The sea of Torah is an infinitely vast and deep body of knowledge and experience. In her waters we immerse and are washed with purity. We drink her waters and are given life. Today, however, the sea is stormy; ships sink, people drown, waves overpower. The winds of the day are blowing. Confusion abounds, complexity reigns. This world truly is a funny place – ironic, paradoxical, and incongruous. It is a world of contradictions; a world of dialectics. Heaven and earth clash in spirituality and hedonism, faith and science, meaning and disillusionment, individuality and conformity. Man and G-d are once again battling. Some sail to the peaceful waters of the East or to the bays of Western Liberalism, while most seek comfort in the mirage-filled deserts of hedonism. But some choose to stay in the stormy sea of Torah. And until that time when the whole world will be filled with the great hidden light and be inundated with the sweet waters of knowledge, we are drowning in confusion - the Torah has become a potion of death. Some choose to sleep in the holds of the ship but the sons of truth choose to confront the storm. Perhaps they can be saved in the belly of the fish, pleading to the Almighty to ease the winds and bring us to safety – to clarity, to enlightenment, to illumination, to unity. Perhaps through our struggle we will uncover higher lights, deeper waters and wider vistas.
Our way of navigating this storm will not merely be in the one dimension of logos. Our search does not end in the brain but extends to our existential core. Certainly, we must fearlessly encounter the collective winds of the day – the challenges of science and philosophy, the confrontations of history and psychology and, of course, the current Zeitgeist – but we must not forget that ultimately our G-d will be found through our own inner spirituality.
It was once said that our generation is in need of long introductions. The need for introductions, frameworks and organization serves practical, intellectual and religious functions. There is a ‘practical’ need of seeing the general before the particular, grasping the root before the branch. Certainly there are many beliefs and positions held by religion, and Judaism in particular, that will only be understood within the greater context of the religious worldview. In our age, the religious and the secular have grown so far apart; speaking different languages, functioning within wholly different frameworks, believing in radically diverse worldviews. The only way one can understand the specific idiosyncrasies of the religious is by entering into the general perspective of religion. Again, we will do that intellectually and emotionally.
In the world of the intellect we are presented with an overwhelming amount of information, debate and opinions – a wild forest of ideas. Introductions should create and apply methodologies for analyzing and dealing with this vast body. We are in great need of boxes within which to frame our discussions. Light will come to the intellect not through more details, or more bits of knowledge, but through clear methodologies, models and paths.
Lastly, the need for long introductions is a religious need in our search for truth. We are not so immature and naïve as to think that there are no conflicts. There will not be any knock-out arguments for either side. In the serious questions of life the color grey reigns. Full enlightenment is for future times, not for those of mere flesh and blood. Until then we must take the Yiddish idiom seriously: A person doesn’t die from a question. How do we accomplish this feat of acknowledging difficulties but not being fledged with doubts? Only by seeing the bigger picture, the grand view of religious philosophy and experience, will we be able to confidently face those questions that are born – and reborn – in every generation.