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December 11, 1992 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-12-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

WHAT page 7

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ies as Martin Buber, who
sought to explain the differ-
ence in human and divine
terms between authentic and
functional relationships, and
Abraham Joshua Heschel,
who attempted to awaken
spiritual consciousness to a
God in search of mankind.
Rav Joseph Soloveitchik has
explained the attractions and
repulsions of living within the
traditional Jewish law. Most
recently, feminist theology,
such as that being developed
by Judith Plaskow, has stim-
ulated spirited discussion.
My point, however, is that
it is still too early for the
essence of what these theolo-
gians have to say to have fil-
tered down to the average
Jew. It is still floating up
there in the seminaries. And
it would float up there forev-
er were it not for those who
attempt to popularize the the-
It is that there is perhaps a
new receptivity to spiritual
matter within certain quar-
ters among the Jewish people,
among those, in particular,
who have grown uneasy with
having to contend with life's
problems by themselves.
Years ago, they spoke of the
proste Yid - the plain Jew, the
average Jew. For the proste
Yid of yesteryear, it was the
Jewish law, Halachah, that
kept his world together. As
explained by the iconoclastic
Yeshayahu Liebowitz, a pious
Israeli thinker, when one ad-
heres to Halachah, theology
becomes largely irrelevant.
One does mitzvot and that's
it. (Na'aseh v'nishma.) Ac-
cording to Mr.Liebowitz, peo-
ple always had their personal
theologies, conceptions of God.
But they basically keep their
theology to themselves - thus
preserving communal unity.
Today the situation is re-
versed. For most Jews - to-
day's proste Yidden - Judaism
has become a religion of belief
and not a religion of behavior.
Thus, most of us have ques-
tions that have to be an-
swered satisfactorily (within
our secularized context) be-
fore we permit ourselves to
believe in God.
If people are again ready to
admit they have spiritual
needs, there has to be some
answers out there geared to
their questions and worded in
terms they can understand.
Such is what is being pro-
duced, for example, by Rabbis
Harold Kushner and David
Wolpe. Everyone can identify
with Rabbi Kushner, who un-
fortunately, lost a son, and
who seeks to explain the rules
by which God apparently
works in the world, seeming-
ly punishing good people.

Similarly Rabbi Wolpe ad-
dresses himself to examining
a God that heals the broken-
hearted. These are crucial is-
sues, to people who, like most
of us, need to put rationality
ahead of faith in conducting
their lives.
The new theology says,
however, that life transcends
the rational. It's up to us,,_
therefore, to decide whether-1
to accept life as it is (and to
find a spiritual anchor in life's
shifting seas - without, and ,
this is the Jewish component
- disengaging from reality), (i
or to float with the changing 1
tides. (The argument is that
it is fine to float with the
changing tides, so long as you
don't mind ending up - with j
no control over your life - in c.
some distant port.)
To those seeking answers,
responses are forthcoming:-
They are being filtered down
to the grass roots - slowly -
being distilled from our high
theologians by popularizers.
These explanations are not
yet well-enough understood
by people in general to have--
made a serious impact on
Jewish life. If the responses
can permeate communal con-
sciousness so thoroughly that
they seem self-evident, we'll
know that we will have en,TH
tered a new era, a spiritual, _J
era, one in which people will
no longer be hesitant to le
God into their lives. Then,
perhaps, we will be able to
ask the next question: What
does God want from us? ❑

Mark Finkelstein is the director
of the B'nai B'rith Hillel at
Michigan State University in '
East Lansing.

Egypt Travel
Is Dangerous


Jerusalem (JTA) — In the
of recent terrorist at- 4
tacks aimed at tourists
visiting northern Egypt,
Israel's tour operators have
been advised by the govern-
ment to warn clients of the c,

dangers of traveling there.
The prime minister's ad-

viser on terrorism, Yigal,
Carmon, this week warnea
tour companies that Israeli
as well as foreign tourists
are potential targets of at-
tacks by Islamic fundamen-

talists. His warning
precedes the expected in/-

crease in Israeli tourism t6-- ,
Egypt during Chanukah.
"Although they are not
specifically aimed at
Israelis, tourists are the
target," he said.

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