“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”
“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.”
“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”
“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… 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.”
“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. ”
“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 is God’s perennial question mark against the conventional wisdom of mankind ”
“Judaism is the insistence that history does have a meaning. ”
“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 a uniquely restless faith. ”
“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. ”
“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. ”
“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. ”
“At the heart of Judaism is a covenant of love. ”
“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. ”
“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? ”
“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. ”
“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 ”
“In Judaism, God is not in the answer but in the question. ”
“Judaism is the systematic rejection of tragedy in the name of hope. ”
“There is no ultimate ownership in Judaism. What I possess belongs to God, and I am merely its legal guardian. ”
“Judaism is not a religion of continuing revelation, but rather one of continuing interpretation. ”
“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 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. ”
“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 led ordinary people to lead extraordinary lives. ”
“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. ”
“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. ”
“Judaism is not a theory, a system, a set of speculative propositions, an ism. It is a call and it bears our name. ”
“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. ”
“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 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. ”
“Judaism is about the miracle of unity that creates diversity. ”
“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. ”
“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. ”
“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. ”
“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 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 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 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 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 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 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. ”
“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 is about sanctifying life, not just commemorating death. ”
“Judaism survived two thousand years of exile, not because it was easy but because it was difficult, sometimes heartbreakingly so. ”
“When people made Judaism easy, they found that their children preferred other ways of life. ”
“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. ”
“Judaism is about relationships. The Greeks asked, What exists? Jews asked, What is the relationship between the things that exist? ”
“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 the only civilisation whose key texts are anthologies of argument. ”
“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 voice of hope in the conversation of humankind. ”
“Judaism is the principled defeat of tragedy in the name of hope. ”
“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. ”