You probably know them. Those contemporary fraudulent books that come to tell us what G^d wants from us. Whether they pacify or stir us, they position themselves as the L^rd’s spokespersons. False prophets wholesale selling convention and certainty, demand and fait accompli as if that’s all G^d wants us to know and follow.
No more! Coming up, the first volume by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo on the Torah (preorder!). He eloquently and enthusiastically begins to show, not what G^d wants from us but rather what He wants to ask us.
Rabi Tzadok tells us (Sayings of the Fathers 4:7): “Don’t make the Torah into a crown to aggrandize yourself or a spade to dig with.” We need to consult the (Written and Oral) Torah to decide Jewish Law. But the Torah is not our tool to satisfy our curiosity about the Highest and the Lowest; to prove that we are right or others wrong; to show off or put another down; to find answers or to torpedo answers; nor a storehouse of explanations but a timeless collection of keen penetrating questions.
The Torah is not to be merely used or it’s abused. That would cheapen it. It’s like not utilizing our older parents to reach a goal. Surely they want to help us but they should never be turned into our servants.
A special case of abusing the Torah is wanting to find all solutions. Study Torah in depth and we’ll find some answers but also an endless number of deep questions. The Torah is not the final encyclopedia holding all knowledge. It’s the ultimate questionnaire. It asks us. It makes us question, including ourselves. It should make us wonder if not worry.
The Torah well read should surprise, no: shock us. It must worry the comfortable and comfort the worried. Rabbi Cardozo shows the way.
“Who knows” is synonymous with G^d knows. G^d presents Himself as the rhetorical Who. Who’s like You? (Exodus 15:11, Song at the Sea and the Standing Prayer, second Blessing on G^d’s Holiness, Specialness.) This is an answerless question. You cannot see My Face because no human can see It and live (Exodus 33:20). G^d is Beyond. Likewise, we should be beyond knowing. We should constantly question anything we know. Not despite our Jewish info but rather because of what Judaism teaches us.
That will be unpopular. It’s easier to have closure. Tranquility feels nice. But the ultimate Shalom is beyond tranquility. It’s being one with everything and everyone. There are no easy simple answers to get there.
Rabbi Cardozo and I are friends and I haven’t seen the manuscript yet.
Rabbi Cardozo is a Spinoza specialist — and lover — which is well-known. May I then add a few words about the following?
One needs to ask oneself: Where did the amazing Torah insights that should have emulated from Spinoza’s extraordinary mind go? We know that nothing from the spiritual world gets ever lost.
Well, maybe they went to the formidable brain of his contemporary, Newton. His kosher religiosity and insights in the Jewish Tradition are remarkable, especially for a scientist shunned by the Church in power and for a Gentile not at all obligated to study Jewish knowledge