There are two Jewish traditions.
The first is a religious one. It finds supernatural power, prayer and worship important. It believes in divine revelation, eternal laws and sacred rituals. It sees Nature as less interesting than the world beyond. In Jewish history it found political power and became the establishment.
The second is a secular and humanistic tradition. It prefers people, human intelligence and human dignity. It affirms reason, science and human community. It finds no need to look beyond the wonders of nature. In Jewish history it never found political power. It survived in the underground of ordinary Jewish life.
The second tradition is as important as the first.
The second tradition is our tradition.
Judaism is far more than many people allow it to be. Some people view it very narrowly, seeing only its religious side. Others perceive it broadly emphasizing its ethical outreach.
Judaism is more than theology and moral rules. It is more than parochial faith and universal sentiments. It is the living culture of a living people.
Judaism is family, love and nurturing. Judaism is memory, roots and pride. Judaism is music, dance and humor. Everything that Jewish people, throughout the ages, did and yearned to do is Judaism.
Judaism did not fall from heaven. It was not invented by a divine spokesman. It was created by the Jewish people. It was molded by Jewish experience. It was flavored by Jewish sadness and Jewish joy.
Life is an evolution, a continuous flow of transformations. And so is culture. When circumstances change, people change. When people change, their laws and customs change. A healthy people welcomes change. It understands its history. It knows its own power. It leads the past into the future.
A secular, a humanistic Jew affirms the power of people. He or she affirms the power of common sense and human reason. But above all, he or she strives for human dignity.
Human dignity is Jewish dignity.
Our past is a guide to our future. It is no sacred temple requiring reverence. It is no sacred book with immutable decrees. It is no sacred song with only one melody. It is a treasury of memories from which we can draw. It is a storehouse of wisdom from which we can borrow. It is a drama of endless creativity which we can imitate.
We are always the bridge between the past and the future. We are always the continuity between the old and the new. We do not betray the past by rejecting our roots. We do not betray the future by ignoring our needs. We pay tribute to both. We use the past to dream of our future.
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