Imagination, opined Albert Einstein, is more important than knowledge.
That seems like a strange idea, especially coming from a landsman. As Jews, we value, we prize, knowledge and education. Whether it’s for our children or ourselves, we have taken the label “People of the Book” seriously.
But Einstein’s quip should be taken seriously. Imagination and creativity are, after all, ways of expressing knowledge and learning, means of processing information. It is through the imagination that we can grasp complex or even contradictory ideas. Through mental ‘play’, thought exercises (what Einstein called daydreaming), art, literature and music, we not only make sense of the data before us, we achieve some level of ownership as well.
It seems to me that, as Jews, while we strive to know and understand the tradition, the so-called ‘right’ way to do things, we could stand to be more to be playful with the tradition as well, more willing to experiment, to engage in thought exercises about what our Judaism—our community—is and should be about.
Often, we rely on our leadership to engage in that creativity: to play with rituals and readings, to provide resources, to innovate our programming or communication, but this cannot only come from us, from me. You, too, are a creative person. Perhaps it’s in the way you relate to your children, or peers, or parents. Perhaps it’s at work, or in a hobby, or the exploration of art. However you find expression for your imagination, those same gifts can be used for expression of your Judaism and to help your congregation. And those expressions, those ‘thought experiments’ can help us here at the synagogue too.
I encourage you to think about your talents, your creativity, your imagination and consider bringing those gifts to the way you approach ritual, the way you experience your Judaism, and the way you engage the synagogue. Will it be the ‘right’ way to do Jewish? We won’t know until we try!