January 16, 2019

Judaism Needs Big Ideas

“It is time to start thinking big about Judaism. Great opportunities are awaiting us, and too much is at stake to let them pass by. For too long, Judaism has been jailed in compartmentalized and awkward boxes. It is time to liberate it.

Most religious Jews are not aware that Judaism has nearly become passé. They believe it is thriving. After all, we have more learning, more Jewish schools, yeshivot, women’s seminaries, and outreach programs, and more books on this subject than ever before. Despite this, Judaism suffers from a serious malady.

In truth, it is not only Judaism that suffers from this disease, but the whole world. We lack bold ideas. We have fallen in love with — and become overwhelmed by — an endless supply of all-encompassing but passive information, which does not get processed but only recycled.

Most of our yeshivot have retreated from creative thinking. We encourage the narrowest specialization rather than pushing for daring ideas. We are producing a generation that believes its task is to tend potted plants rather than plant forests. We offer our young people experiences in which we tell them what to think instead of teaching them how to think. We rob them of the capacity to learn. The plethora of Halachic works, which educate them in the minutiae of the most intricate parts of Jewish law, hardly generate the inspiration of new ideas about these laws. In fact, they stand in the way.”

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