Religion is not about accepting twenty impossible propositions before breakfast, but about doing things that change you. It is a moral aesthetic, an ethical alchemy. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed.
There are some things you’ve got to do. You don’t know all the answers. You don’t know all the consequences — but you’ve got to do something because you know it’s right. There is no alternative. You cannot sit in silence. You cannot maintain neutrality. You know it’s right, and you’ve got to move.
The true test of faith is how we treat those who can do nothing for us in return.
When you consider that God could have commanded anything he wanted — anything! — the Ten [Commandments] have got to rank as one of the great missed moral opportunities of all time. How different history would have been had he clearly and unmistakably forbidden war, tyranny, taking over other people’s countries, slavery, exploitation of workers, cruelty to children, wife-beating, stoning, treating women — or anyone — as chattel or inferior beings.
In the aftermath of Nazi Germany we must once and for all understand that culture and crematoria are not mutually exclusive. Scientific progress does not ensure moral perfection. . . . People will always find reasons to justify any kind of behavior.
“Nobody ever wants to believe what happens to the Jews,” she said, “not even us.”
Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideas hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different.
The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy. Our symbol of faith is heresy.
Those who believe religion and politics aren’t connected don’t understand either.
No sane person with a life really wants to be a political activist. When activism is exciting, it tends to involve the risk of bodily harm or incarceration, and when it’s safe, it is often tedious, dry, and boring. Activism tends to put one into contact with extremely unpleasant people, whether they are media interviewers, riot cops, or, at times, your fellow activists. Not only that, it generates enormous feelings of frustration and rage, makes your throat sore from shouting, and hurts your feet. Nonetheless, at this moment in history, we are called to act as if we truly believe that the Earth is a living, conscious being that we’re part of, that human beings are interconnected and precious, and that liberty and justice for all is a desirable thing.
The time has come to worship with our lives as with our lips, in the streets as in the sanctuaries.
To me, the most important concept in Judaism is that you can break any law of Judaism to save a human life. I think that’s the most important thing. Which means to me that humans are more important than Jews are to me. Or than being Jewish is to me.
Because we all share a wish for happiness and an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anyone we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. We do not need to become religious; nor do we need to believe in an ideology. I believe that at every level of society the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion.