In America, we as Jews have continued our pattern of exile. We adopt the customs, dogmas, and styles of Americans, and become fluent in their language, culture, and morality, among other things. We vote in their elections with conviction and an implied association with their nationality. We have done much of the same for centuries, probably, wherever we have been sent. In some contexts, these are appropriate or necessary ways of relating to society. Some of us pride ourselves on our ability to kinda-sorta integrate Judaism into our modern context. We like to think about “big, controversial stuff” and interrogate it until it dissolves into a vague sense of pre-conceived American identity. So, who are these “Tribes of the Children of Israel” we’re apparently related to?
Can you imagine what a Jewish culture would look like? I’m not talking about Israeli food or Brooklyn-accented comedy. I’m talking about every article of clothing, every recipe, every preference and value and project flowing freely from a clear view of the doctrine that began our existence as a people. We could be enchanted by our folk music and storytelling, stimulated by our intellectual universe, ignited by our fiery passion for truth, and soothed by our silent stream of consciousness. We could be perpetuating the only meaningful lifestyle through the beauty of the only meaningful language. We could be a nation of ancients, a kingdom of sages and scribes and priests who are whole, luminescent beings beyond the comprehension of angels. Cities and landscapes, technology and the economy, politics and infrastructure could be fashioned from the exquisite silk of the Torah.
Yes, I am absolutely asserting that everything is literally and unequivocally in the Torah. It only takes some curiosity and intellectual honesty to confirm this assertion in any area of life. The Torah is a great and inestimable orchard, open at any time and in any place for any Jew to enter. When we speak uncomfortably about “Jewish thought” or grapple with Torah ideas that seem foreign to us, we realize that one of two things must logically be happening: either the Divine truth is warped, or we are warped. (The first is an oxymoron, so you can tell where I’m going with this. While it is popular to assume that whatever we don’t feel warm and fuzzy about is not Divine, this way of thinking is pretty much nonsensical.) Anyone that has ever mastered the multi-dimensional instruction of the Torah in its every subatomic detail has visited this awesome orchard and had all their questions answered. It is no coincidence that those who do not associate with our doctrinal nation as citizens of the tribe and descendants of emperors are usually somewhat superficial (and loud). It is quite a grand secret we guard in our ideological borders, only to be seen by those who choose to see it.
Free will, hashgacha pratis, the meaning of life — it’s all good fun to talk about, but a brain without a blood supply is nothing. Let us not be a scattered nation vacant of identity. The only aesthetic is truth; the only physic is its meditation. This is the prerequisite to the monolithic multiverse of Torah thought. It is who you are. “Ashrecha Yisrael”.