Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"A tradition cannot leave things in a state of unchanging status quo"

"There is at least one thing that other traditions can learn from the Jewish experience, and that is that a tradition in itself, even if it is almost hermetically sealed, which is something that doesn't exist any more, cannot continue to exist only by the force of inertia.

A tradition cannot leave things in a state of unchanging status quo.

In the Jewish experience this factor has been very prominent; the group awareness was always alive to whatever threatened it and ready to invest energy to guard the tradition and to maintain it--not necessarily to freeze it.

Whenever the group was unwilling to pit itself against imminent change by investing thought and effort, the change was destructive to the tradition.

The question here is not the value or the resilience of the tradition, but the fact that any social form that does not keep reinvesting energy into its continuation will tend to die out.

The efforts required are always very great.

True, many traditions have survived in conditions of relative isolation.

But today, folk cultures are being destroyed by no more than superficial contact with some outer influence.

And this is because the people involved are without adequate consciousness of themselves or without the will to do anything about it.

They are not prepared to invest the enormous effort required to meet the challenge of the contact with alien forces.

But this has to be learned--and sometimes it comes too late."

--Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Parabola Magazine Vol. 14 #2