Progress or Return?

"Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis in Western Civilization," Modern Judaism, Vol. 1, No. 1 (May 1981).  Reprinted in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism.


The title of this lecture indicates that progress has become a problem-that it could seem as if progress has led us to the brink of an abyss, and it is therefore necessary to consider alternatives to it. For example, to stop where we are or else, if this should be impossible, to return. Return is the translation for the Hebrew word t’shuvah. T’shuvah has an ordinary and an emphatic meaning. Its emphatic meaning is rendered in English by “repentance.” Repentance is return, meaning the return from the wrong way to the right one. This implies that we were once on the right way before we turned to the wrong way. Originally we were on the right way; deviation or sin or imperfection is not original. Man is originally at home in his father’s house. He becomes a stranger through estrangement, through sinful estrangement. Repentance, return, is homecoming.

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