JUDAISM IN THE ‘NEWS’
In his speech to the Jewish people summarizing the Torah, Moses says, in this week’s portion:
“On this day, the L-d your G-d commands you to perform all these statutes and the laws, to guard them and to fulfil them with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Devarim 26:16)
Our commentators ask, in what sense did G-d command the people ‘on this day’ as opposed to any other day? Rashi (d. 1105) explains with a principle that applies to all of Jewish life. ‘On this day’ does not refer to a particular moment in history. Rather, he says: “every day, you must understand the commandments as new, as if they were given to you on that very day.” The Midrash adds that the Torah should be as precious to us every day, as on the day we received it at Mount Sinai.
One of the great Rabbinic leaders of early 19th century Europe, Rabbi Moshe Sofer (d. 1839), explains the urgency of this message. He points out that man has a propensity to seek out novelty – a fact fully appreciated and exploited by the advertising world. We listen to the ‘news.’ We seek out the latest developments in music, food, art and fashion, science and technology. We also look for spiritual and intellectual ideas that are able to speak to us in our current times.
Says Rabbi Sofer, if people do not feel that Judaism offers insights that are relevant for them today, then they will find their spiritual and intellectual nourishment elsewhere and Judaism will be regarded as ‘old hat.’ We all have the challenge – and rabbis and educators especially so – to explore the depth and breadth of our tradition and discover that dimension that will renew the Torah for us, in our time, ‘on this day.’ We have to put Judaism in the ‘News.’