The very essence of any religion is to define moral principles of human existence – what is Good and what is Bad in the human life, and what are acceptable means to strengthen Good and suppress Bad. Judaism defines all that for the Jews as Christianity does it for the Christian and Islam for the Muslims. That is true even if you do not belong to a religious organization and do not have a priest. The same moral principles are binding for ordinary people and for priests in a religion.
Many years ago at the beginning of my spiritual awakening, I believed there was One Judaism for the spiritual Jewish authorities and for the spiritual ordinary Jews, who were trying to live Jewishly that is to strengthen Good and suppress Bad – both defined by Judaism – in all real life situations. I do not believe it anymore.
Nowadays that is not the case anymore. Now we live in a complex non-Jewish world where what is Good and what is Bad is defined not only by the traditional rabbinical cannons, which were created during the times when the Jews were spiritually isolated from the others, but by the non-Jews in a mainly Judeo-Christian environment. It should not be considered bad for the Jews since the Jewish mission of building a better world (Tikkun Olam) for everybody with everybody, Jews and non-Jews, requires mutually accepted definitions of Good and Bad.
This Torah-guided better world is a multi-dimensional one with science and technology, arts and religions, individual freedoms and collective constrains, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, peace and war, more and less able, etc. And this better world is being created by individuals who are making their own decisions on what is Good and what is Bad in their individual creative areas.
I am among those individuals and I have developed my own understanding of what is spiritually Good and Bad in the areas of my life involvements – based on my studies of the Torah. I approached the rabbis (in the US and Israel) asking them for the critique. My encounters with the rabbis confirmed the unhealthy existence of two Jewish spiritual realms.
In the course of my encounters with the rabbis, I discovered that we do not have One Judaism – we have Judaism by spiritual authorities and Judaism by spiritual people. Here is how I have discovered it.
The essence of a typical response of an Orthodox rabbi:
- You cannot study the Torah on your own – the Torah is too complicated for a simple person – only the rabbis can understand the hidden God’s messages in the Torah – you have to obey the rabbi’s instructions since he knows the God’s word – it is not kosher for a rabbi to have a spiritual discussion with the non-ordained.
The essence of a typical response of a Reform rabbi was different:
- We have to follow our Jewish tradition which is helping the disadvantaged – a government is a political tool for helping – therefore, we have to support a liberal/”democratic” government which reflects our Jewish inspirations and fight against any conservative/”republican” government which is against our Jewish inspirations.
The responses of both “typical” orthodox and Reform rabbis confirmed my unhappy conclusion that we do not have One Judaism. We have Judaism by spiritual authorities whose goal is to defend the ordination institution interpretation of the Torah’s guidance. And we have Judaism by spiritual people who are trying to figure out what is Good and Bad in their everyday life challenges in the Gentile spiritual environment.
The Pew poll findings:
Among those who define themselves as Jews by religion, just over half consider Jewish identity a matter of ancestry and culture, with a majority considering belief in God to be unnecessary to be considered a Jew.
Despite changing attitudes toward Jewish identity seen in the shift towards a non- religious Jewish self-definition.
Sixty- nine percent cited living ethically, and over half say that working for justice and equality is essential to what being Jewish means to them.
Despite the fact that the majority of American Jews frame their Jewish identity in religious terms, only 19% of the Jewish adults surveyed say observing Jewish law (Halacha) is essential to what being Jewish means to them.
The Pew poll findings are the best proof of the existence of Judaism by spiritual people, which is different from Judaism by spiritual authorities – the Jews are defining their Jewishness in a non-rabbinical way. The Jews are spiritually responding to their real life challenges – the Torah-defined challenges in building a better world for everybody with everybody in the Judeo-Christian world.
We the Jews as a people may greatly benefit spiritually if our rabbis connect with us.
Almost a half of my life I lived in a Soviet Russia, and I respected and followed the Russian way of life. However, the Russian traditions were a sort of barrier in realization of my own personal dreams of how to enhance my own life, the life of my family and community and the life of my country. Therefore, in the late 1970th my family and I immigrated to the USA.
My leaving a Soviet Russia did not mean the disdain for the Russian way of life – it is what the majority of Russian people (probably 85-90%) prefer. I was among the truly small minority who felt, and still do, that the Russian way of life is hostile to them. It was hostile to them but not to the Russian vast majority for whom the Russian way of life is inborn and they are ready to defend it. That is what our “politically correct” way of dealing with Russia is missing, and the possibility of improving our relationships with Russia depends on getting rid of “politically correct” thinking and finding common interests which let Russia be a historically traditional Russia and the US be a historically traditional US.
Why Russia and the US are adversaries
Democracy has only one true meaning and this is free people’s voting for the government leaders who uphold the people’s historically traditional way of life. Since Russia and the US have two different ways of life, they freely elect different leaders.
For the Russian majority, an authoritative leader who promises to take complete care of his citizens-subordinates, including spiritual and material needs, is the best and that is the reason why they freely elect Putin. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there were numerous attempts to elect European-style leaders to get closer to the European-style democracy, but all attempts failed since they were not in accordance with the Russian historic tradition.
For the American majority, a leader who promises to return the US to the original individual-freedoms-based democracy where the majority of citizens are taking care of themselves – spiritually and financially – is the best, and that is the reason we freely elected Trump. In essence, the current American election-revolution is an uprising of the individual-freedoms-loving people who demand a smaller non-intrusive government against those who demand a sort of Russian-style authoritative government which has to take care of them, and this care – and that is most important – should include the suppression of the others who think differently.
The authoritative government suppresses the free-market economy that brings economic decline and increases suffering of the people. To justify the suffering, the Russian authoritative government (Putin) presents the US as an enemy and the suffering as the result of American actions that are forcing Putin to spend the money for strengthening the Russian military to defend the motherland. In other words, the US is responsible for the suffering of Russian people. In essence, that is an old Soviet-style mentality.
That is a situation where we have to look for the common American/Russian interest.
How to prevent the peaceful adversaries from becoming the violent enemies
Of course, the common interest is to prevent any military confrontation that may become WWIII. The US is not interested in WWIII because of its overall foundational “peaceful mindset” while Russia is not interested in WWIII since it is militarily much weaker as compared with the West. Ronald Reagan prevented WWIII by significantly increasing the size of the American military during the Soviet Brezhnev’s times. The Russians were trying to match the US military and that ruined their economy. The result? – The death of the Soviet Union.
The Putin’s Russia is different from the Soviet Russia. The Russian wealthy elite leaders have vital interests in the Western financial system, Western markets and advanced technologies. Therefore, the Trump’s suggested investment in US military could be aimed not at ruining the Putin’s Russia, as was the case in the Reagan/Brezhnev’s times, but rather at forcing the Russians to accept American – negotiated with Russia – proposals for restoration of American influence in the areas where it was lost during the Obama’s presidency retreat.
From the news media:
President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone conversation that relations between their countries were “unsatisfactory” and vowed to work together to improve them. … The two men discussed combining efforts in the fight against terrorism, talked about “a settlement for the crisis in Syria” and agreed that their aides would begin working on a face-to-face meeting between them. … The president-elect spoke admiringly of Putin during the campaign, praising him as a stronger leader than President Obama and saying the two countries should join together to fight terrorists, particularly the Islamic State in Syria. Those views put Trump at odds with many GOP defense hawks, who have praised his promise to increase military spending but are uniformly suspicious of Moscow and have denounced Russian actions in Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Syria. The offer of cooperation could also immerse Trump in a deep controversy with the Pentagon, where military and civilian leaders have strongly opposed collaboration with Russia, particularly in Syria.
Thus, there is a hope that Donald Trump may significantly improve our relationships with Russia if our goals are more practical and less politically correct – with respect for each other historically traditional way of life.
From the Jewish news media:
For US Jewish leaders, the major problems are indifference and assimilation, while the solutions are early engagement and education – about Judaism and Israel.
That is very true.
However, most of the Jews have studied Judaism and demonstrated for Israel since they were teenagers, and it have not made them more united, less indifferent or more engaged. My own experience and numerous discussions with rabbis convinced me that in order to strengthen Jewish unity we have to present Judaism differently. We may rich the true Jewish unity only if the fundamentals of Judaism and Israel are presented in the light of contemporary Jewish life. Unfortunately, most often that is not the case.
Most often. Judaism is presented as a set of principles developed in the course of Jewish history for Jewish life’s conditions in segregated areas where everything outside the segregated areas was hostile and even murderous to the Jews. In the contemporary American life, that is not the case anymore, and Judaism should be discussed as how the historic segregation-based Jewish principles could be transformed to be applicable to the life of Jews as the Chosen in Judeo-Christian Western civilization where the Jews are treated as equals. In order to do this, the rabbis have to initiate a dialogue with ordinary Jews, and that is very difficult for the rabbis since they were trained to teach the canons of their ordination institutions – not to listen and adjust.
Most often, Israel is discussed as an ultimate gathering place for all Jews. However, for the US Jewish majority this is not what they think should be done. Many among the US Jews feel that it is better to strengthen Israel as the Light for the Nations while living in the USA, and do it through strengthening spiritual Judeo-Christian fundamentals of our society and the Bible-guided role of the Jews as the Chosen. Unfortunately, we are involved in something opposite – we are promoting secularism and supporting the ban on Christian religious signs and prayers in public space.
Concerning Judaism, the most important Torah-guided unifying principle should be at the core of Jewish education – we all, Jews and non-Jews, are created different but equal in the image and likeness of God. The leftist and rightists, the liberals and conservatives, the whites and blacks, the Jews and Christians, the males and females … – all are created equal with different roles in an under-construction better world for everybody. However, that is not what most of our rabbis and public leaders were doing during the US presidential campaign – they were encouraging the future president to treat the citizens as groups of equal and unequal and make the “unequal” equal by government orders. That is not the role of a human government to decide who is equal and who is not and regulate it – our Creator creates us equal. There is a danger for the Jews to support the idea of splitting the people in different groups. If that is the case, the split could be justified for the Jews vs. the Non-Jews and that is the spiritual foundation for the anti-Semitism.
In the same Torah-guided way, the Orthodox Jews of all streams, the Reform and Conservative Jews as well as Secular Jews should be considered equal before God and the unity should be searched in different roles of different Jews as the Chosen in making our world a better place for everybody – Jews and non-Jews.
Concerning Israel, the unity should be searched not in imposing on Israel various ideological precepts on how to resolve Israeli-Arab confrontation or on Aliyah to Israel. Rather, the unity should be searched on helping Israel to become “the Light to the Nations” – to be the best in all areas affecting the human life such as science and technology, finance and economy, safety and security, religious and secular.
From the Jewish news media:
After Trump victory, rabbis call for unity and tolerance. Jewish spiritual leaders across US call on Jews to build bridges with their fellow citizens.
That is nice but should be done long ago. Unfortunately, in the course of the campaign many Jewish leaders, both religious and secular, were ruining the bridges with many fellow citizens.