Originally published in Venture 2.1 (June 1957), pp. 17-18.
Searching for the Torah
The Rabbis noted that the two middle words of the Torah are larosh darash, meaning ‘he diligently inquired.’ It is a mistake to think of Judaism as a static faith in which everything is given, as it were. There is room in Judaism for the questing soul. The old Jewish idea that there are ‘secrets of the Torah’ implies that there are Torah ideas still to be revealed, truths of Torah yet to be realised, potentialities of Torah to be made actual. Each generation has its own problems and the Torah speaks to each generation in its own idiom and to its own situation. Among the problems our age has to solve are those of using atomic energy, that it be for a blessing and not a curse, the question of racial prejudice and discrimination, the relationship between employer and employee, the threat of Communism. We may not find a complete solution to these problems in our generation but this does not absolve us from trying to discover what Judaism has to say about them. For the words ‘he diligently inquired’ are right at the heart of the Torah and more than one great Jewish teacher has said that to seek for the truth is itself to find.
Freedom of the Spirit
The word most frequently used in hebrew for ‘freedom’ is heruth. The root meaning of this word is used in the Bible for ‘nobility.’ The nobles are called the ‘horim.’ For freedom is more than absence of external control. True freedom depends on an attitude of mind. As Ahad Ha-Am has said, there are Jews who are freemen in the midst of bondage because their souls are their own. And there are Jews who though free in body have no freedom of soul. It was no accident that Moses was brought up in the king’s palace. Only a man with something of the aristocrat in his soul can lead a people to freedom.
Faith and song
Scripture records that when Israel saw the hand of God at the shores of the Red Sea and when Israel believed ‘then sang Moses and the children of Israel.’ “When Israel believes Israel sings’ (Midrash). For a life without faith is a life without wonder and without purpose. But a life with faith is a life receptive to all the joy, the mystery, and the beauty of existence, in which a world is seen ‘in a grain of sand and a Heaven in a wild flower. The Jew could sing despite the tragedy of his life because there was a spark of the divine within him which enabled him in the midst of squalor and degradation to bless God who had not made him a heathen. In a Cologne cellar where Jews hid from the Nazis there was found this inscription:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when not feeling it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.