Manage episode 365257388 series 3143119
Why do we do what we do as Jews? What is a mitzvah? Is it a nice thing to do, a commandment, or a cultural folkway of the Jewish people? If we don't believe in a commanding God, can we believe in commandment? If not, how can Judaism make any demands upon us? And if we do not allow our faith to make demands upon us, is it too thin and weak to be of consequence?
These were the questions that came up in last week's class about the essay by Elliot Cosgrove entitled "A Choosing People" published in Sources (Spring 2023). Rabbi Cosgrove diagnosed the problem: "The Jews I serve are not halakhic Jews living lives bound by Jewish law." p. 11. What to do about this reality remains elusive.
Enter the very next article in Sources written by Rabbi Leon A. Morris, President of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem (and son in love to our own Joel Berkowitz), entitled "In Defense of Surrender in Liberal Jewish Life." This is a fascinating piece conveying an important distinction that was new to me--and potentially very useful to us.
Citing the work of psychoanalyst Emmanuel Ghent, Rabbi Morris distinguishes between surrender and submission:
Ghent defined surrender as "a quality of liberation and expansion of the self as a corollary to the letting down of defensive barriers." Rather than abandoning or rejecting the self, surrender's "ultimate direction is the discovery of one's identity, one's sense of self, one's sense of wholeness, even one's sense of unity with other living beings."
Ghent defines submission in sharp contrast to the notion of surrender. Submission allows a person to be controlled by another's power while one's own distinct sense of identity is weakened... What we really desire is to be able to surrender our lives to a larger force, not to be controlled by someone else. p. 22
Rabbi Morris shows how we surrender to larger forces all the time in order to fulfill our deepest purposes. Parents surrender to the needs of their children. Children surrender to the needs of their elderly parents.
Architects and artists surrender to the "boundaries, borders and limits" of their fields to produce their designs and their art. p. 28.cHow might this concept of surrender (familiar to us in these other contexts) intersect with our quest for a thick and rich Judaism that imposes boundaries, borders and limits on our lives, and in so doing, creates beauty, meaning, community, and deep relationship?