Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “God says, ‘I finished My work; now it is your turn.’”

Whether we like it or not, progress is always bubbling in the world.

What is the proper attitude to these constant changes?

There is a formula attributed to the Hatam Sofer: “Innovation is forbidden by the Torah.”

Indeed, there are many Jews who try to live by this mantra.

Ultimately, however, it is notable that even Jews of the most conservative streams do not take this opposition to innovation as far as some non-Jews do.

There are some non-Jews who truly believe that innovation is forbidden – the Amish in the United States, for example, whose dress resembles that of haredi Jews, with black hats and black garments.

They abstain from technology almost entirely, do not travel in cars, and use no mechanical tools.

They work the land, build their own houses – all in the old-fashioned manner.

They do this because they believe, simply, that all innovation is a product of the devil.

Some object to airplanes, reasoning: If God had wanted human beings to fly, He would have created them with wings.

This is an excellent rationale, but I do not know of any Jew who refuses to fly because of it.

Jews do not express their opposition to innovation in this way.

In general, even those of us who claim to refuse innovation will not hesitate to benefit from the innovations of others.

The permissibility of using electricity on Shabbat can be debated from various angles, but no one contests its use during the week.

A God-fearing individual need not necessarily fear the “new”; he need not necessarily feel that it is his duty to fight against new things and protest them.

On the contrary, we believe that if “God created to do,” then our duty is to improve and perfect the work of God in the world.

God says, “I finished My work; now it is your turn.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz