The Biblical account of the original sin is the story of man of faith who realizes suddenly that faith can be utilized for the acquisition of majesty and glory and who, instead of fostering a covenantal community, prefers to organize a political utilitarian community exploiting the sincerity and unqualified commitment of the crowd for non-covenantal, worldly purposes.
Excerpt From: Joseph B. Soloveitchik. “The Lonely Man of Faith.” THREE LEAVES PRESS DOUBLEDAY.
Rabbi Soloveitchik notes the history of organized religion is filled with examples of such “desecration of the covenant.”
So how, one might ask, do we distinguish between a person of faith who is building a covenantal community and a person of faith who is building a community for worldly purposes?
We can distinguish those people by the way they treat others . . .
To a person building a covenantal community, every individual has infinite value, while to the person striving for worldly majesty, a person’s value depends on that person’s wealth or influence over others.
When building a covenantal community, every person’s voice is worthy of being heard, and decisions are based on open dialogue and respectful discussion of disagreements. But when building a worldly community, voices are to be heard or respected only if they support “the party line,” which was determined by those who have (and want to keep!) the power and control.
When building a covenantal community, a person of faith understands that Gd is present at all moments** and that knowledge of Gd’s presence always determines the way to behave toward others. But, for someone building a worldly community, Gd and holiness are things to be reached for at “religious events,” while, at all other times, the community is “just a business.”
People who run religious movements and institutions continue to ponder why so many Americans are unaffiliated with organized religion, or why many of those who are affiliated have no interest in investing the time and energy to connect meaningfully to a religious institution . . .
I know that not every religious institution is controlled by people who desecrate the covenant by failing to value, respect, and honor the holiness in every other person who enters the institution, but when examples exist in so many religious organizations . . . across religions, across cultures, and across centuries . . . it’s hard not to lose faith . . . in organizations run by people . . .
shalom aleichem, jen
**Knowledge of Gd’s constant presence could arise from (1) a person’s faith in such a Gd, or (2) a rational decision to look for the image of Gd in every other person. Either path can, I believe, lead to a frame of mind that requires us to treat others with more respect and dignity.