“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”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 Jewish people in its very being constitutes a living protest against a world of hatred, violence and war.”
“The Jewish people live, and still bear witness to the living God.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The people of the Bible were the first to conceive of the possibility of a society of universal literacy and equal dignity.”
“Jews need to recover faith – not simple faith, not naïve optimism, but faith that they are not alone in the world.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Believing themselves to be alone, Jews will find themselves alone.”
“The only people capable of threatening the future of the Jewish people are the Jewish people.”
“The Jewish task remains to be the voice of hope in an age of fear, the countervoice in the conversation of humankind.”