Cropped silhouette of hand holding sun against sky during sunset
(Getty)

Paradox

What Oscar Wilde said about art is what Judaism shows us about other aspects of life: "A Truth ... is that whose contradictory is also true."

Which is true: “nothing ventured nothing gained” or “fools rush in where angels fear to tread”? “He who hesitates is lost” or “look before you leap”? “Out of sight out of mind” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder”?

Two things, as Samuel Johnson said, imputed to the human heart may not both be logical, but they can both be true. Human beings embrace paradox, which is why faith is often paradoxical. Judaism understands the wisdom enunciated last century by Oscar Wilde, that a deep truth is anything the opposite of which is also a deep truth.

Therefore our year is laced with paradoxes: happiness in the midst of mourning, advice to cling to the past and never forfeit the future, certainty that we should expend all our efforts and energy on this world and yet never quite despair that there is something beyond it.

Asked what constitutes a true Jew, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vorki replied: “Upright kneeling, silent screaming, motionless dance.” Clasp all the sides of life whose raging inconsistencies will not allow us a smooth, untwisted path. Nothing is absolute — not our kneeling, our screaming, or our dance. For as we dance kneeling and scream, we stand upright, silent, motionless, in wonderment at the ambiguities and fruitfulness of God’s world.

Discover More

Ladders

If angels can fly, why did they climb up and down the ladder in Jacob's dream?

Purim Masks

Sometimes it is by dressing as someone else that we reveal our truest selves.

Brokenness

The Kotzker Rebbe taught that the only whole heart is a broken one.