Let My People Know

"Catastrophe is the spur, the great stimulus"


Despite the instances of soul-searching as part of the routine of life, as something consciously present at all times, for the community as a whole, such introspection usually occurs only in times of trouble and distress. 

This is true both of imminent and anticipated catastrophe and of events that have already taken place, leaving a deep and tragic impression. 

In this context, the Torah itself expresses a constant, unequivocal call to reconsider, to reflect, before it is too late. "Only take heed and keep your soul diligently" (Deuteronomy 4:9). 

This call is frequently repeated in a variety of different ways. 

Nevertheless, it seems that we also come across another, more pessimistic yet more realistic attitude: "And when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord, your God, has driven them, and return to the Lord, your God. . . " (Deuteronomy 30:1, 2). 

That is to say, the hour of reckoning, when not only the few undertake to search their souls, is the hour of catastrophe and its aftermath. 

It is disaster that motivates self-scrutiny and self-examination. 

This assertion, which appears many times in all the prophetic books, has time and again been historically verified. 

Thus, it appears that catastrophe is the spur, the great stimulus that brings both the individual and the community to reconsider their spiritual state.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From "Soul-Searching" in The Strife of the Spirit by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz