DILEMMA OF THE MODERN JEW
To be a Jew means to have chosen to be part of a specific group. The association with that group is a voluntary and therefore a moral act. There is no governmental decree, no law, no Pale of
Settlement that might make such a decision or such choice necessary. ..As the "life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness" of the American Constitution suffers some loss of
luster in the translation of these "eternal" values into the reality of daily life, so is the "freedom" under which the decision to be a Jew is made a qualified freedom. ..Were it even closer to the great concept of "justice and liberty for all, " the voluntary decision of the majority of American Jews would be for the group to which they belong because they like it.
"Because they like it" is perhaps not a very
glorious affirmation. But it is infinitely more honest than the approach of those who try to "justify" their Jewish
allegiance with their pride of belonging to a people who wrote the Bible and produced so many Einsteins. It is an affirmation of one's self, and there is no firmer and more wholesome
identification than this.
...Present conditions seem to speak against Jewish survival: the watering down of the Jewish heritage, the provincial mentality of the Jewish
organized religion, the laziness, the rebellion of many against any inference with comfort and
convenience, the lack of the kind of heroism and stubborn- ness that are required for conscious survival. In spite of all this, I believe that there will be a new kind of Jewish survival. Not one born of night- mares and fears. Not one born of dreams and
illusions. But one born of a new twentieth-century understanding of man as he is, of all the factors,
complexities, memories, drives and hopes that make of a human being something living, something so unbelievably rich and unique, so unlimited in desire and potential. For those to whom the collective memory of being a Jew is part of their personal possession, Jewish survival will become a matter of personal concern. They will want to understand and know themselves through the experience of Jewish history and even the Hebrew language. Without knowledge, the new Jewish generation will understand, there can be no Jewish survival. Those to whom Judaism is a way of believing and
praying will find a faith which requires no com- promise of intellectual honesty. Organized Jewish religion, if its leaders have any sense and under- standing of the needs of the people, will begin to liberate itself from those kindergarten approaches which call for chocolate-flavored and sugar-coated Judaism, for easy-to-digest sermons and social
hustle and bustle, and will yet come into its own.
Judaism must divest itself of the sense of inferiority which has bedeviled and belittled it. As a minority religion, it must act and think and preach with the dignity and wisdom of the mother religion that it is. The Jews must celebrate their Hanukkah, not in the shadow of the Christmas tree, but with the knowledge that without the Maccabees there would have been neither Jesus nor Paul nor
Christianity. They must not stare at the Easter celebration with envy, but sit around their Seder tables and sing of freedom knowing that without the Exodus from Egypt which they celebrate, there would be no Ten Commandments, no Sabbath and no Sermon on the Mount. Judaism must and can -after so many centuries of blood and tears - become a proud and mature way of life.
HOLIDAY PRAYER BOOK
for Temple B'nai Abraham's High Holiday services, it contains English
readings that often interpretive rather than literal translations of the
Hebrew text. The responsive reading We
Repent is an example.
We are human and frail.
None among us is perfect. With all our good intentions we fail. Willfully
and deliberately we sometimes violate the laws of goodness and
We stand before thee, O
God, and with all our hearts do we beseech thee to forgive our sins.
We know that forgiveness
can only be found in our return to righteousness. To live in decency and
honesty is the commandment of our God. Yet we can only return to the ways
of righteousness if we know where we sinned.
We have sinned with our
lips; we have sinned with our hearts; we have sinned openly and
unashamedly, we have sinned secretly and deceitfully.
We do not live alone.
Nobody has a right to live in accordance with his selfish interests. We
are part of the community of men, each of them, of whatever race and
creed, of whatever station in life, created equal in the image of God.
have sinned against our neighbors. When some- body needed our help, we did
not respond. When we saw misery, we closed our eyes. When we heard the cry
of anxiety, we shut our ears.
live in a world of strife We live in a world of envy. We know that each of
us bears the responsibility for it. In our every day life, we sin against
the basic precept of human dignity.
We have sinned against
the unwritten laws of man- kind: respect for human life, humility in the
face of adversity, love for the humble and poor.
We are mindful that religion is meant to be a force
for good in our life. We know that the Torah of the human heart is as
important as the letter of the law. We remember that we often forgot what
God wants us to do and not to do.
We have sinned against the spirit. We have preferred
material gains to the satisfaction and happiness. We took where we should
have given. We chased after vanity and forgot the true value of life.
shall not live forever. Nothing will we carry with us to the grave. We
sometimes act as thou we had eternal life. We forget that we are mortals.
We have sinned against the meaning of life. We have
taken unto ourselves more than we can use. We have sinned against the
meaning of death. We forgot that life is but a gift from God.
have lost the sense of value, We have forgotten to know how to distinguish
between right and wrong, good and evil. We have distorted the goal of
have sinned by breach of trust, by groundless hatred, by stubbornness and
envy. We have sinned by greed and arrogance, by evil thoughts and by the
hardening of our hearts.
can name all the sins that we have committed. But everyone of us can give
account in his heart for that in which he failed. Nor are the words we
speak enough or the prayers which we recite sufficient. Help us then, O
God, to repent with all our hearts. Help us to be strong and determined in
making amends and living the kind of life lived in accordance with the
tradition of our people. Help us to understand the real values in life so
that our lives become less shallow, less empty, but instead filled with
the meaningfulness that makes for human happiness and contentment, a life
lived with the knowledge of goodness and honesty. Then, indeed will our
confession be more than the utterance of our lips. Then, indeed, will we
know that thou, O Merciful God, hast forgiven our sins.