We like to think that Jewish life is fixed. That it has always been one way. That is an illusion. Jewish life is dynamic and it always has been. From Temple worship and animal sacrifice, through rabbinic reinvention, through adaptation to exile, to adaptation to life in the modern world, Jewish life and Judaism are always changing.
We are in a constant process of redefining what it means to be a Jew and how to be a Jew. Our Jewish lives today, with the State of Israel and the acceptance of American society, make Jewish life very different than it was even 70 years ago. Today, new forms of Jewish practice are evolving and people who were once marginalized are taking leadership roles.
But not everything is in flux either. Jewish life is always in a dynamic tension between tradition and change. We see that this week in our Torah portion, when we read, “Isaac dug anew the wells which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham’s death; and he gave them the same names that his father had given them.” (Genesis 26:18)
We are inheritors of a 3,000 year old tradition of sacred texts. While Jewish life is always changing, that change is authentic when we look to the well of our ancestors, this wisdom of our tradition to guide us as we evolve.