Off the Pulpit

Peace Or Discontent?

There are powerful competing ideologies of religious meaning, one promoting acceptance and the other, discontent. Are we supposed to accept the world, be at peace with its foibles and tragedies, or are we to fight always against the world, to seek to make it better and not rest easy with its shortcomings?

In 1946 Rabbi Joshua Loth Liebman wrote a bestseller called “Peace of Mind” in which he argued for balance and calm as religious objectives. In contrast two years before in “Halakhic Man,” Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote that “Religion is not, at the outset, a refuge of grace and mercy for the despondent and desperate, an enchanted stream for crushed spirits, but a raging, clamorous torrent of man’s consciousness, with all its crises, pangs, and torments.”

While many of the practices of Judaism – meditation, prayer, the entire Shabbat day – are devoted to seeking and maintaining equilibrium and internal peace, the prevailing sentiment is surely that of dissatisfaction with the state of the world and the state of one’s soul. We are less for comfort than for challenge, and the prophetic calls to be better still ring in our ears.