The people who brought G-d to the world don’t have much to do with Him.
Perhaps the saddest aspect of modern Jewish life is how unimportant G-d is to most Jews. Reasons for this include: Jews identify religion with persecution and secularism with freedom; Jews are the most highly educated ethnic group in America and therefore secularly influenced from kindergarten to graduate school; even religious Jewish life often has little G-d-centeredness. Whatever the reason, it is a fact that G-d plays little role in Jewish life.
This is nothing less than catastrophic-for the Jews collectively, for Jews individually, and for the world.
It is terrible for the Jews collectively, because there are no compelling secular reasons for the Jewish people to survive, only religious ones. That is why, as a rule, religious Jews are more committed to Jewish survival. One recent example: During the height of the Palestinian terror, while secular Jewish organizations cancelled their youth trips to Israel, the Orthodox did not.
It is a tragedy for Jews individually, since without G-d in one’s life, one’s sense of purpose and level of happiness are dramatically affected. Human beings are wired for the transcendent, and children, in particular, suffer from the absence of G-d in their lives.
The world also pays a price. Jews are disproportionately influential in society, and the radical secularization of Jews, especially activist Jews, often has destructive consequences. Virtually every radical social movement has had Jewish founders and leaders. When Jews don’t use Judaism to guide and channel their religious impulses, they will develop and use other “isms.”
G-d is the most important issue in life. First, if there is no G-d, life has no ultimate meaning. (Yes, we can create subjective meanings, but they are only that-subjective.) Second, if G-d is not the source of morality, then good and evil are nothing more than personal taste. This is why our morally confused universities have become the institutions in America most hostile to America and to Israel. When I was a graduate student at Columbia University, I came to realize that the Psalmist was right: “Wisdom begins with fear of G-d.”1
That most Jewish parents are unable to say to their child, “G-d loves you” or “Look at that gorgeous sunset-isn’t G-d amazing?” is sad beyond words. Many Jewish parents fear that their children might become “too religious,” but never worry that they might become too secular.
Yet, “too secular” is exactly what most Jews have become, even many who observe some Jewish laws. The average Bar-Mitzvah is devoid of G-d and sanctity; and the average Jewish education, even in many day schools, may be Hebrew-centered or even observance-centered, but it is rarely G-d-centered. Households may light Shabbat candles but beyond a single mention in the blessing, the Name of G-d remains unspoken. In many instances, even the synagogue is G-d-free, having become essentially a weekly meeting place for the Jewish community rather than the House of G-d.
No wonder many Jews have been attracted to “Jews for Jesus.” Such groups offer Jews what so many are not given: a faith-centered life. Virtually no Jew raised with G-d and Torah has ever become a “Jew for Jesus.” It is Jews for nothing who become Jews for Jesus, Jews for Marx, and Jews for every secular cause known to man. With no Judaism, secular causes become most Jews’ substitute religion and source of values.
Perhaps events since 9/11 will shock some Jews into reassessing their secularism. The secular institution they most revere, the university, has shown itself to be a moral failure and actually a danger to Jews. The most secular civilization, Western Europe, has similarly shown itself to be anti-Semitic and morally bankrupt. And the Jews’ greatest supporters have come from among the most religious of their fellow Americans (including our President). Furthermore, even the most secular Jew has had to realize that Jews and the Jewish state obviously play a central role in human affairs. Surely, these developments must encourage Jews to consider taking G-d more seriously.
It is time for Jews to take G-d seriously. The world will thank us. And so will our children.
1. Psalms 111:10