Friday, August 23, 2013

Blogging Elul Day 17: Awaken

…Jewish leaders today, more and more, have a finely developed sense of the sacred potential of all things. They have become God-wrestlers, surprising even themselves. They know instinctively what they did not always know: that the Jewish people cannot be a secular entity - it is a circle with God at the center. And they speak a language that is unabashedly religious. In a culture where celebrity secrets and the big thrill matter most, Reform Jewish leaders are asking the right questions: What type of Torah lives in our souls? How do we bring our people back to Sinai?

…Is there anyone in this room who would not agree that there is a literacy problem - indeed, a literacy crisis - that exists in our community? Everyone knows the deficit from which we suffer. Ours is a uniquely ignorant generation, a generation truly without precedent in all of Jewish history. And the great irony of our ignorance, of course, is that we are simultaneously the best educated generation of Jews that has ever lived. Wonderfully educated in the ways of the world, we are abysmally ignorant in the ways of our people.

Too many of us can name the mother of Jesus, but not the mother of Moses. We know the author of Das Kapital, but not the author of the Guide for the Perplexed. And when we do study, we have too often have been satisfied with a kind of learning that is largely cosmetic, and which, if you were remarkably stupid, would be edifying. But of course we are not remarkably stupid; we are remarkably smart, and hungry for the intellectual splendor and the deep humanity of our heritage.

And why is this so important? Because Torah study is the motor which drives Jewish life, and whenever communities neglect it, they have already started on the road to decline. Because you do not wake up one morning and say: "I'm not going to be Jewish anymore." Disengagement from Judaism is a process, and it always begins when we turn our back on the study of Torah.
                                                -Eric Yoffie, UAHC, Biennial address, Dallas 1997

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