By Jeremy Gimpel
According to NASA, the diameter of the observable universe is around 92 billion light-years. For those, like me, who can’t wrap their minds around what billions of light-years are, the known universe is 540,013,596,000,000,000,000,000 miles wide and growing.
Scientific discoveries in the last 100 years have given modern man a new sense of humility. While civilization celebrates its social and technological advances, humanity realizes how infinitesimal we are in relation to the vastness of the universe. We once believed ourselves to be the center of creation but now we know otherwise. This recognition has generated a certain existential “inferiority complex” and a new struggle for religious faith.
While the fundamental premise of the Hebrew Bible is that God speaks to man, we can’t help but ask why the Creator of this vast universe would care about such a small speck on an ever growing canvas. Ironically, this new found humility threatens to inhibit our connection to the Divine and, in turn, to our inner calling.
Jewish populations around the world are shrinking. With circumstantial exceptions, the only country in the world today with a growing Jewish community is Israel.
As many of the most inspired and identifying Jews are returning home, the flame in the hearts of Jews throughout the diaspora is flickering. Like never before, our faith community is being challenged.
Assimilation and intermarriage are not the problem – they are symptoms and consequences. Today, seeking answers, Jews are not being taught to ask the most fundamental question. What does God demand of me? What is my personal calling?
In many ways, asking the question is more important than the receiving an answer. “God is close to all who call Him, to all who call Him in truth.” (Psalm 145). Are we raising the next generation to call out in truth?
The response to this question may be to join the Peace-Corp, to volunteer in a homeless shelter, to make Aliyah or fight for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount. But without asking the question, we will be deaf to the calling from within.
Both ancient pagans like the Canaanites and modern scientists like Einstein described God as power. Judaism protests that more than just power, God is a voice; a conscience.
There is a call permeating the galaxies and echoing in the chambers of our souls that has driven the Jewish People throughout history. Jewish faith lives not only in the privacy of our souls but in our expressed compassion and justice. Morality is a divine imperative and Tikun Olam (fixing the world), a life’s mission.
The prophets of Israel were the first people in recorded history to conceive of peace as an ideal. Their impact was dramatic and has resonated until today.
When representatives from every country in the world walk into the United Nations building in New York, they pass an inscription with the words of Isaiah. “They shall beat their swords into plough-shares, their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
The Jewish mission is far from over. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, once said, “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.” Ben Gurion’s vision of a normal country has come to pass. The visions of Amos and Hosea have not.
There is a calling in this generation for every person. Every force known to humanity has tried to extinguish the fire of our faith, and now the torch has been passed to us. The early Zionist thinkers were wrong. Our return to Israel is not a destination; it’s a wake-up call.
Many philosophers have defined faith as a lack of doubt. Others, more distinctly, define faith as the courage to live with uncertainty. The greatest leaders were called to venture on perilous journeys. Abraham and his family, Moses and his people, David and his men all walked through the valley of the shadow of death. At many points along the way, they or those they led had doubts, but their calling defined their vision and their faith led them to greatness
While many Jewish leaders manage crises, we need Jewish leadership that provides vision. Fighting anti-Semitism, battling boycotts against Israel and commemorating the Holocaust are not enough. Our generation needs to hear not what to do, or how to do it, but rather why it still matters.
The calling of Judaism must resonate in their hearts, captivate their imaginations and inspire them to action.
When Biblical man encountered reality in all its majesty and wonder, his amazement triggered a sense of gratitude and indebtedness. Different from gratitude, indebtedness sparks a desire to give back; a feeling of being called to act. In that moment of responsiveness, like Abraham, we can find our way today.
To revive our faith we must learn and teach to be open to the question, “The Lord God called to man, where are you?” (Gen 3:9). That voice still permeates the infinity of the cosmos today.
We all have a calling if we just listen.
Jeremy Gimpel is the host of “Israel Inspired Radio” on iTunes, the creator and host of the TV show “Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem” and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. He currently serves as the Deputy Director of the World Mizrachi Religious Zionist Movement. The opinions expressed herein are his own.