Page 149 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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question “what am I here for?,” has been assigned a special role.
His is the task to act as co-partner with the Creator in the ongoing
process of creation. He can fulfill his function and fulfill himself
to the extent that he abides by the moral imperatives, “do justice,
love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6 :8). These
norms are ethical absolutes. They determine the relationship
between God and man, as well as between man and his environ­
With regard to the presence of evil in the world, Gordis readily
admits that its enigmatic nature is beyond comprehension of the
human mind. But man can and should construct a view of life that
will help him cope with the problem. Man should affirm faith in
the goodness of God. Endowed with freedom to choose between
the good and the evil inclinations, he should confront evil, like
Job, and battle against it. He must be aware that through relation­
ships with other men, he can augment its domain or reduce its
Gordis traces the democratic ideal to biblical insights. Some
thinkers, including astute political figures such as Winston
Churchill, believe that this ideal originated in the Greek city-state.
But this is an erroneous interpretation of history. One has only to
recall the fact that at the time of Pericles the majority of Athenians
were slaves to their townsmen! Democracy, Gordis asserts, is
rooted in the Torah of Moses with its insistence upon rights for
the “stranger in thy midst,” its legislation to protect laborers, its
compassionate concern for widows and orphans, and its human­
ity toward the enslaved.
Torah includes the entire corpus of rabbinic interpretations
and innovations down to our time. According to Gordis’ concep­
tion, it is a divine revelatory process which began at Mt. Sinai as an
ongoing dialog between the Law Giver and the Community of
Israel. He spoke and they — the people assembled at the moun­
tain — responded at that moment in history, and have been
responding in every generation since in terms of the needs and
challenges of the hour. Hence the unequivocal emphasis on
halakhah — Jewish Law — in the life and history of the Jewish
Since, in Gordis’s view, consensus regarding the validity of
halakhah is essential for Jewish survival, current efforts should
focus on persuading Jews to revive interest in three areas of
Jewish experience: observance of daily mizvot, systematic study