Let My People Know

"Like a living organism"

There are certainly many reasons for the lasting existence of the Jewish religion. 

In a certain sense, it is one of the riddles, or permanent secrets, of the reality of things. 

As the philosopher Kant is believed to have said: 

There are two proofs of the existence of God. One is the stars in the sky; the other is the existence of the Jewish people. 

One may discern that there is a secret here, a hint of the dialectic interrelation between tradition and historic reality, because when tradition is all-embracing, beyond the influence of time and place, it becomes that in which reality is contained. 

If and when a collision does occur between tradition and unanticipated aspects of changing realities, the individual person will reach out to find in his tradition those elements of coherence and certainty that are relevant to the new situation, whether it be a material or spiritual challenge. 

And the Jew has known a great number of such challenging confrontations: exile, servitude, harsh decrees, antagonistic opposing philosophies, and oppressive circumstances. 

His return to tradition has taken many forms; it was never the mechanical restoration of a fixed structure. 

The tradition itself adjusted to the new situation. 

New responses were elicited. 

This is because the Jewish tradition is not an inert inheritance. It is like a living organism able to react and respond to a variety of changing circumstances. 

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
From a conversation published in Parabola.