Let My People Know

"The fundamental problems of life today are the same as those of three thousand years ago"


Many of the Jews who come to the synagogue on the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not regular worshipers; they don't attend prayer services during the rest of the year. 

And no less than these are the many who would like to come but who do not have the heart to do so. 

Both of these kinds of Jews wonder whether it is at all possible for a contemporary person to pray. 

How can a modern man do such a thing?

Of course, this question is usually asked surreptitiously, being the sort of question a person puts only to himself. 

At times it belongs to the unspoken queries of the heart that never emerge at all but assume a certain urgency at this season of the year.

The truth is that this question has a considerable degree of naiveté about it. 

And naiveté does not necessarily belong only to the innocent or the unlearned. 

There is another kind of naiveté, that of the intellectual (both the genuine and the make-believe). 

A person can be very well educated, sharp and discerning in many fields, and at the same time display surprising innocence in other areas of life, especially those with which he has had little contact.

It is generally believed that in our generation, when "spiritual" persons show themselves to be sharp and clever about their financial affairs, and when sex is a commonplace and tedious subject of conversation, there is not much room for innocence and simplicity. 

But it is not so. 

Our contemporary society, which may be bringing to light areas of life that were once kept hidden, is still concealing from it self many critical aspects of mind and heart. 

In our time, when the mention of God's name or even thinking of Him is intellectually out of bounds for so many people, this entire realm is obscured in a mantle of secrecy and kept discreetly out of the framework of decent conversation. 

It is therefore hardly surprising if certain individuals seek their satisfac¬tion elsewhere and get themselves involved with strange cults and faiths.

With all the changes and differences, the achievements, sins, and distortions of modern man (and so few are really new), he has still not transcended the basic limitations of his humanity. 

The fundamental problems of life today are the same as those of one thousand and three thousand years ago. 

There is the same wretchedness and suffering of the heart as ever. 

The only difference is that many people keep God out of bounds–even when they are really looking for Him everywhere.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From On Being Free, p.90, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz