Pluralistic Perspectives Three Questions with Rabbi Arthur Green
Or Rose: Why did you write this brief new book? Who do you hope to reach?
Arthur Green: This book is my answer to a question I hear asked an awful lot among young people these days: “Why be Jewish?” In our day that question didn’t come up. Of course you were Jewish; the question was what you chose to do with that reality. But we’re now in an age when people put on and take off identities like so many articles of clothing. So why this one? “Tell me quickly – What does Judaism have to offer? What has it have to say to the world?” This book is my answer.
OR: Why did you begin the book with a chapter on *simchah* (joy)?
AG: Religion has got itself a deservedly bad reputation. It’s so associated in people’s minds with guilt, with restrictions, fear of punishment, and lots of other childhood nightmares. A healthy religious life has to make you more free, lightening your burdens in life rather than adding to them. To begin by saying: “Judaism wants to help increase the joy in your life,” we’re setting the reader out on a course toward that sort of healthy religion.
Or Rose: How have your many years studying Hasidism helped shape the vision of this book?
AG: The vision here is all what I’d call neo-Hasidic, a Hasidic approach to life for people who have chosen to live outside the old-style Hasidic community. The call for joy is a key part of that. So is the sense of a God-infused world, the faith that there are sparks of holiness everywhere, waiting for you to discover and uplift them. The Hasidic masters – and I with them – see life as a spiritual adventure, a quest to find God even in the most surprising and unexpected places. What could be better?