A reflection upon innovation and tradition

A reflection upon innovation and tradition


Text #1:

Most Jewish holidays are holidays of memory. The individual, the family and the community are called to remember and to re-enact ritually significant historical events that took place in our past.

The Jew is called upon to ask himself and to educate her children to ask: Where did I come from, what is my biography made up of? At Passover, Sukkot, and at Shavuot we ask: Where and when were we born? In Egypt as a slave, and I emerged free. I was at Mount Sinai. I wandered the desert towards the Promised Land, I settled and worked the land.

 But on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur there is no history, no memory, no past, no story or drama. So neither time nor birth nor identity dictate their content. Not what happened in the past, but what might happen in the future… These two festivals ask: Where is your life headed? How have you chosen to live? Do you have a dream to fulfill? Do you have a picture of society? What is your vision for Israeli society? Your community? Your home and family? If you wish to create an alternative reality, more just, it depends on you alone. On your aspirations for change. On your desire for redeeming yourself and your society. It depends on your vows to yourself now, in the present, yet facing the future. In this sense Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are human and optimistic festivals that address the human being and an image of her future.

Arieh ben Gurion, Rosh Hashana


 Guiding Questions:
  • What is the difference between the three Foot Festivals and Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur according to Ben Gurion?
  • Do you agree with Ben Gurion’s approach to these High Holidays?
  • How does this text speak to the following text?

 Text #2:

Among the many things that religious tradition holds in store for us is a legacy of wonder. The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted. Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man 1955


Guiding Questions:
  • According to Heschel Why is “indifference to the sublime wonder of living considered the“root of sin”?
  • How does the Jewish tradition of “Rosh Hashanah” enable us to not to take things for granted?
  • In your view, is the existence of Israel a wonder? Why? Why not?

Visual Text #3:

Maurycy Gottlieb was a Polish-Jewish realist painter of the Romantic period. He was born in Drohobych to a wealthy, Yiddish-Polish-speaking orthodox Jewish family living in Galicia, then part of the Austrian sector of the Partitioned Poland, now Western Ukraine. Considered one of the most talented students of Jan Matejko he died at the age of 23.

“Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur” or “Jews Pray”, is the last painting by Maurycy Gottlieb of 1878, depicting Ashkenazi Jews praying in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. The artist has painted himself three times: as a young child standing on the left, as a young boy to the right of the seated rabbi, and as an adult in the center looking outwards.

יום הכיפורים

Guiding Questions:

Take a look at this picture for a few moments and think about the New Year we are heading towards, and what it may bring us:

  • Next year, what would you like to approach with the naivety of a child?
  • What do you hope to approach with the many doubts of an adolescent?
  • When might you need the wisdom of an adult?


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