How we think about our past directly informs how we think about our future. In this lecture from 2013, Yehuda Kurtzer explores the ideas presented originally in David Hartman’s famous 1982 essay, “Auschwitz or Sinai,” and specifically how two quite distinct paradigms of the Jewish past have the power to inform our understanding of the Jewish people’s responsibility in creating a Jewish state.
Kurtzer examines the fundamental meanings of these two paradigms and analyzes the benefits and challenges of each approach. He asks the question, “Should the defining archetype for how we strive to build a Jewish state be based on vulnerability or aspirational commandedness?” And follows up by wondering whether it is possible to integrate both of these ideas into a Jewish society.
These are powerful questions for how our orientation towards the past can help create meaningful Jewish lives today.