THERE ARE TWO WORDS I should like to strike from our vocabulary: “surveys” and “survival.” Our community is in spiritual distress, and some of our organizations are often too concerned with digits. Our disease is loss of character and commitment, and the cure of our plight cannot be derived from charts and diagrams. When surveys become an obsession, a sacred cow that eats up vast energies, they may yield confirmation of little more than what we know in advance. It is in such a spirit that undertaking surveys is an evasion of creative action, a splendid illusion.
--Abraham Joshua Heschel, Moral Grandeur And Spiritual Audacity
We spend an awful lot of time worrying about the End: the end of ourselves, of the World. Of this or that institution or program. Of Judaism. An end to the Jews. This concern isn't new; we see it manifest itself even in parashat Nitzavim, which we read this morning. Even now, the text says, there are those with wormwood in their heart, who are turning away from God this very moment. This isn't about the number of Israelites, however, any more than it's about the number of Jews today. It's about our commitment to our values, to our Torah as a living, breathing document, to God with whom we share a sacred partnership. That partnership and those values are expressed differently in each generation, in each community, but it's never about the program, never about the specific form of worship.
If we want Judaism to survive we need to move beyond the idea that Judaism is expressed superficially or episodically. Judaism means relationship--with other Jews, with God, with Torah. The specifics may change, but the core is eternal. We are God's people. We have sacred obligations to act as God's partner in Creation. These obligations make a demand of our resources--our time, our treasure, our mental and spiritual energy--to reshape the world and ourselves into a place of Justice. These obligations are Holy. We become holy when we do them, and especially when we do them TOGETHER.
Our community is still in spiritual distress. We still need to share a new vocabulary of the Neshamah with one another, to find our voices in the Voice of Torah. It feels hard, complicated. Nitzavim reminds us that it's not; it's in us, in our mouths and hearts. We don't trust it, but it's there. Will this year be the year we open ourselves to that voice? Or, as Jake Marmer quotes Samuel Menashe:
Taut with longing
You must become
The god you sought—
the only one