I've heard from a few people that they enjoyed Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo's recent piece, "God's New Home", in which he alleges that Gd is leaving synagogues because the people there no longer seek Him meaningfully, and that Gd prefers the company of people who aren't necessarily observing the letter of the law, but who are seeking Gd sincerely.
The author begins, "Lately, a strange feeling has gotten hold of me. I am not yet able to
fully articulate it, but something tells me that God is relocating to a
different residence. He has hired a moving company and they are at this time loading all His
furniture and possessions into a van and awaiting His instructions as to
the destination. The truth is He’s been thinking for a long time about
moving but has not yet done so because we, in our ignorance, are still
busy visiting His old home, completely blind to the fact that the
curtains have been taken down, most of His furniture has already been
removed, and He is standing in the doorway, dressed in His jacket and
ready to go. He nevertheless listens to us, smiling and feeling sorry
for us that in our utter blindness we still believe we are sitting
comfortably in His living room, chatting and having coffee with Him,
while in fact He is sitting on the edge of His chair, gazing longingly
at the door, dreaming of His new home.
Synagogues – whether Orthodox,
Conservative or Reform – are no longer His primary residence. Surely
some of the worshippers are pious people who try to communicate with
their Creator, but overall, the majority of these places have become
religiously sterile and spiritually empty." And so on.
Of course this sentiment resonates with people, but frankly, I'm disappointed by the piece and feel it it unworthy of its author, for a few reasons:
1. The cynicism about Jews in synagogues strikes me as adolescent, unsophisticated; anyone who spends a few minutes speaking with people in a meaningful way quickly discovers that few hearts are so neatly monochromatic;
2. The idea that I can read Gd's mind and know whether He prefers the law or the heart is silly; it's populist and popular, but hardly reasonable. Now, can I read the mind of Judaism? Certainly, we can cite Biblical and Rabbinic sources on both sides - but why presume to take sides, and write an essay without citing a single source in support of your position? The author brings numerous sources in a footnote to support his claim that the world is not 5800 years old, which is fine with me - but why does he not bring Yirmiyah and Yeshayah or the talmudic הקב"ה ליבא בעי or anything at all to support his argument that Gd resents soulless service?
3. The article's theme is presented as new, when in fact it is ancient. The problem of soulless service was grey-bearded even when Rabbi Eliezer wrote in a mishnah, "One who makes his prayer rote - his prayer is not an acceptable plea." It is in Tanach itself; open up Yeshayah 1, for example. Why pretend to be discovering anything here, "Lately"?
There is a real problem of staleness, as there has always been a real problem of staleness, and not only in Judaism but in all religion which is formalized and passed from one generation to the next. But let's address it, let's struggle with it, let's overcome it, with substance.