Can’t Get No Satisfaction

There are powerful competing ideologies of religious meaning, one promoting acceptance and the other, discontent. Are we supposed to accept the world, be at peace with its foibles and tragedies, or are we to  always fight against the world, to seek to make it better and not rest easy with its shortcomings?

In 1946, Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman wrote a bestseller, “Peace of Mind,” in which he argued for balance and calm as religious objectives. In contrast, two years before in “Halachic Man,” Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote, “Religion is not, at the outset, a refuge of grace and mercy for the despondent and desperate, an enchanted stream for crushed spirits, but a raging, clamorous torrent of man’s consciousness, with all its crises, pangs and torments.”

While many of the practices of Judaism — meditation, prayer, the entire Shabbat day — are devoted to seeking and maintaining equilibrium and internal peace, the prevailing sentiment is surely that of dissatisfaction with the state of the world and the state of one’s soul. We are less for comfort than for challenge, and the prophetic calls to be better still ring in our ears.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.