitary, permanent ideological or institutional expression of the relationship between Judaism and its contemporary environment. There are instead as many modes as there are communities and generations. ”
“As the Jewish people moved far from Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy moved in direction that took it far from the majority of the Jewish people ”
“The classic beliefs of Judaism are not merely beliefs: they are constitutive of the covenant and thus of Jewish peoplehood. Orthodoxy, faithful to those beliefs, cannot admit a pluralism that would in effect legitimate their denial, secularisation or subjectivisation ”
“The news is about today. But the great faiths remind us of yesterday and tomorrow. They’re our living dialogue with the past and the future; those two essential things called memory and hope. There’s nothing more guaranteed to make us make the wrong decisions than to live solely in the present, forgetting the lessons of the past and our duty to generations not yet born. ”
“Those who carry with them the heritage of the past are those who can face the future without fear. ”
“The great faiths do more than give abstract expression to our shared humanity; they move us to action and give compelling shape to the claims of others upon us ”
“Purity of heart is essential to the relationship between man and God. But in relations between man and man, what matters is the outcome, not the sentiment which brought it about. ”
“Nature is not the final word, for nature itself was created by a being who stands outside it and who, but making us in his image, gave us the power to stand outside it. We are free. We can choose. We are not predestined by chance, fate, the stars, our darker instincts or the human genome. We can opt for freedom over determinism, justice over the power of power; we can stop at the brink of history’s endless replays and chart a different course. We cannot defeat death, but we can defeat all those forces that lead human beings to kill other, innocent human beings. We can choose life. ”
“The Jewish God is not the god of nature, but the God who transcends nature. ”
“Man is not only the master but also the guardian of nature. ”
“Tolerance means ignoring differences. Multiculturalism means emphasizing them. You can have tolerance or multiculturalism, but not both. ”
“Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation ”
“All it takes for evil to happen is for intelligent men to anaesthetize the moral sense of a generation. ”
“The distance and depersonalization of contemporary life have robbed us of the immediate connection between act and consequence, and this too has weakened our moral sense. ”
“In teaching our children moral relativism we have placed them in the world without a moral compass, even hinting that there is no such thing. In the name of tolerance we have taught that every alternative lifestyle is legitimate and that moral judgement is taboo, even ‘judgemental’. What is right becomes what does not harm others, and in time degenerates to what I feel li ke doing and can get away with. ”
“Moral reflection needs time the way the human body needs oxygen. But time is the one thing of which we starve the great moral issues of our age… Our ethical seriousness is measured by our attention span, and ours has grown dangerously short. ”
“Rights are things we claim. Duties are things we perform. Duties, in other words, are rights translated from the passive to the active mode. ”
“In Judaism, revelation is political because the Jewish project is not to scale the heavens in search of God but to bring the Divine presence down to earth in the structures of our social life. ”
“At Sinai, God reveals Himself equally to everyone. At Israel’s founding moment, every individual is a party to the covenant and none stands higher than any other. Revelation creates a republic of free and equal citizens under the sovereignty of God. ”
“A fundamentalist refuses to let faith be relativized by history or science or sociology. Revelation stands above time and speaks to us now as clearly as it ever did. We may have changed the wavelengths on our cultural radio, but we can still hear the voice of God. ”
“People do not win respect by insisting on the right to be respected. Respect is earned: that is what makes it respect. ”
“Teshuva insists that we can liberate ourselves from our past, defy predictions of our future, by a single act of turning . . . as long as we do it now ”
“Rabbinic leadership must be based on collegiality and mutual respect, and a willingness to give an honourable audience to conflicting views. ”
“Religious leaders should never seek power, but neither may they abdicate their task of being a counter-voice in the conversation of mankind. ”
“I remember my first private audience with R. Menahem Mendel Schneersohn, the Rebbe of Lubavitch. In the course of a long conversation I used the phrase – a classic in the vocabulary of excuse-making – In the situation in which I find myself… The Rebbe allowed the sentence to get no further. No-one ever finds himself in a situation. He said. He places himself in a situation. And if he placed himself in this situation, he can place himself in another situation. ”
“In the absence of a shared moral language, religious leadership is faced with the alternative of speaking either to its own faithful –in which case it fails to do justice to powerful opposed ethical claims – or to a minimalist moral consensus – in which case its pronouncements appear vapid and without content. ”
“The easier the religion, the less it will be observed. ”
“What has become clear, if paradoxical, is that religious identity can go hand in hand with a decline along all measurable axes of religious behaviour. ”
“As national identity grows weaker, other identities fill the vacated space, and of these religion is the most personal and transmissible. ”
“Spirituality is the poetry of the soul. Religion is the prose. Spirituality is the direct encounter with God. Religion is the behaviour we adopt when we express our selves of belonging to a group who, at a key point in its history, encountered the Divine. You can be spiritual without being religious. You can be religions without being spiritual. It is almost like the distinction between love and marriage. Love is an emotion. Marriage is an institution. They are linked, but they are not the same. ”
“Politicians have power, but religion has something greater than power. It has influence. Politics moves the pieces, but religion changes lives. ”
“Religions creates communities. Politics mediates between communities. Religion lives in justice and compassion, righteousness and mercy, loyalty and loving kindness. Politics requires compromise, tolerance, a willingness of live and let live ”
“A true global politics will begin, not with the clash of national interest, but with a greater over-arching truth; that we are one family under the parenthood of God, guardians of His world for the sake of generations not yet born. ”
“The single greatest risk of the twenty-first century is… not when politics is religionized but when religion is politicized. ”
“Difference is where politics live; but it is where religion transcends. ”
“Religions work best when they are open and accountable to the world. When they develop into closed, totalising systems and sectarian modes of community, when they place great weight on the afterlife or divine intervention into history, expecting the end of time in the midst of time, then they can become profoundly dangerous, for there is then nothing to check their descent into fantasy, paranoia and violence. ”
“Religion binds people into groups. It creates altruism, the only force strong enough to defeat egoism. ”
“The existence of the universe from the perspective of God, and the existence of God from the perspective of human beings, is the redemption of solitude. We exist because we are not alone. Religion is the cosmic drama of relationship. ”
“Religion has inspired individuals to moral greatness, consecrated their love and helped them build communities where individuals are cherished and great works of loving kindness are performed. ”
“When religion seeks power, the result is disastrous, if not immediately then ultimately. The result is tragic for the people, catastrophic for the state, and disastrous for religion. When religion, any religion, seizes power, it forfeits the respect of ordinary, decent, righteous people, who once respected it and now fear and resent it. The result is the defeat of religion, the birth of a new secularism, and a desecration of the holy. ”
“Religion in the biblical sense is not about power but influence, not about secular law but love, not about the state but about families and communities. The bible is first and foremost about freedom: how we construct relationships of trust without the use of power. ”
“There can be religion without ethics, and ethics without religion. There can be pious individuals who are cruel and insensitive, and atheists who are environmentally conscious, socially committed, and vastly generous with their money and time. Yet taken as a whole and over time, when religion and ethics are separated, they both suffer. ”
“Religion.. is like fire. It warms, but it also burns, and we are the guardians of the flame. ”
“Religion doesnt mean living in the past, it means living with the past ”
“We make a mistake when we think religion is only about believing. It’s also about belonging; and belonging is about community, that delicate yet powerful network of relationships where we learn moral literacy – by being there for other people when they need us, knowing that they’ll be there for us when we need them. ”
“Religion is more than a system of beliefs. It is an act of focused listening – to the script of which we are the heroes and, with God, the co-authors. ”
“Religion [is] humanity’s greatest collective attempt to find meaning in this brief, tempestuous, often pain-filled span of days we call life. ”
“The word religion.. comes from the Latin religare, meaning ‘to bind’. That is what religions did and still do. They bind people to one another and to God. ”
“Religion offers a difference kind of solace. It speaks of the dignity of the person and the power of the human spirit. It tells us that we are more, or other, than what we earn or what we buy. In the fast-moving world economy there are winners and losers. Life takes on a ruthless, Darwinian struggle for survival. Religion reminds us that there are other source of self-worth. We are not necessarily set against one another in a win-or-lose competition. ”
“In the fast-moving world economy there are winners and losers. Life takes on a ruthless, Darwinian struggle for survival. Religion reminds us that there are others sources of self-worth. ”
“In unchartered territory one needs a compass, and the great faiths have been the compass of mankind. ”
“Time and again in recent years we have been reminded that religion is not what European Enlightenment thought it would become: mute, marginal and mild. It is fire – and like fire, it warms but it also burns. And we are the guardians of the flame. ”
“There is no problem that you cannot think yourself out of, but it needs a special kind of thought. It needs the ability to reframe, to see things differently, to alter perspective, sometimes event to turn the mental picture upside down. That, classically, was one of the greatest gifts of the religious vision. It does not show you something new. It shows you the things you have seen all along but never noticed. ”
“I am convinced that religions can be both faithful to their traditions and answerable to the imperative of tolerance. They can come to terms with other cultures without sacrificing their identity. They can be responsive to social change without at the same time assenting to every ephemeral shift in moral mood. Not only do I believe this to be possible, I believe it to be necessary. ”
“Religions are the structure of our common life. In their symbols and ceremonies, the lonely self finds communion with others who share a past and future and a commitment to both. In their visions, we discover the world of un-self-interested action, and find, in the haunting words of the Rabbi of Kotzk, that God exists where we let Him in. ”
“However tenuous our religious attachments are, they have not yet ceased, and that means that they can be renewed. ”
“Whether or not we believe in God, we inhabit a culture in which religious teachings are marginal to many people’s moral choices. When did we last hear, in a television discussion or a newspaper editorial, the simple assertion that something was wrong because God or religious doctrine said so? Even a religious leader who said this in the course of a public debate would nowadays be branded a fundamentalist. Our moral language has been effectively secularised. Religious enters our conversations obliquely and with embarrassment. ”
“In a culture which has become deeply secularised, some last embers of faith still glow… My argument in these lectures was simply this: that religious values are still active within our frame of moral reference. They have been eroded by not altogether eclipsed. They lie at the heard of some of our deepest moral commitments: to the worth of the individual, to society as a covenant rather than as a contract, to morality itself as a communal endeavour, and to the family as the crucible of personal relationships…. Historically, religious communities have been their natural environment. Living, as we have done, by the inherited habits of an essentially religious way of life, we have come to underestimate the religious faith needed to sustain them. ”
“Religion should not be confused with its classic institutional expressions. It survives through time, but it may take new and unexpected forms. ”
“If rabbinic Judaism has anything to say across its borders, it lies in how the voice of religion might be authoritative without being authoritarian, unifying without ceasing to be pluralist, and rational without lacking passion. ”
“God cannot redeem the world without human participation; humanity cannot redeem the world without recognition of the divine. ”
“Judaism, in contradistinction to Christianity, maintains that human existence is redeemable but not yet redeemed. ”
“The prophets have always received a better press than the rabbis, for an obvious reason. They were the first and greatest social critics, fearless in speaking truth to power, unafraid to confront corrupt kings and indolent priests, tireless in their call to integrity and justice. Their success was, however, limited. In fact, with the sole exception of Jonah, the only prophet sent to a Gentile city, we know of none who actually brought about social transformation. The rabbis did succeed. Under their tutelage Jewry became one of the most obstinately faithful of all religious groups. The way of life of rabbinic Judaism was so compelling that Jews survived, their identity intact, in exile and dispersion, for longer and under more adverse circumstances than any other. The reason was that the rabbis were not utopians. Without losing sight of the end of days, they legislated for the here-and-now. Without relinquishing the prophet’s dreams, they translated them into codes of practice, learnable behavioural norms. They put their faith in education. They brought heavenly ideals down to earth, creating a redemption of small steps. They took a realistic view of humanity. They acknowledged human failings and found ways of turning them to good purposes. Even if people initially do good for ulterior motives, said the rabbis, if they do it long enough they will eventually come to do it for its own sake. The prophets spoke poetry, the rabbis prose; but the rabbis succeeded where even the greatest of the prophets failed. When it comes to realizing high ideals among ordinary human beings, choose non-utopian solutions. They are more effective, and more humane. ”
“Pride means valuing others because you value yourself. Arrogance means devaluing others so that you can have a high opinion of yourself. National arrogance is unforgivable. National pride is essential. ”
“Society does not belong to any of us, but to all of us. It is the home we build together. ”
“It is not that religious people have abandoned society: it is that they feel society has abandoned them. ”
“Society is where we come together to achieve collectively what none of us can do alone. It is our common property. We inhabit it, make it, breathe it. It is the realm in which all of us is more important than any of us. It is our shared project, and it exists to the extent that we work for it and contribute to it. ”
“Society is a moral construct, a place where freedom is a collective reality to which all contribute and by which all have equal access, if not to wealth and power, then at least to human dignity in its most tangible forms: food to eat, clothes to wear, a source of independent livelihood, and a home. ”
“In a plural society – all the more so in a plural world – each of us has to settle for less than we do when we associate with fellow believers. ”
“[At Sinai] a fundamental truth was established: that a free society must be a moral society, for without the rule of law, constrained by the overarching imperatives of the right and the good, freedom will eventually degenerate into tyranny, and liberty, painfully won, will be lost. ”
“In relation to nature, God is creator, but in relation to society, God is a teacher. ”
“Just as there is political, so there is religious totalitarianism, and it comes from eroding the distinction between religion and God. God is the covenantal partner to particular forms of religious living. But beyond this He is the author of all being in its irreducible diversity. A plural society tests to the limit our ability to see God in religious forms which are not our own. ”
“We have neglected the institutions needed to sustain communities of memory and character. The assumption has been that society could exist on the basis of the private choices of individuals and the occasional intervention of the state, as if these were the only significant entities in our social landscape. But a plural society needs a moral and cultural base. ”
“In a society of plurality and change, there may be no detailed moral consensus that can be engraved on tablets of stone. But there can and must be a continuing conversation, joined by as many voices as possible, on what makes our society a collective enterprise: a community that embraces many communities. ”
“The more plural a society we become, the more we need to reflect on what holds us together. ”
“At the heart of covenant is the profound realization that society is what we make of it. The way things are is not necessarily the way things ought to be. Covenant is born when a free people question the established order and conclude that there is a better way. They seek to create a society that refuses to divide humanity into rulers and ruled, those who command and those who obey. It is a collective moral undertaking on the part of ‘We, the people’, all the people, rich, poor, weak, strong, powerful and powerless alike. It says, in effect: there is no one else to do it for us, and we can achieve together what none of us can do alone. It is built on the idea that we are individually and collectively responsible for our future. We each have a part to place. Covenant is the conscious decision to create a society in the light of shared ideals. ”
“Social contract creates a state; social covenant creates a society. Social contract is about power and how it is to be handled within a political framework. Social covenant is about how people live together despite their differences. Social contract is about government. Social covenant is about coexistence. Social contract is about laws and their enforcement. Social covenant is about the values we share. Social contract is about the use of potentially coercive force. Social covenant is about moral commitment, the values we share and the ideals that inspire us to work together for the sake of the common good. ”
“Jews and Judaism represent more than a religion accidentally tied to a people, or a people coincidentally bound to a religion. The definitive moment which brought Israel into being was the covenant at Sinai, which married a people to God, and God to a people ”
“The Sabbath is the lived enactment of the messianic age, a world of peace in which striving and conflict are (temporarily) at an end and all creation sings a song of being to its Creator. ”
“Despite attempts of historians to trace a connection to the Babylonian calendar, the Sabbath was an unprecedented innovation. It meant that one day in seven all hierarchies of wealth and power were suspended. ”
“What the Sabbath does for human beings and animals, the sabbatical and jubilee years do for the land. The earth too is entitled to its periodic rest. ”
“The Sabbath is a weekly reminder of the integrity of nature and the boundaries of human striving. ”
“Shabbat is not private time, but shared time, a time for sharing, not owning. ”
“[Shabbat] is Judaisms great messianic institution. ”
“Shabbat is the day we stand still and let all our blessings catch up with us. ”
“Shabbat is where a restless people rested and renewed itself. ”
“The Sabbath sustains every one of Judaisms great institution. In the synagogue we re-engage with the community, praying their prayers, celebrating their joys, defining ourselves as part of the We rather than the I. Hearing and studying the Torah portion of the week, we travel back to join our ancestors at Sinai, when God spoke and gave us His written text, His marriage contract with the Jewish people. At home, I spend time - sacrosanct, undisturbed - with my family, my wife and children, and know that our marriage is sheltered under Gods tabernacle of peace. ”
“The Sabbath (in Hebrew, Shabbat) is Judaisms stillness at the heart of the turning world. ”
“Shabbat is the greatest tutorial in liberty ever devised. ”
“Religion and science, the heritages respectively of Jerusalem and Athens, products of the twin hemispheres of the human brain, must now join together to protect the world that had been entrusted to our safekeeping, honouring our covenant with nature and nature’s God, the God that is the music beneath the noise, the Being at the heart of being, whose still, small voice we can still hear if we learn to create a silence in the soul, the God who, whether or not we have faith in him, never loses faith in us. ”
“If science is about the world that is, and religion is about the world that ought to be, then religion needs science because we cannot apply God’s will to the world if we do not understand the world. If we try to, the result will be magic or misplaced supernaturalism. We will rely on miracles – and the rabbis ruled, ‘Don’t rely on miracles.’ By the same token, science needs religion, or at the very least, some philosophical understanding of the human condition and our place within the universe, for each fresh item of knowledge and each new accession of power raises the question of how it should be used, and for that we need another way of thinking. ”
“People have sought in the religious life the kind of certainty that belongs to philosophy and science. But it is not to be found. Between God and man there is moral loyalty, not scientific certainty. ”
“A civilization that had space for science but not religion might achieve technological prowess. But it would not respect people in their specificity and particularity. It would quickly become inhuman and inhumane”
“There is absolutely nothing in science – not in cosmology or evolutionary biology or neuroscience – to suggest that the universe is bereft of meaning, nor could there be, since the search for meaning has nothing to do with science and everything to do with religion. ”
“Science is about explanation. Religion is about meaning. Science analyses, religion integrates. Science breaks things down to their component parts. Religion binds people together in relationships of trust. Science tells us what is. Religion tells us what ought to be. Science describes. Religion beckons, summons, calls. Science sees objects. Religion speaks to us as subjects. Science practices detachment. Religion is the art of attachment, self to self, soul to soul. Science sees the underlying order of the physical world. Religion hears the music beneath the noise. Science is the conquest of ignorance. Religion is the redemption of solitude. ”
“Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. ”
“I come from a religious tradition where we make a blessing over great scientists regardless of their views on religion. ”
“In the beginning people believed in many gods. Monotheism came and reduced them to one. Science came and reduced them to none. ”
“Science speaks of causes but not purposes. It understands events caused by things in the past, but not acts and decisions motivated by a vision of the future. ”
“Rights are noble things, essential to human dignity, but without the widespread diffusion of responsibility they are undeliverable. ”
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“The Jewish encounter with the policy issues of an age, in short, occurs when an expert in the facts seeks the guidance of an expert in the values; and there is nothing to compel that seeking, short of a continued demonstration that Judaism is in touch with life. ”
“Neither the biblical nor rabbinic tradition allows a prolonged retreat from the tense, unpredictable, ongoing dialogue with contemporary culture, with society in its Israeli or diaspora dimensions, and with the Jewish people as a whole. Renewing that holy argument is the future task of Jewish thought. For at stake is the fate of Torah whose living commentary is the Jewish people in dialogue with its covenantal calling. ”
“Torah im Derekh Eretz is the ongoing critical dialogue that must always occur at the interface between Judaism and its environing culture. ”
“Revelation was a unique event to which subsequent history is the commentary. As a result, all authority lies within the word spoken at Sinai. ”
“The idea of ‘Torah from Heaven’ was, even before it was explicitly formulated, far more than a belief about the origin of a text. It was a belief about the origin of a destiny. ‘Torah from Heaven’ did more than negate the idea that a people was the author of its own texts. It reversed it. It suggested that the text was the author of the people. ”
“The story of the Jewish people, especially after the second Temple, is about one of the great love affairs of all time, the love of a people for a book, the Torah. ”
“Every Jew is an equal citizen of the republic of faith because every Jew has access to its constitutional document, the Torah, and is literate in its provisions. ”
“The word Torah means teaching. God reveals Himself to mankind not in the storm, the wind, the sun, the rain, but in the voice that teaches, the words that instruct. ”
“The Hebrew Bible, the Torah, is an unusual book. It is.. the unique endeavour to communicate the truths that can never be told as system; the truths that can only be told as story, handed on from parents to children, preserved not as a historical document but as a living memory, one that shapes the lives of successive generations as they continue to walk towards the promised land. ”
“The Torah is no mere document, but the marriage contract between heaven and a people, the terms of their relationship, their bond of trust. ”
“Torah is the constitution of the covenant between God and Israel. As such it is a relational concept. It involves One who proposes the covenant and those who accept it as binding; One who commands, and those who are commanded. It embodies two ideas, the giving of the Torah and the receiving of the Torah. ”
“For Judaism God is to be found not in a person or a place but in words, the words of the Mosaic books, Torah in its narrow sense. Neither Moses, the greatest of the prophets, nor Sinai, the place of revelation, have intrinsic sanctity. They were the vehicles of revelation, not its embodiment. That description belongs to Torah alone. ”
“There are all sorts of inequalities in the world, but there’s one thing we all have equally, and that’s time itself. Whether we’re rich or poor, there are still only twenty-four hours in the day; 365 days in the year; and a span of life that’s all too short. ”
“Jewish time is not linear but something more profound. I call it covenantal time. This is time, not as continuous advance, but as a narrative with a beginning and a distant end, in whose midst we are and whose twists and turns continue to surprise us. ”
“Jewish time sees us as travellers on the road to a destination not yet reached; wayfarers on a journey begun by our ancestors, to be continued by our children. ”
“Some of Judaism’s most profound truths are to be found, not in texts but in time, in the Jewish calendar itself. ”
“Where other faiths, ancient and modern, saw religion as the flight from history into a world without time, Judaism saw time itself as the arena where God and mankind met. ”
“Only a monotheistic people could have invented the synagogue. Other ancient gods were territorial. They were the gods of this land, not that. But the God of Abraham, creator of heaven and earth, was the God of everywhere. Therefore he could be reached anywhere. ”
“By building communities around the synagogue in space, and the Sabbath in time, Jews became the living circle at whose centre is God. ”
“The synagogue was one of Jewry’s greatest creations. It sustained the Jewish people through almost two thousand years of exile. It kept them together as the only nation ever to survive an extended period without a land, a country or political power, dispersed throughout the world. It was their spiritual home, educational citadel and welfare centre, and it connected them to all other Jews through time and space. Wherever ten Jews gathered and formed a community, it was as if they were the entire Jewish people in microcosm. Wherever they sat and studies it was as if they were back at Sinai. ”
“The synagogue was Jerusalem in exile, a country of the mind, the place where the prayers of a scattered people met and temporarily reunited them across time and space. The bet knesset was the home of a homeless nation, the centre of its collective life, and when the second Temple was destroyed, it sustained them as a nation through the longest exile any people has ever suffered and survived. ”
“The synagogue had the most profound political and spiritual consequences. It turned Jews from a people defined by territory into that rarest of phenomena, a global nation. ”
“The knowledge that we are strangers teaches us to reach beyond the boundary of us and extend friendship and reciprocity to them. The knowledge, too, that the earth is not ours, that we are temporary residents, heirs of those who came before us and guardians for those who will come after us in turn, steers us away from the destructive impulse which may sometimes come to those who have no stake in a future beyond their lifetime. ”
“We encounter God in the face of a stranger. That, I believe, is the Hebrew Bible’s single greatest and most counterintuitive contribution to ethics. God creates difference; therefore it is in one-who-is-different that we meet God. ”
“The global age has turned our world into a society of strangers. That is not a threat to faith but a call to a faith larger and more demanding than we had sometimes supposed it to be. ”
“For Judaism the greatest spiritual challenge is not so much finding God within oneself as finding God within the other, the stranger. ”
“A world that cannot live with strangers is a world not yet redeemed. ”
“It is easy to love our neighbour. It is difficult to love the stranger. This is why the Torah commands us only one to love our neighbour, but on thirty-six occasions commands us to love the stranger. A neighbour is one we love because he is like us. A stranger is one we are taught to love precisely because he is not like us. That is the Torah’s repeated and most powerful command. I believe it to be the greatest religious truth articulated in the past four thousand years. ”
“Places of worship are about turning strangers into friends. ”
“The Hebrew Bible contains the great command, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18), and this has often been taken as the basis of biblical morality. But it is not: it is only part of it. The Jewish sages noted that on only one occasion does the Hebrew Bible command us to love our neighbour, but in thirty-seven places it commands us to love the stranger. Our neighbour is one we love because he is like ourselves. The stranger is one we are taught to love precisely because he is not like ourselves. ”
“The Bible commands us only once to love our neighbour. But it never tires of urging us to love the stranger. To have faith in God as creator and ruler of the universe is to do more than to believe that God has spoken to us. It is to believe that God has spoken to others, in a language which we may not understand. ”
“When a society loses its religion it tends not to last very long thereafter. It discovers that having severed the ropes that moor its morality to something transcendent, all it has left is relativism, and relativism is incapable of defending anything, including itself. ”
“What then is society? It is where we set aside all considerations of wealth and power and value people for what they are and what they give. It is where Jew and Christian, Muslim and Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh, can come together, bound by their commonalities, enlarged by their differences. It is where we join in civil conversation about the kind of society we wish to create for the sake of our grandchildren not yet born. It is where we share an overarching identity, a first language of citizenship, despite out different second languages of ethnicity or faith. It is where strangers can become friends. It is not a vehicle of salvation, but it is the most effective form yet devised for respectful coexistence. Society is the home we build together when we bring our several gifts to the common good. ”
“What the great religions understand is that society is larger than the state. Politics depends on pre-political virtues, nurtured in non-political environments: the family, the community, the congregation. These are where were first discover the give and take of reciprocity and the healing power of love and forgiveness. They are where we learn to negotiate the tensions between independence and inter-dependence. They are the matrix of the larger ‘We’ that makes possible the ‘I’. They are where we acquire moral intelligence. Without families, communities and friends, society becomes a mere aggregation of individuals, ‘the lonely crowd’, without trust or grace or meaning: without hope. ”
“Society is made out of the contributions of many individuals. What they give is unimportant; that they give is essential. Society is what we build together – and the more different types of people there are, the more complex and beautiful will be the structure we create. The important thing is that we build together. A nation is made by contributions, not claims; active citizenship, not rights; what we give, not what we demand. A national identity can be made out of the contributions of many cultures, many faiths. What matters is that together we build something none of us could make alone. ”
“Just as God creates the natural universe, so we are called on to create the social universe – a universe, like that of the planets and starts, that is ordered, rule-governed, a space of integrated diversity, a world we can see and saw, as God saw and said, that it is good. ”
“Judaism is a particularist faith that recognises the universality of the human condition. ”
“The Universality of moral concern is not something we learn by being universal but by being particular. Because we know what it is to be a parent, loving our children, not children in general, we understand what it is for someone else, somewhere else, to be a parent, loving his or her children, not ours. ”
“We are particular and universal, the same and different ”
“The Bible argues that universalism is the first, not the last, phase in the growth of the moral imagination. ”
“Judaism is structurally unique – the only world religion ever to believe in a universal God, the God of all peoples, times and places, and at the same time to believe in a particular way of life that not all people have to follow, because just as there is more than one way to be a leader, so there is more than one way to find God. ”
“Judaism is the particular case that exemplifies the universal rule that the world exists under the sovereignty of God, and that every person is the image of God. ”
“Each of us carries the inescapable burden of duality, of being true to our faith while recognising the image of God in, and being a blessing to, those who are unlike us. ”
“Judaism embodies a unique paradox that has distinguished it from polytheism on the one hand and the great universal monotheisms, Christianity and Islam, on the other. Its God is universal: the creator of the universe, author and sovereign of all human life. But its covenant is particular: one people set among the nations, whose vocation is not to convert the world to its cause, but to be true to itself and to God. That juxtaposition of universality and particularity was to cause a tension between Israel and others, and within Israel itself, that has lasted to this day. ”
“We own what we are willing to share. That is tzedakah: charity as justice. ”
“Charity is a form of prayer, a preliminary to prayer. With its combination of charity and justice, its understanding of the psychological as well as material dimensions of poverty, and its aim of restoring dignity and independence, not just meeting needs, tzedakah is a unique institution. Deeply humanitarian, it could not exist without the essentially religious concepts of divine ownership and social covenant. To know God is to act with justice and compassion, to recognise his image in other people, and to hear the silent cry of those in need. ”
“There must be justice not only in how the law is applied, but also in how the means of existence – wealth as God’s blessing are distributed. That is tzedakah. ”
“There are truths we can express in systems, but others we can only tell through story. There is the kind of knowledge for which we need detachment, but another kind of knowledge we can only achieve through attachment – through empathy and identification with an other. There are truths that apply at all times and places, but there are others that are context-specific. There are truths we can tell in prose, but others for which only poetry is adequate. ”
“Almost none of the truths by which we live are provable, and the desire to prove them is based on a monumental confusion between explanation and interpretation. Explanations can be proved, interpretations cannot. ”
“Biblical truth, a truth that cannot emerge at once but only through the experience of formative events, is a movement from acts done by God for the sake of human beings, to acts done by human beings for the sake of God. ”
“Truth is not something we discover at one time. That is how things are for God, but not for us. For Judaism, truth – as understood and internalized by humanity – is a developmental process. ”
“For life to be livable, truth on earth cannot be what it is in heaven. Truth in heaven may be platonic – eternal, harmonious, radiant. But man cannot aspire to such truth, and if he does, he will create conflict not peace. Men kill because they believe they possess the truth while their opponents are in error. In that case, says God, throwing truth to the ground, let human beings live by a different standard of truth, one that is human and thus conscious of its limitations. Truth on the ground is multiple, partial. Fragments of it lie everywhere. Each person, culture and language has part of it; none has it all. Truth on earth is no, nor can it aspire to be, the whole truth. It is limited, not comprehensive; particular, not universal. When two propositions conflict it is not necessarily because one is true the other false. It may be, and often is, that each represents a different perspective on reality, an alternative way of structuring order, no more and no less conmmensurable than a Shakespeare sonnet, a Michelangelo painting or a Schubert sonata. In heaven there is truth; on earth there are truths. Therefore each culture has something to contribute. ”
“I have argued for a Judaism that has the courage to engage with the world and its challenges. Faith begets confidence which creates courage. That is how Jews lived in the past and should live in the future. ”
“Torah and chokhmah must be reunited if Judaism is to recover its ability to speak to the world without fear of the world. ”
“A Judaism divorced from society will be a Judaism unable to influence society. It will live and thrive and flourish behind high walls within its own defensive space, but it will not speak to those who wrestle with the very realities - poverty, disease, injustice, inequality and other assaults on human dignity - to which Torah was directed in the first place. ”
“We cannot apply Torah to the world unless we understand the world. ”
“Without Torah we cannot understand the Jewish story. But without chokhmah we cannot understand the human story. ”
“Chokhmah is the truth we discover; Torah is the truth we inherit. Chokhmah is the universal heritage of humankind; Torah is the specific heritage of Israel. Chokhmah is what we attain by being in the image of God; Torah is what guides Jews as the people of God. Chokhmah is acquired by seeing and reasoning; Torah is received by listening and responding. Chokhmah tells us what is; Torah tells us what ought to be. Chokhmah is about facts; Torah is about commands. Chokhmah yields descriptive, scientific laws; Torah yields prescriptive, behavioural laws. Chokhmah is about creation; Torah is about revelation. ”
“If we are to apply Torah to the world, we must understand the world. We need a new generation of Jews committed to the dialogue between sacred and secular if Judaism is the engage with the world and its challenges. ”
“Chokhmah is the truth we discover; Torah is the truth we inherit. Chokhmah is the shared heritage of mankind; Torah is the particular heritage of the Jewish people. Chokhmah is the world of ‘is’, of fact; Torah is the world of ‘ought’, of command. Chokhmah is where we encounter God through creation; Torah is how we hear God through revelation. The two are not equal in their significance to Jews – Torah is holy in a way chokhmah cannot be – yet both are significant, for if we are to apply Torah to the world, we must understand the world to which it applies. Because the God of creation is also the God of revelation, there is ultimate harmony between them, even thought, given the imperfections in our understanding of both, it may not be evident at any given moment. There must, I believe, be an ongoing conversation between them, for otherwise Torah will remain a closed system with no grip, no purchase, no influence, on the world outside its walls. ”
“Wars are won by weapons. Peace is won by words. ”
“One of Judaism’s most distinctive and challenging ideas is its ethics of responsibility, the idea that God invites us to become, in the rabbinic phrase, his ‘partners in the world of creation’. The God who created the world in love calls on us to create in love. The God who gave us the gift of freedom asks us to use it to honour and enhance the freedom of others. ”
“The universe does not come emblazoned with its purpose. To fathom it has taken much wisdom and humility and the experience of humankind over many centuries. To express it may take music and art, ritual and celebration. But to say, ‘What is, is, for no other reason than it is,’ is to halt prematurely the human tendency to ask and never rest satisfied with the answer ‘It just is.’ Curiosity leads to science, but it also leads to questions unanswerable by science. ”
“The miracle of creation is that unity in heaven creates diversity on earth. ”
“Within the limits of human intelligence, we can climb at least part of the way to heaven but the purpose of the climb is the return to earth, knowing that here is where God wants us to be and where he has given us work to do. ”
“Creation has its own dignity as God’s masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have non to destroy or despoil it. ”
“There is little doubt that something has gone wrong among the many things that have gone right in today’s world. ”
“The very growth of modern knowledge has come about through specialization and compartmentalisation, so that an integrated universe linking man and the cosmos is now beyond us. The more we know collectively, the less we know individually. Each of us understands very little of our world. ”
“We cannot enjoy the food of affluence while others eat the bread of affliction. We are not fully free if others are oppressed. ”
“Poverty humiliates, and a good society will not allow humiliation ”
“A world in which the few prosper and many starve, offends our deepest sense of fairness and human solidarity. You do not have to be a convinced egalitarian to know that disparities of this magnitude – vast, concentrated wealth alongside widespread suffering – is intolerable. ”
“The economic growth produced by globalization and information technology has religious significance first and foremost because of the degree to which, more than any previous economic order, it allows us to alleviate poverty. ”
“Victims want the world to change, forgetting that it may be they who have to change. ”
“The flight from responsibility into victimhood is the oldest of all human temptations… But it is negative, destructive, it robs us of trust in the world, it leads us to see fate as a conspiracy directed against us. It leads us to the impotence of anger and the anger of impotence. The best way of curing a victim is to help him cease to think of himself as a victim. ”
“Philosophy aimed at universality – at propositions that were true in all places, at all times. But meaning is expressed in particularity. ”
“Jews have turned inward; they need to turn outward…Our uniqueness is our universality, and it is precisely by sharing our uniqueness that we enlarge the heritage of humankind. ”
“Judaism honours both the universality of the human condition and the particularity of Jewish faith. ”
“The basic structure of Jewish thought is the movement from the universal to the particular. ”
“Without negating the universal, Judaism is a celebration of particularity. ”
“Judaism is both particularist and universalist... Judaism is unique yet has a message for all humankind. ”
“What is society? Society is the home we build together when we bring our several gifts to the common good.”
“Side-by-side relationships should be encouraged in all religious congregations. Faith divides; citizenship unites. That is why it is important for faith leaders to spell out the need for shared space where we celebrate our common humanity, not just our theological particularities.”
“There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of God’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call.”
“Judaism is God’s perennial question-mark against the condition of the world. That things are as they are is a fact, not a value. Should it be so? Why should it be so? Only one who asks whether the world should be as it is, is capable of changing what it is.”
“Judaism is a complex and subtle faith, yet it has rarely lost touch with its simple ethical imperatives. We are here to make a difference, to mend the fractures of the world, a day at a time, an act at a time, for as long as it takes to make it a place of justice and compassion where the lonely are not alone, the poor not without help; where the cry of the vulnerable is heeded and those who are wronged are heard.”
“Religion and science, the heritages respectively of Jerusalem and Athens, products of the twin hemispheres of the human brain, must now join together to protect the world that had been entrusted to our safekeeping, honouring our covenant with nature and nature’s God.”
“Faith is the defeat of probability by the power of possibility.”
“Religion has done harm. But the cure of bad religion is good religion, not no religion, just as the cure of bad science is good science, not the abandonment of science.”
“Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.”
“Civil society rests on moral relationships. They are covenantal rather than contractual. They belong to a liberal, not libertarian, social order. They are brought about not by governments but by us, as husbands and wives, parents, friends and citizens, and by the knowledge that what we do and what we are makes a difference to those around us.”
“Hope – not optimism – is what empowers us to take risks, to offer commitment, to give love, to bring new life into the world, to comfort the afflicted, to lift the fallen, to begin great undertakings, to live by our ideals.”
“Religion is not the best way of understanding what is; its domain is in the realm of what out to be.”
“Morality, like language, is a social phenomenon. It is something we enter, not something we make. The family and its concentric circles of community are where we learn to speak, to share, to love, to trust, where we discover where we came from and of what history we are a part. They are where we acquire the arts of relationship without which we cannot survive for long.”
“A good society is one that offers its members equal access to hope.”
“Judaism is the voice of hope in the conversation of humankind.”
“A Judaism divorced from society will be a Judaism unable to influence society. It will live and thrive and flourish behind high walls within its own defensive space, but it will not speak to those who wrestle with the very realities - poverty, disease, injustice, inequality and other assaults on human dignity - to which Torah was directed in the first place.”
“Without Torah we cannot understand the Jewish story. But without chokhmah (wisdom) we cannot understand the human story.”
“Judaism honours both the universality of the human condition and the particularity of Jewish faith.”
“If we are to apply Torah to the world, we must understand the world. We need a new generation of Jews committed to the dialogue between sacred and secular if Judaism is the engage with the world and its challenges.”
“Language is the narrow bridge across the abyss between soul and soul, whether the relationship is between two people, or between myself and the Self of the universe. Language is the redemption of solitude.”
“Judaism is both particularist and universalist. Judaism is unique yet has a message for all humankind.”
“The only adequate response to the fear and hatred of difference is to honour the dignity of difference. That is the Jewish message to the world.”
“Judaism is the ongoing conversation of the Jewish people with itself, with heaven and with the world. It is a conversation scored for many voices, often in the argumentative mode.”
“If you want to know the strength of the Jewish people, ask them to give, and then count the contribution. To win the Jewish battle, the battle of the spirit, the victory of heart, mind and soul, you do not need numbers. You need dedication, commitment, study, prayer, vision, courage, ideals and hope. You need to offer people tough challenges through which to grow.”
“Jews are a nation, and Judaism is a religion. There are nations that contain many religions. There are religions whose adherents are spread across many nations. What is unique is the way in which Judaism combines both.”
“The single most important challenge facing the Jewish people, in Israel and the Diaspora, is to recover the Jewish story.”
“One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the faith that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope.”
“The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognise Gods image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideals are difference from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing him to remake me in His.”
“God, the maker of all, has set his image on the person as such, prior to and independently of our varied cultures and civilisations, thus conferring on human life a dignity and sanctity that transcends our differences. That is the burden of his covenant with Noah and thus with all mankind.”
“Creation has its own dignity as Gods masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have one to destroy or despoil it.”
“Mankind was not created to serve markets. Markets were made to serve mankind.”
“Society is a conversation scored for many voices. But it is precisely in and through that conversation that we become conjoint authors of our collective future, rather than dust blown by the wind of economic forces. ”
“Morality is integral to the ecology of hope because it locates social change at a level at which we can make a difference through the acts we do, the principles by which we live, and the relationships we create.”
“Those who are confident in their faith are not threatened but enlarged by the different faith of others.”
“The Universality of moral concern is not something we learn by being universal but by being particular. Because we know what it is to be a parent, loving our children, not children in general, we understand what it is for someone else, somewhere else, to be a parent, loving his or her children, not ours.”
“Religious leaders should never seek power, but neither may they abdicate their task of being a counter-voice in the conversation of mankind.”
“There are other cultures, other civilizations, other peoples, other faityhs. Each has contributed something unique to the total experience of mankind. Each, from its own vantage point, has been chosen. But this is ours. This is our faith, our people, our heritage.”
“Non-Jews respect Jews who respect Judaism, and they are embarrased by Jews who are embarrassed by Judaism.”
“Faith is neither rational nor irrational. It is the courage to make a commitment to an Other, human or divine. It is the determination to turn ought into is. ”
“Judaism is not a religion of continuing revelation, but rather one of continuing interpretation.”
“To defend a country, you need an army. But to defend an identity, you need a school. Judaism is the religion of the book, not the sword.”
“The word Torah means teaching. God reveals Himself to mankind not in the storm, the wind, the sun, the rain, but in the voice that teaches, the words that instruct.”
“In Judaism, revelation is political because the Jewish project is not to scale the heavens in search of God but to bring the Divine presence down to earth in the structures of our social life.”
“Judaism is an ongoing moral revolution. For Judaism, the criterion of the good society is not wealth, power or prowess but the simple question: does it respect the individual as image of God?”
“The whole of Jewish consciousness is tied to the strength of the family. For without an ordered family we could not envisage an ordered world.”
“Faith is born not in the answer but in the question, not in harmony but in dissonance.”
“Every Jew is a letter. Each Jewish family is a word, every community a sentence, and the Jewish people at any one time are a paragraph. The Jewish people through time constitute a story, the strangest and most moving story in the annals of mankind.”
“Freedom is won, not on the battlefield, nor in the political arena, but in human imagination and will. To defend a land, you need an army. But to defend freedom, you need education.”
“To be a Jew is to inherit a faith from those who came before us, to live it and to hand it on to those who will come after us. To be a Jew is to be a link in the chains of the generations.”