Halacha and logotherapy

(Seventh in a series summarizing the book Halachic Man)

The Jewish halachic perspective begins by visualizing an ideal reality – how a perfect world looks from God’s perspective. Jewish law, or halacha consists of the hammered-out details instructing human beings in how to get from the real to the ideal. What specific actions can be taken in order to create that reality?

Jews who keep halacha believe that the divine wisdom embedded in Torah is a gift to humankind and that the task was given to man to engage in the creative process of hammering out the details of how to get from here to there.

In contrast logotherapy does not promote an ideal vision of how the world should be. That is not its purpose. However every person, when faced with a situation or reality in his or her life experiences a tension between what is and what ought to be. This tension motivates the person to find a way to discover who he or she can be and what he or she can do in the situation. Just as the halachic process is meant to create an ideal world, the logotherapeutic process is meant to help the person create his or her ideal self.

Logotherapy is not a national path nor is it a worldly path. It is a very personal, individual path, and every single person, whether Jewish or any number of religions, religious, atheist or agnostic, child or adult, male or female, rich or poor, philosopher, doctor, teacher or garbage collector has an individual path to take with individual tasks, challenges and opportunities.

Just as the world has a purpose, and evolves and unfolds towards realizing that purpose so does each individual evolve. No one can know what his or her overall mission is in life. Yet every moment has a meaning and all the moments add up to the ultimate meaning.

I see halacha (Jewish law) and conscience (Frankl’s term for the personal call to responsibility) as two channels of connection that blend together in whatever I do. If I am fulfilling a religious obligation I’m also doing it in a very personal way. If I’m hearing what a particular situation requires of me or what I long for I’m going to check to make sure I’m not off-track vis-à-vis halacha. I’m always aware of both aspects in the background. I wonder sometimes about the difference between the two channels. I have heard people say that the law is absolutely binding.

I don’t disagree, but I think that it would be a sign of health to feel more obligated, not less. Instead of being repelled by the sense of unyielding obligation in the face of the Law we ought to feel equally obligated when it comes to conscience. All of my major mistakes in life would have been avoided had I felt absolutely obligated to follow the dictates of my inner voice that no halacha or law of any kind demanded.

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