Monday, April 03, 2006

From "Ethics of Responsiblity" by Walter Wurzburger

from Ethics of Responsibility: Pluralistic Approaches to Covenantal Ethics, by Walter Wurzburger

From my perspective, Halakhah represents not merely “the way of God”—that is, a divinely revealed body of laws; it also functions as a way to God, leading not necessarily to mystical union with Him, but to a life dedicated to responding to Him through obedience to His commandments and imitation of His ways. p3

One the ideas that first drew me to the work of Rabbi Soloveitchik was his emphasis on what he described as the "democratic" nature of the Halakhah. In the sense that anyone can perform the various mitzbvot (commandments) and can find God through those actions. One does not have to have some special mystical or contemplative ability. I find this immensely important because I think very few individuals truly have a mystical side to them. Therefore, finding some way to make our everyday actions and life "holy" is key.

The applicability of the norms and values of Jewish Covenantal Ethics is by no means restricted to the members of the Jewish Covenantal Community. Although at the present time the religiously committed Jewish community seems to turn ever more inward and tends to focus primarily upon the particularistic and nationalistic elements of its heritage, I believe it to be of special importance to call attention to its universalistic components. While the ritualistic elements of Judaism are completely particularistic and intended exclusively for individuals who either by birth or by conversion qualify as members of the People of the Covenant, Jewish ethical teachings are not subject to the same kind of limitation but are viewed as possessing universal relevance. p8

I will share more quotes from this work over time. One of the reasons I am drawn to Judaism is the "democratic," this-worldly focus and its emphasis on ethics. However, I must admit that at times I feel, as Rabbi Wurzburger alludes to, that their vision and interests are far too focused on either Israel or simply Jews as a whole. There are very few "universal" messages presented. In some ways, we should be happy that the Jews are not trying to convert everyone and have always had belief in the righteousness of the righteous from other traditions. But with the world in so much pain these days, I do believe that there are universal qualities within Judaism that can be of support and service to believers of other traditions, or simply those seeking to learn more and be closer to God.

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