When asked how he could slight astrology when the Talmud endorses it, Maimonides responded, “Because human beings are created with their eyes in front, not in back.”
We are a people of the past who face forward. Growing in soul requires that we both appreciate the wisdom of our ancestors and at times change or even transcend it. Famed psychiatrist Erich Fromm was raised in a traditional Jewish home. As he developed his therapy, surely his Jewish background informed his statement that, “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.” Exploring is always riskier than staying home, yet without exploration there is no discovery.
How do we balance tradition and innovation? There exists no simple formula and no universal agreement. As we enter the Yamim Noraim, we understand that new challenges do not necessarily invalidate old formulas, but they do call for creativity and flexibility along with fidelity. Our ancient tradition itself encourages innovation. As one of the oldest devotional texts in the world, the Psalms, teaches us, “Sing unto The Lord a new song (96:1).” The world is old but the year is new. Sing.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.