I was recently interviewed by Steve Savitsky, the president of the OU, for his radio show “Around the Dining Room Table“. Here is their description of the show:
Not excited about Jewish practice? Have trouble tolerating fellow Jews and their different practices? Steve Savitsky sits around the dining room table with Rabbis Benjamin Hecht and Micha Berger.
My goal in my interview was to explain what AishDas is, and to motivate people to contact us about programming. You can hear it here.
I saved my own interview on aishdas.org, just in case OURadio moves their archives at some point in the future. But you can hear the full show, including R’ Hecht’s interesting thoughts about what he’s trying to accomplish at Nishma at the OU’s original.
Beyond Tolerance, Above Rote – Steve Savitsky:
Rabbi Hecht’s formula for achdut – Learn other shitot and learn with those from other backgrounds (ok – that shouldn’t take much).
R’Berger quotes R’YBS on missing the erev Shabbat Jew (you know – the one who’s not jumping out of a shower 2 minutes before Shabbat) and discuss the aishdas program (www.aishdas.org – changing the world one shul at a time).
Mr. Savitsky notes one shul where people are inspired and excited to come, he doesn’t note that this shul represents a self selecting audience (post hoc ergo propter hoc yada yada).
While on the topic of “what is AishDas?” we recently completed a new mission statement.
The AishDas Society
“Miymino AishDas lamo.” AishDas is read from the Torah as two words. Aish, the fire of faith, a soul aflame, striving for fulfillment, seeking its creator. Das, ritual, the precision of halachic law, understanding and grasping the details of the mission for which Hashem chose us. It is written as a single word, unique in Tanach, untranslatable. AishDas is the synthesis of the fire and the law, a whole that is greater than its parts.
If one is to reach this level, Torah must become the whole life. It is not enough to pursue the depths of the soul to reach the fire within. Das must not be limited to the synagogue or the tzedakah box, but must encompass define an entire lifestyle. Halachah defines all of our relationships – with Hashem, with our fellow man, and with ourselves. To build hislehavus we must reconnect our shemiras hamitzvos to the basic principles of Torah, Avodah, and Gemillus Chassadim.
To burn with AishDas means to learn from and grow with the mitzvos. To be observant not merely out of habit or upbringing, but to connect with every deed on an intellectual and emotional level.
The AishDas Society empowers Jews to
utilize their observance in a process for building
thoughtful and passionate relationships with
their Creator, other people and themselves.
To do so, we offer unique programs,
educational events and a supportive community,
and help other organizations develop programs and curricula.
Four principles underlie this vision:
First, “process”: Living a meaningful life requires developing the abilities and personality to live up to one’s ideals. Mitzvos such as kedoshim tihyu – the pursuit of holiness, ve’asisa hayashar vehatov – to do the straight and the good, and vehalachta bidrachav – to go in His Ways, define what we must do by defining what kind of person we must be. Sadly, their lack of specific limits of actions and duties often leads us to relate to these mitzvos as mere platitudes, but in reality, they must be the very ideals that inform how we go about our avodah.
Second, “passionate”: Observance that does not grow into passion is perforce not a life led fully according to the Torah. One must have a passionate relationship with the Creator, one that isn’t an addition to the core shemiras hamitzvos and ameilus baTorah which comprise Judaism, but is rooted in it and flows from it.
Third, “thoughtful”: Jewish thought requires the same level of analysis that we bring to other areas of Torah study. Love requires knowing the beloved, and it motivates studying the beloved. A life of striving to be an idealist requires an understanding of the ideals, which can only come through in-depth analysis.
Last, “relationships”: A Torah‑observant life touches what one is in all situations and in all spheres of life. It means paying as much attention to the ethics of Choshen Mishpat as to the rites of Orach Chaim or the guidelines of Yoreh Dei’ah and Even haEzer. In Dr. Nathan Birnbaum’s words, one must work toward da’as – an intimate knowledge of the Almighty; rachamim – an empathetic relationship toward others; and tif’eres – a mind totally shaped by and at harmony with the Torah’s way of thought and values.