God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism
Gordis’s message is simple: Judaism merits the attention of modern Jews by virtue of its potential role as a compelling and enriching enterprise that helps define who and what Jews are. But to reach American Jews who have dismissed Judaism as a path to spirituality is a more complex undertaking. Gordis, who teaches at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, explores belief in God, sacred texts, ritual, mitzvoth, prayer and ethics. The entry point of his argument is that Judaism doesn’t demand blind faith. “Doubt is what fuels the journey,” he writes. “Jewish tradition validates the part of humanity that is always wondering.” Sacred texts, he contends, act as teachers that allow us to join a profound and timeless conversation. The experimental nature of Judaism, coupled with its built-in discipline, is key to achieving a sense of connection, continuity and transcendence. The title, taken from the passage in Kings that describes the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God, reflects Gordis’s philosophy that Judaism’s distinctive way of life is geared toward creating relationships with God and with human beings. A why-do instead of a how-to.