Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, p. 216
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Some of us may think: how unwise of our ancestors to have committed all future generations to a covenant with God. Yet the life of a historic people is not unlike the life of an individual. As we have seen, there is no civilized living without acts of entering upon social relations, and such acts imply the acceptance of a commitment, the making of a promise or the taking of a pledge. To enter a relation with God the people had to accept a commitment. Socrates taught us that a life without thinking is not worth living. Now, thinking is a noble effort, but the finest thinking may end in futility. In thinking, a person is left to oneself; a person may soar into astral space and proclaim the finest thoughts; yet what will be the echo and what its meaning for the soul? The Bible taught us that life without commitment is not worth living; that thinking without roots will bear flowers but no fruits. Our commitment is to God, and our roots are in the prophetic events of Israel. The dignity of a person stands in proportion to his/her obligations as well as to his/her rights. The dignity of being a Jew is in the sense of commitment, and the meaning of Jewish history revolves around the faithfulness of Israel to the covenant
This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY, for Rabbi Matalon’s teaching on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation. Their work was based on and inspired by The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. How is your relationship different with a commitment you have made, as opposed to one made for you?

2. Do you feel that your dignity is related to your obligations as well as to your rights? How can this show us ways of helping others achieve dignity?

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Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)