Just as I was pondering the handicap of memory in my last post, I read the following in Sinai and Zion, a book for my Me'ah course:
"It is significant for our understanding of the nature of the religion of Israel among the religions of the world that meaning for her is derived not from introspection, but from a consideration of the public testimony to God. The present generation... do[es] not determine who they are by looking within, by plumbing the depths of the individual soul, by seeking a mystical light in the innermost reaches of the self. Rather, the direction is the opposite... One looks out from the self to find out who one is meant to be... Israel began to infer and to affirm her identity by telling a story." [pp. 38-39]
This struck me as a good capsule analysis of the enduring link in Judaism between text and spirit. Sometimes it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Maybe that's why I'm so afraid to make a mistake when chanting Torah; the words do not simply represent the story, but are the story, of which I become a part when I read. The responsibility is enormous. I think we circumvent the risk of becoming like the generations before Abraham, of worshipping words as if they were idols, by never agreeing on their interpretation (see, for example, the entire Talmud). To insist there's no room for change in Judaism, to observe inflexibly, seems almost sacrilegious.