Ready For Renewal

Like the Israelites who left Egypt and faced the terrifying choices of freedom, modern Jews face the challenge of responsibly establishing new guidelines and directions for the Jewish community.

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And then came the offer of freedom, enticing and disruptive. To be free meant being able to choose, and also meant having to choose from a confusing and paralyzing number of options. Life would be more interesting, perhaps, but it would never be as simple. 

Where to Worship God

Moses summarized well when he explained to Pharaoh that "we do not know with what we are to worship the Lord until we arrive there." On the surface, he meant that remark to keep Pharaoh in the dark. Ironically, however, Moses himself wasn't sure where they were to worship God. Uncertain of their destination, not knowing what they were to do when they got there, the Jews had to be willing to live with the burden of freedom--the power to make choices and to take responsibility. Ultimately, freedom is the ability to take responsibility for life and its direction.

In our own generation, we face that same crossroads. The traumas and opportunities of modernity can excite and terrify, beckon with the enticements of new possibilities and chasten with complexity and confusion. No matter. The future is ours if we are willing to throw ourselves into the task with our hearts, minds and hands. We can build a vibrant Jewish future, but it will take effort. Support for synagogues, afternoon religious schools, day schools and Jewish universities and seminaries are essential to help us fashion tomorrow's Jewish community. 

Equally important is the perspective of the seeking Jew. A willingness to wrestle with difficult questions, with imponderable mysteries and with the marvel of life itself is the prerequisite for spiritual Jewish growth. It takes some courage to enter a synagogue and stay there long enough, week after week, to learn the service. It takes courage to sign up for an adult education class or to meet with a Rabbi. But there is no substitute for bravery. In the words of the great philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (20th century Germany) "The Jewish individual needs nothing but readiness." Are you ready?

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.