Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moodiness in Religion

R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Out of the Whirlwind, p. 169:

Judaism resent moodiness in the field of religion. We have never attributed much significance to the impulsive religious emotion, to the impetuous onrush of piety, the sudden conversion, the headlong emotional leap from the mundane and profane into the sacred and heavenly; we are reluctant to accept all kinds of precipitate moods as genuine expressions of God-intoxications of the soul. Judaism is interested in a religious experience which mirrors the genuine personality, the most profound movements of the soul, an experience which is the result of true involvement in the transcendental gesture, of slow, painstaking self-reckoning and self-actualization, of deep intuition of eternal values and comprehension of human destiny and paradox, of miserable sleepless nights of dreary doubt and skepticism and of glorious days of inspiration, of being torn by opposing forces and winning freedom.

Therefore, Judaism has always avoided bringing man to God by alluring him with some external magnetic power or charm. It does not try to gain entrance to his soul by creating around it a soft, gentle and serene atmosphere, full of quieting beauty and tender charm, in which it should almost spontaneously feel relieved of all its worries; nor by suggesting the idea of the numinous and mysterious through different artistic means, in order to render the soul docile and submissive; nor by a display of majestic glory and splendor. Man, according to Judaism, must meet God on realistic terms, not in an enraptured romantic mood, when the activity of the intellect and the free exercise of the willpower are affected by hypnotic influences.

That is why the Jewish service distinguishes itself by its utter simplicity and by the absence of any cult-ceremonial elements...

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