Yehuda Amital (1924-2010), a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, spent most of his career as the head of the Har Etzion yeshiva and became a leading figure in the Religious Zionist movement. In an analysis of Amital’s life, work, and thought, Reuven Ziegler and Yehudah Mirsky explain the notion of “humanity” (enoshiyut) that formed one of the “fundamental principles” of his theology. (Free registration required.)
[According to Amital, the] “worship of God, in whatever form, cannot wipe out simple human feeling.” As an example, he cites the obligation of a kohen [priest] to defile himself [ritually by attending a funeral] and mourn for close relatives despite his calling to serve in the Temple. Even Aaron, the high priest, who was not permitted to desist from his service, received Moses’ approval when he asserted that he still mourned his sons in his heart (Lev. 10:16–20).
Humanity further entails the recognition of fundamental human traits—human weakness and frailty prominently among them. This applies even to great individuals and extends to revered canonical figures, as we find them depicted both by the Tanakh and by the sages. . . .
This set of ideas is connected to another . . . : the importance of “naturalness” in the life of mitzvot. . . . On the one hand, the human ideal according to Judaism is not, as in some Eastern teachings, the attainment of tranquility, but rather perpetual aspiration, activity, and growth. Yet, on the other hand, excessive tension and anxiety in the worship of God is abnormal and counterproductive, often leading to paralysis. Fear of God should be natural, like fear of one’s parents. Similarly, prayer should be natural, a “conversation” with God. What is natural is not necessarily holy, but what is holy should be natural.