Originality

By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER

Simon Greenberg (1901-1993) was a congregational Rabbi, Seminary administrator, and architect of Conservative Judaism. He observed: “Our ancestors have made it quite difficult for us to be original.”

Rabbi Greenberg understood that, though contemporary Jews may think we are living in novel times with unforeseen and unprecedented challenges requiring new solutions… the rich, accumulated wisdom of Jewish Tradition offers specific guidance and perspective on the full range of human experience: our relationships, our foibles, and our needs – perceived and real. We need only have the faith and good sense to turn to those sacred resources and norms in our quest for meaning and direction.

The truth of Rabbi Greenberg’s adage is demonstrated by the fact that it is – itself – not entirely original! His distant Rabbinic forebear, Ben Bag Bag, said: “Turn it – the Torah – over and over again, for everything is in it” (Pirkei Avot 5:21).

Creative applications, innovative programming, and new technologies are all commendable assets in the transmission of Jewish Tradition. Ultimately, however, it is fealty to that Tradition itself which promises spiritual fulfillment and Jewish continuity, moral rectitude and religious integrity.

Rabbi Greenberg’s contemporary, Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh (1904-1967), may have put it best: “A man is original when he speaks the truth that has always been known to all good men.”

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the former National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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