Creative Tension

“There are aspects of Judaism that never change, wherever and whenever we are. The laws of purity and impurity, permitted and forbidden, sacred and secular – these have barely changed through the centuries. And though many of them are no longer operative, because there is no Temple and its service, they remain part of the Jewish law still studied in yeshivas and houses of study throughout the world. This is when we encounter the holiness, the otherness, of God as He exists beyond time and space, infinite and eternal. But there are aspects of Judaism that are deeply enmeshed in time and place, above all in the fate of the Jewish people as a nation in its land or as a people scattered and dispersed throughout the world. Most of the books in Tanach – some historical, others prophetic – are about this dimension. They tell a story about the faithfulness or faithlessness of the people to their covenant with God. There is nothing metaphysical or other-worldly about this story. It is about politics and economics, battles won or lost, about Israel as a nation in a world of nations, and about its ability or otherwise to stay true to its founding principles as a covenanted people through the whitewater rapids of history. Judaism lives in the creative tension between these two essential elements of its being.”

Covenant and Conversation: Numbers, p. 113