In the opening video, I tried in about 20 minutes to encapsulate ideas that have become the basis of my entire worldview or outlook – the way I understand life and history, the way I understand the Torah, and the way in which I try to make decisions and live my life in the very best way possible.
In this video series (and in the notes accompanying it on my website), I’ve tried to elaborate a bit more, and I hope to write more and produce more videos about this in the future.
There are several reasons I find these ideas to be so compelling and important:
People often ask Orthodox Jews why we live the way we do. For me, the answer is “to bring redemption to myself and the world.” This isn’t a slogan; it’s a consequence of the idea that the Torah – by which I try to live my life – is the constitution of the Am Levadad and the vehicle for spreading Avraham’s message to all of humanity.
People often ask Orthodox Jews why we live the way we do. For me, the answer is “to bring redemption to myself and the world.”
We’ll get to the practical ramifications of all this in just a moment – but first I want to clarify what I said at the end of the previous video: “History may be a lot closer to this triumphant conclusion – the messianic redemption – than we think.”
When I say that to people, I often get strange looks. Anyone who follows the news and understands all of the difficulties and problems in the world must be acutely aware of the fact that the world we live in still seems very far from that idyllic vision we discussed of what the messianic era is.
At the same time, though, I’m a student of history, and I can see how far we have come. Of course there is still much war, strife, and evil in the world. But at the same time, the ideas of ethical monotheism have taken root to the point that now, even ruthless murderous dictators at least feel compelled to pretend that they are acting ethically and morally. Even meaningless lip-service is significant, because it shows that they understand that they’re wrong and people know it.
And although Isaiah’s vision of all the nations streaming to Jerusalem to learn God’s Torah and follow it is still a future dream, the fact that a majority of people in the world are now monotheists is a big step in that direction.
And the existence of worldwide institutions like the United Nations – with all of its many, many, shortcomings and failures – is also a step towards the realization of that vision. We aren’t yet beating swords into plowshares, but the fact that every nation on earth sends a representative to sit in the same room and at least pretend to talk about these goals…in my mind that is a huge step in that direction. And has anyone noticed that those verses from Yeshayahu are written on the wall outside??
Isaiah’s vision of all the nations streaming to Jerusalem to learn God’s Torah and follow it is still a future dream, but the fact that a majority of people in the world are now monotheists is a big step in that direction.
Again, we are most certainly not there yet, but I am firmly convinced that we’re closer than many of us think.
So where does that leave us – you and me, and the Jewish people as a whole?
I think there are several practical ramifications that come from these ideas:
So where do we go from here? If this video series meant something to you, how can you implement these understandings in your life and contribute to this great national endeavor? I have a few suggestions for you:
You can do all of that – subscribe to the YouTube channel and email list, and also contact me – all at my website: rabbihaber.net. See you there!
I actually think the polytheist and the atheist are quite similar to each other – in fact, they’re almost identical! One might even describe atheism as a special form of polytheism.
What do I mean by this?
Well, let’s realize that in classic polytheistic conceptions of the world – even if there was often a “head” or “chief” god, there was no single ruler in charge of everything. Instead, the polytheist viewed the universe as a chaotic place controlled by various powers, which he personified and called “gods”. While the specific names and mythologies varied from one region or culture to another, there were striking similarities between them. They all believed in a pantheon of gods, each of which was thought to be responsible for a different natural or human phenomenon: there was usually a sun god and a moon god, a god of wind, a god of rain, a god (or often, goddess) of fertility, a god of war, a god of love, and so on. And at least in ancient times, these gods often looked and behaved very much like humans: They were jealous of each other, fought with one another, formed alliances, and deceived one another.
To survive in such a world, the polytheist would worship the various gods and try to figure out what they needed so he could win their favor and entice them to act in his interest. He might also engage in magical rituals that he believed could harness various forces to help him.
Now let’s compare this to the way a modern atheist sees the world. Unlike the polytheist, she doesn’t believe in gods with personalities and emotions. But beyond that distinction, her vision of the world is very similar. She also sees a chaotic universe in which various forces interact and clash with one another. Her universe, like that of the polytheist, has no ruler, and nobody in charge.
Sign up for my newsletter for periodic articles along with updates on new talks, classes and videos, and upcoming speaking engagements and public tours