Category Archives: English-language posts
I am working on a book (“In intellectual search for spiritual Torah-based union between Jews and Christians”) and I am discussing various ideas I am exploring in the book with my friends and colleagues.
Many my friends and colleagues have expressed their uneasiness with one of the ideas of the book that we can fight successfully anti-Semitism only if we reestablish the spiritual closeness of Jews and Christians. Many of my friends and colleagues are uncomfortable with this idea because of historic Jewish dislike of Christianity as a source of anti-Semitism.
That is true – many Jews consider Christianity as the chief source of anti-Semitism, and I am writing this book precisely to address this dislike.
Every day we the Jews hear something about anti-Semitism in its “normal” everyday actions and its abnormal Holocaust explosion.
We are complaining and we are demanding from the government the laws that punish anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers.
However, these laws are making things worse – they are, in the minds of anti-Semites, the confirmation of the anti-Semites’ belief that the almighty Jews own the governments and the world and through the governments suppress – spiritually and economically – the others.
And we complaining, complaining and complaining … I have complained as well for long time, and, after I had become tired of complaining, I decided to look into the true historic roots of anti-Semitism – beyond believed to be “Christ killers”, “deceivers”, etc. I went back to the Torah, Bible, historic and contemporary Rabbinic and Priestly (Christian) teachings where I found the following.
• The Torah was given by the Almighty Power (whatever it might be) at Mount Sinai to everybody, let me say it again – to everybody, through the Jewish People, with the chief assignment for the Jewish people (the Chosen) to assist the non-Jewish people in transforming their lives from the pagan morals to the Torah-guided morals.
• The Torah guidance implies the transformation path is the spiritual and social competition among various human tribes each of them tailoring the Torah prescripts to their unique life conditions and randomly God-assigned genetic structure. There is no human uniformity in the Torah! Following the Torah guidance, the Jews created Talmud, numerous rabbinic rulings and various spiritual streams (Essenes, Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, Nazarenes and other in the biblical past and Orthodox, Reform and Conservative with different sub-streams now). Then, the Jews laid out spiritual foundation for other non-Jewish tribes (Rabbi Joshua who after his death became Jesus Christ), and those non-Jewish tribes created their own Torah interpretations in the New Testaments with their own priestly rulings and spiritual streams (many-many dozens of them).
• At the beginning, the spiritual and social competition was mostly peaceful since people were trying to receive the guidance directly from God with little concern for the actions of the others. At that time, there was no basis for anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitism did not exist in the form as we define it now. Then step-by-step the authoritative humans (rabbis, priests) got into the spiritual picture – since the life was getting more sophisticated and complex. Those authoritative humans were needed for Torah-guidance tailoring and interpretation. And with the authoritative humans as Torah-guidance tailors and interpreters, the foundation for anti-Semitism was developed.
• The authoritative rabbis and priests in their administrative power (this power has nothing to do with the true spiritual power) began solidifying and strengthening their own administrative power, and they did it by following the ancient technique of “divide and conquer”. Those rabbis and the priests for the last two millenniums constructed an image of mortal enemy of each other betraying the God’s unifying Torah/Bible guidance.
• For the last three centuries with the formation, slowly step-by-step, the Western Judeo-Christian civilization, Jewish-Christian hostility has been reduced, and reduced sharply, in both Jewish and Christian camps, and the opportunity for finding the spiritual Torah-based unity between Jews and Christians, and therefore for reducing the anti-Semitism, has been created.
That is why I believe the reestablishing of Torah/Bible-guided spiritual unity between the Jews and the Christians is the key in fighting the anti-Semitism.
From the news media:
Instead of the promised visible and permanent pluralistic prayer pavilion under their control at Jerusalem’s Western Wall — passed as a government decision in January 2016 — non-Orthodox Jewry is again to be shunted to second-class prayer status on a slim platform in the corner of an archaeological park creating a Western Wall crisis.
However, that is not a Western Wall crisis – it is much worse, it is a crisis of Jewish identity. This crisis relates to the Jewish identity in the following way.
The Jews are identified collectively and individually but the Western wall is a place where God identifies a Jew (or a Christian) individually
Leaders of Reform and Conservative Jewry should know and no doubt, they know that the Western Wall is place for individuals spiritually connecting themselves with God. All individuals are welcome, and they may be orthodox, non-orthodox and atheist Jews or even non-Jews. Nothing what might be a distraction for individuals trying to connect themselves to God is welcome. Collective events and presence of the opposite sex are natural distractions.
The individual mono-sexual Jewish prayers at the Western Wall are part of the Jewish identity. However, the leaders of Reform and Conservative Jewry demand precisely the collective prayers with both sexes present – that is their political identity, not the Jewish identity.
The identity of Israeli Jews is different from the identity of American Jews and it is frequently misunderstood
It looks like leaders of Reform and Conservative Jewry have a vision of Israel as a Little America with the Western Wall. As an American globalist-kind political vision, it might be a good one but it is wrong from the viewpoint of Jewish identity. The Torah-guided Jewish identity should differentiate between the Jewish ways of life in the Promised Land, the State of Israel, and in the “diaspora”.
In the State of Israel, where the Jews are governing majority, it is up to them to tailor the Torah guidance to their multiple visions of fair and honest society – from ultra-orthodox to atheistic.
In the USA, where the Christianity-minded people are governing majority, the Jewish spiritual obligation is to support the Christian understanding of the Torah-guided fair and honest society – not to fight against it as is often observed, assuming that the Christian understanding is in the framework of commonly acknowledged Judeo-Christian Torah-based morality.
The Israeli citizenship and the Jewish identity are two different things
A dangerous cold civil war currently in play in the USA is a result of neglecting the difference between US citizenship and US identity.
The US identity was defined by the Declaration of Independence. This document explicitly states that the God revealed in nature is the giver of a moral law between peoples. This document gives God the ultimate moral authority making the deity the clear source of morality. This Judeo-Christian morality was given by God in the Torah on Mount Sinai and tailored for the Christians in the New Testament.
At the beginning, when the US immigrants were receiving US citizenship, it was understood they were going to have their public social and political life in agreement with the Judeo-Christian morality of the country.
For the last half-century, the US citizenship has been disconnected – step-by-step – from the US “inauguration” Judeo-Christian identity. Nowadays the US immigration policy is based on many different things such as social justice, human rights, fighting inequality, religious persecution, LGBT status … but not on the honest desire to follow the Judeo-Christian morality. The result: a dangerous cold civil war currently in play in the USA. Something similar is going on in Europe as well.
Israel is not immune from this destructive political process. That is why Israeli government has to provide Israeli citizenship only to those Jews and non-Jews who agree to live along the lines of Israeli Jewish morality – to be defined with participation of Orthodox community but not exclusively by it.
Your assessment of the future of American and Israeli Jewry depends on how you define the Jewish identity.
If you define it, as traditional rabbis are doing, by being born to a sort of halakhic Jewish family, the future is bleak. Indeed, the Jewish majority in America and Israel is increasingly being born to non-halakhic Jewish families.
However if you define it, as the Jewish majority is doing, by the results of a sort of Jewish genetic urge for intuitive Torah-guided actions aimed at making our world a much better place for everybody, the future is great. Indeed, our world is getting better through scientific discoveries, social progresses, economic innovations and technology advances, and Jewish people are the leaders here.
The assessment of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of AISH community is bleak since he, like all traditional rabbis, defines Jewishness by being born to a “pure” Jewish family. He says: (http://www.aish.com/jw/s/American-Jewry-is-Disappearing.html?s=mm)
The recent Jewish People Policy Institute study found that outside of Orthodoxy, fewer Jews are getting married, those marrying are marrying later and having fewer children and intermarriage rates are increasing. The combination of these three factors raises the daunting question of the future of American non-Orthodox Jews. Among all non-Orthodox Jews in the 25-54 age group, just 15% are married to a Jewish spouse and have Jewish children. Intermarriage rates increase the younger the generation. Among those aged 40-44, 60% are intermarried. Among those aged 35-39, it is 73%, and 75% of those aged 30-34 have a non-Jewish spouse.
The assessment of Michael Steinhardt of The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life is very much optimistic since, like a good Jewish intellectual, he defines Jewishness by Jewish actions. He says:
The last 300 years is the most enlightened — it is when Jews really shined. I would use the word superior, except people blanch when I use that word. But it’s really what I mean: Jews have accomplished so much, so inexplicably out of proportion to their numbers, in these 300 years, and it’s one of the great failures of Jewish education that that’s not focused on at all. The modern state of Israel is the Jewish miracle of the 20th century, but it’s the secular part of Israel that’s the miracle. It’s the extraordinary achievement, it’s the technology, the military, the development of a society out of nothing using Zionist ideals, taking people from terrible places and making them Israeli citizens. Israel has become, for me, the substitute for religion.
It looks like the non-halakhic majority of American Jewry is on the side of Michael Steinhardt, not on the site of Rabbi Efrem Goldberg. They are sure they are not disappearing – they are changing, flourishing, and advancing the better world for everybody. They are preserving their historic greatness.
However, many in the non-halakhic Jewish majority may disagree with Michael Steinhardt on the fundamental question of the source of Jewish historic greatness. It looks like Michael Steinhardt believes this source is the God/Torah-empty atheism. However, it is strongly believed the source is the in-build God/Torah-based guidance. This guidance is transferred from generation to generation genetically and educationally. Some Jews acknowledge it openly, and those Jews are called religious; the rabbis and synagogues guide them. However, many Jews prefer not to have rabbis and synagogues approving their actions – these are called atheists.
Many intellectual Jews are dreaming to see a friendly spiritual discussion between Rabbi Efrem Goldberg and philanthropist Michael Steinhardt with the sole purpose to find a common Jewish spiritual platform on the Jewish identity and Torah-guided actions in our Judeo-Christian civilization. The following two questions may be addressed at the discussion:
If so many Jews were not asking the rabbis for their advice, why the rabbis who are concerned with the future of Jewish Nation would not approach the Jews who call themselves atheists or non-religious with a convincing Jewish history-based message that says:
We the Jews have been successful because we have in-build spiritual GPS guiding us along the Jewish spiritual values received from our Jewish families and communities – with the help of rabbis and synagogues, if such help is needed, or without such help for those who feel they already know how to do it.
If intermarriage is a contemporary Jewish trend, why the rabbis who are concerned with the future of Jewish Nation would not approach the Jews who decided to intermarry with a convincing Torah-guided message that says:
Your families can be much stronger and purposeful if your families live along the lines of Jewish Torah-guided traditions and we the rabbis are happy to help you.