We live in a complex world, a world with many issues that manifest across the experiential spectrum of the human condition. Things seem to be getting worse, devolving into a downward spiral of bad to worse, of crisis to more urgent crisis.
But I am hopeful. More than hopeful – I am radically optimistic.
The belief that sits at the core of my message is a simple one:
Balance equals health. Imbalance is the root of every ill.
Looking at the Jewish story with a wide lens, it seems clear that the elusiveness of balance has been our constant struggle. Our tradition is full of tensions, and the general public has often allowed itself to be pulled after certain of its elements at the risk of becoming untethered from others. Restoring this balance is essential to the healing of our nation, the maximization of our ultimate national potential, and the rectification of a world that has been waiting for 2,000 years for us to deliver the message we have been appointed to share.
Yiddishkeit has two foundations: Torah and Tefillah. These two foundations are outfitted to elevate and inspire the two centers of human functionality, the mind and the heart – intellect and emotion. Within Torah, too, this distinction appears in the two areas of Halacha and Aggadah.
As a nation born anew after the devastation of the Holocaust, we struggled to rebuild the institutional framework of Jewish life – educating in a way that would produce Rabbonim, specialists in the halachic process who would be able to establish a vibrant Jewish community founded upon a “what, where, how, and when” that was authentic to tradition and indispensable for the continuity of yiddishkeit.
At this point in history, we can look back and – with a unique blend of gratitude and pride – proclaim victory in this regard. Our institutions are strong, more Torah is being studied and taught than perhaps ever before in our history, the machine of Torah Judaism, with all of its various cogs and wheels, is buzzing merrily along once more.
However, as a result of this hyper-focus, our communal moorings have caused the vessel of our national development to tilt to one side, resulting in an imbalance. We have the mind, but we lost the heart. We know how to learn, but we forgot how to daven. We are experts in halacha, but the aggadah – the philosophical, theological, and mystical side of our tradition – remains unfamiliar terrain. It is my firm conviction that it is this imbalance and its multifarious manifestations across the spectrum of communal life that serves as the primary source for so many of the issues we are facing; symptoms, all, of our having lost what we refer to as “the Princess”; the “why” of Yiddishkeit, the spark, the soul.
When I say I am a radical optimist, it is not because I am naïve and unaware of the challenges facing our generation. Rather, my optimism is founded upon my deep certainty that there is a single, unified, an eminently achievable solution to all of our issues across the board. The seeds of my hopefulness are watered by the great strides being taken by our institutions to incorporate more heart-centric perspectives, the perspectives of Chassidus and penimiyus haTorah, into the core of their operations. Things are changing, rapidly so, and am Yisrael is waking up in a way quite similar to the revolution brought about by the Baal Shem Tov’s revelation in the early 1600’s.
As the redemption continues to unfold – the physical return to and development of the heart of the world, Eretz Yisrael, mirrored by a return to the “Eretz Yisrael” of Yiddishkeit – we are tasked with asking ourselves the following existential question:
We are all aware of the many difficulties with which we are faced. Will we continue to bemoan our circumstances, fruitlessly venting our frustration over the seeming hopelessness of our generation? Or will we have the wisdom to embrace the remedy Hashem has already sent us, restoring balance and health to our community and throwing open the doors for Moshiach Tzikeinu?