Monday, January 28, 2008

Missing the Boat
by: Schvach Yid

The Chumash, and in fact the entire Tanakh, is filled with violence, especially violence performed or commanded by HaShem. Anyone, rabbinical seminary professor, rabbi, student, or lay person, who has bothered to read the weekly parsha for the entire yearly cycle, knows this.

Judaism is not about peace, nor is it about violence. It’s about living in accordance with Gd’s commandments as given in Torah. As any good New Yorker will tell you, one has to ‘do what you gotta do’. In the case of Judaism, this means living in compliance with Gd’s given commandments. And no, it’s never about interpersonal abuse.

There is an enormous difference between living a life of Torah and mitzvot, and carving out a career as an academic in a nouveau theme-defined school that attempts to meld rabbinics and academics by abandoning tradition and advocating concocted social/political policies.

It appears that those in the Jewish community who have chosen to assign to themselves positions of religious leadership and the usurped authority of redefining Jewish life and values have spent their time missing the curb, always landing their misguided strides off target.

As a result, after more than a century and a half of these poorly directed ambitions by the ‘sub-Orthodox’ movements of Judaism, we of the Jewish community are in the sad state of having to describe ourselves as ‘Jewish communities’, with nary any agreement between Orthodox Jews and ‘all other’ Jews, not to mention the often times overt animus expressed by followers of one strain of Judaism toward the others.

As substitutes for Jewish Orthodoxy that have attempted to retain Jews who are insistent on the pursuit of non-Jewish lives, and who in fact have little use for Judaism, these organizational proxies for Orthodox Judaism have largely failed.

I think politics has a poor place in Judaism. Regrettably, politics is forced on Jews as a national entity, but as religious life it just doesn’t belong. To invent a Jewish organization that purports to constitute a ‘movement’ of Judaism, thus recruiting organizational fealty from Jews and redefining Jewish identity for its adherents, and that replaces the traditional teachings and emunah of Judaism with politics and social activism on behalf of ‘greater causes’, has been self destructive.

The Jew who is sufficiently distracted in his life as a Jew with world over population and his own ‘carbon footprint’ to the elimination of a life of Torah hasn’t redefined Jewish values at all. This individual has simply left (get it?) Judaism.

I once heard a Conservative Movement rabbi declare in his sermon, ‘Judaism is the pursuit of the good life’. Lousy salesman.

All this critique is intended as a response to the kvetch of a rabbinic student at the Reform Movement seminary HUC, as posted on Seraphic Secret at:

No offense is intended, certainly not Leshon Hara, but the fact is the Reform Movement of Judaism is lost. They evidently want to be Jewish without being Jewish - not too Jewish, but instead not Jewish at all - but they still insist on clinging onto the identity, as though the identity alone, devoid of the substance of a life of Torah and mitzvot, confers personal value. That just isn’t so.

Judaism is about neither liberal politics, nor conservative politics. Judaism is not about politics. HaShem didn’t appear to us at Mount Sinai and say: ‘Here’s my platform, vote for me’. Were our antecedents commanded to schech rachmonas on the poor slain Egyptians?

What was Joshua commanded to do upon entering the ‘Promised Land’? Go ahead and chaptzem read, there’s nothing nice about it, and yet we are commanded to provide for the stranger among us.

These things we do because they are mitzvot, not because they feel good, and certainly not because they provide the ambitious individual Jew with a career niche. I wish this HUC rabbinical candidate all the best in his life’s pursuits. I think the Reform movement, and the professor he described, have gotten it all wrong.


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