My friend and teacher, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, does not think outside of the box. Since he only joined the fold at a later age, he was able to make sure that Judaism never boxed him in, in the first place.
In tandem with that, he lives a strictly Orthodox life, no doubt also thanks to his very traditional wife, kids and community. As soon as everyone around him becomes a total free-thinker, he probably would quit writing. Just as the great Dutch political satirist Wim Kan said: I too want an ideal world, though I know that it would make me lose my job.
Rabbi Cardozo’s Judaism is alive and fresh, no wax statue, no dead dodo, no brainless routine, no journey on autopilot with the blinds down and the ears plugged. He is a romantic person who actively searches for the beauty, the music behind the notes, the essence beyond the words.
And as in many of our greatest, his respect, care and love are for all people. He’s not just concerned with “us.”
His liberalism stems from knowledge, not ignorance. This makes that the traditional rabbis are terrified of him. They can’t call him an outsider and they can’t laugh him off as an ignoramus.
He has a mindset nor a motive to ignore present problems in Jewish thinking, Jewish Law and Jewish life. But there is more. He loves people, Judaism and G-d too much to let substandard behavior and practice spoil the great good of the Jewish Tradition. We need to face the problems head-on, search for solutions and implement them. He’s an optimist. He knows that we can – and must – improve what’s so valuable.
But he wants us to think for ourselves, not merely follow. He wants us to worry what he worries about but find our own approach.
Reb Yaakov Vogelman OBM once sighed: how can people be so open-minded when learning Talmud and so close-minded when it comes to Weltanschauung (world view)? Rabbi Cardozo hates narrow-mindedness as little else. Disagree with him for all you want but not because you are too timid to think or be honest.
I know the above reads like a eulogy; it can’t be avoided. I wish him and his wife a long and healthy life and much pleasure from family and good news.
And may his new book (mazal tov) for many of us drill away at the box.