The Tablet Magazine recently published an article entitled “In Tel Aviv, Israel’s ‘Sin City,’ an Unexpected Religious Revival Takes Root”: synagogues are full and kosher restaurants abound as liberal immigrants, Orthodox singles, and secular Jews come together. The core thought of the article is “In Tel-Aviv, Israel’s ‘Sin City,’ an Unexpected Religious Revival Takes Root”.
If we believe the core of Judaism is only in prayers and rituals created by rabbis, sages and religious authorities in the past two millenniums, the return to Judaism in a “sinful Tel-Aviv” is indeed unexpected. However, if we believe that the core of Judaism is something else, the statement that Tel-Aviv Jews are “unexpectedly” returning to Judaism sounds wrong – they have been always in Judaism.
What is this “something else” that may make us believe that those “sinful Tel-Aviv-ans” have been always in Judaism? That is a fundamental concept of the Torah that God created all humans in His image and likeness and assigned to a part of the humans called the Jews the task of the Chosen People.
The Torah says all the humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and a part of the humans called the Jews were assigned the task of being the Chosen.
To follow “being created in the image and likeness of God”, the humans have to be
- creative in all spheres of human life, trying to create something what have not existed before – not being a simple executor of somebody’s human will;
- creative as an individual – not following the crowd;
- creative for the eternity – not just for benefiting your own life.
To follow “the duty of the Chosen” the Chosen people, the Jews, have to be
- able to create a Torah/Bible-based better world for everybody, Jews and non-Jews, working together with non-Jews – to do this the Jews have to convince the non-Jews that a Torah/Bible-based better world is indeed what God wants for the entire Judeo-Christian universe.
And the description of Jewish religious revival in “sinful Tel-Aviv” contains much in support of Tel-Aviv-ans being made in the image and likeness of God and being the Chosen. Let’s look at the following observations in the article.
“Although Israel has become well-known for its religious-secular divide, … Tel Aviv—long the defiantly secular counterpart to religious Jerusalem—is a study in how this culture may be changing”
The meaning of being secular is redefined, and it is called “… this culture may be changing”. Most of secular Jews believe in God, and the difference between secular and the religious Jews is in different definitions of God and his characteristics. Most of secular Jews believe in the Torah as foundation of Jewish and Judeo-Christian spirituality, although not in rituals and prayers created in the course of Jewish history. Therefore, most of them are probably coming to synagogues and rabbis to find Torah-based answers to questions they cannot find alone. What might be such questions?
“Synagogues in the center of the city fill up with young professionals”
Young professionals are the most visible and effective individual creators of material and spiritual wealth. They are creating material and spiritual wealth working together with their Christian colleagues. Why the young professionals decided to go to synagogues to communicate with rabbis? The most probable answer might be the following one. In our sophisticated and complicated Judeo-Christian creative world, it becomes difficult to figure out what is Bible-based the Good and the Bad in creative developments (for example, in nuclear or genetic developments with their potentially good and bad applications), and therefore a Torah-based discussion of all that with wise rabbis might be helpful. Are rabbis ready for such discussions?
“The rabbi gathered with a core group and brainstormed”, and “The rabbi believes it has to do with emphasizing the positive in teaching Torah. “It’s like a mirror, like a reflection in water. If you show hatred, you will get hatred reflected back, and if you show kindness, the same will happen.”
Many contemporary rabbis begin to understand what spiritual answers the creative Jewish individuals are looking for. Those answers are not in traditional rituals and prayers – they are in the true meaning of the “made in the image and likeness of God”, and that is not just “Love and Fear of God”. They are looking for the Torah-based meaning of individual creativity for eternity. And some contemporary rabbis are ready to work with the Jewish secular professionals in search for those answers in our complicated contemporary world.