The writings of strictly orthodox rabbis leave no doubt – they spiritually accept the Jewish life style of non-religious, secular Jews, who do not follow the Jewish tradition, and they spiritually reject the Jewish life style of less orthodox Jews, who follow their own Jewish tradition (reform, conservative and even modern orthodox).
To understand why it is so, we have to remember the two keystones of Judaism as a religion in general. Those two keystones are the faith and the tradition.
The faith is complete trust or confidence in someone or something based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
The faith is what every person obtains directly from the “Above Supreme Power”, which the great human majority calls God. Most probably, the faith is genetically codified. The very essence of the faith is not just a belief in the existence of All-Mighty God – most importantly, it is a God-given ability to distinguish between what is right in human behavior and should be protected and enhanced and what is wrong and should be weakened and defeated.
The people’s majority is born with the faith transferred from generation to generation in the family and spiritual community. No rabbi or priest, no education system can change or recreate the faith in a person. The probable nature of genetic trials can make some in a family a “stranger” – without a family/community faith. Those “strangers” may easily leave their family and community.
The individuals born with certain faith (Jewish, Christian, etc.) are looking for the communities of the same faith to defend and strengthen their faith – together! The rabbis and priests are vital in preserving the faith – they preserve the faith by creating and guarding the tradition.
The rabbis and priests are authorities in the tradition, which is very important in nurturing and nourishing the faith.
Various religious denominations in Judaism distinguish themselves by different traditions, which are to strengthen human communications with God and – through the communications – find the understanding of what is good and bad for everything in always changing economic, political and social environments.
In the area of communications with God, the rabbis are competing with each other. They are competing by modernizing the tradition (prayers, life style, family and community ceremonies, spiritual involvement with the non-Jews) to make the tradition more understandable and usable for the Jews – to make more attractive the very spirit of God’s guidance in the Torah.
Of course, the strictly orthodox rabbis believe only they are true interpreters of God’s guidance, and only the tradition in their interpretation may connect the Jews with God. They are fiercely fighting the less orthodox Jews and their rabbis to preserve the strictly orthodox monopoly on the tradition.
The secular Jews are not modernizing the tradition – they just do not follow it whatever it may be. The secular Jews are not competing with the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis. Thus, the secular Jews are not the danger to the strictly orthodox religious monopoly, and that is why the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis respect secular Jews.
The less orthodox Jews and their rabbis are the danger – they are challenging the monopoly on the tradition – the monopoly on interpreting the God guidance codified in the Torah. That is why the strictly orthodox Jews and their rabbis detest the less orthodox.
From the news media:
On the eve of Pope Francis’s visit to Auschwitz, a US rabbi has called on him to remove a Catholic church from the premises of the Nazi death camp. The letter sent from Rabbi Avi Weiss, national president of AMCHA-Coalition for Jewish Concerns. Weiss says the presence of the church at the former death camp site is a “clear violation” of a 1987 agreement between Roman Catholic cardinals and Jewish leaders, which he says “stipulates in clear language that ‘there will be no permanent Catholic place of worship on the site of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.’”
Rabbi Weiss is wrong, and the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder is right.
From the news media:
Pope Francis visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau former Nazi death camp in Poland, in what the World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said was an important signal to the world.
In a statement Friday, Lauder praised the pontiff, who has forged ever-closer ties between the Catholic Church and Jews since his election in 2013. “Pope Francis is one of the closest allies Jews have today in the fight against anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred,” Lauder said. “He is a true friend of the Jewish people, a man who reaches out to others and embraces them. Never over the past 2,000 years have Catholic-Jewish relations been better.” The pope’s visit “sends an important signal to the world that this dark chapter must never be forgotten and that the truth about what happened seven decades ago must not be obfuscated,” Lauder added.
The late pontiff John Paul II, who was born in Poland, visited Auschwitz in 1979. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, visited in 2006. “Pope John Paul II came here as a son of the Polish people,” Benedictus said. “I come here today as a son of the German people. For this very reason, I can and must echo his words: I could not fail to come here.”
I am, the author of this post, commenting on Holocaust-related events not as a historian, a rabbi or a spiritual philosopher – I am commenting on these events as a Jew who belong to the community of Holocaust survivors whose extended family lost about 30 people in Holocaust.
Yes, I know the local people who called themselves Christians murdered most of my expended family – yes, mostly locals who followed their dark anti-Semitic inclinations did it. Why? The answer is well known – before the WWII, we had almost no friends among the Christians to defend us the Jews as members of the God’s human community – or even as the people, who created the foundation of Christian faith. It was not our fault that we did not have Christian friends – that is how the history has played itself for the last two millenniums.
However, the WWII and Holocaust, and then Islamic assault on the “infidels” who are mostly the Jews and Christians, created a spiritual environment for spiritual unification of Jews and Christians in a contemporary Judeo-Christian civilization. That is the only way to make future holocausts almost impossible.
Nevertheless, many rabbis still prefer having their communities isolated from the entire Judeo-Christian world and Rabbi Weiss has acted as a sort of their representative. It looks like, those rabbis believe that the Jewish faith is not strong enough to not only survive but also flourish in the presence of other challenging faiths. However, that is contrary to the Torah guidance and the mission of Jewish people as the Chosen.
I am with a non-rabbi Ronald Lauder and with former President of World Jewish Congress Edgar Bronfman who believe in a strong Jewish faith capable to flourish and advance itself in the Judeo-Christian realm and be spiritually friendly with Christianity and Christian people. That is the only way for creating a better world for everybody and eliminating the possibility of future holocausts.
We the Jews have to encourage the Christian leaders to visit Auschwitz, to pray with us, to create various spiritual Judeo-Christian organizations for fighting anti-Semitism and advancing a framework for building a better world for everybody with everybody.
Is the globalization a Jewish Torah-guided idea? The answer is YES or NO depending on how the very idea of globalization is defined.
The answer is YES if the very idea of globalization is to let each participant in a globalization union enhance its unique way of life using advanced achievements of the others in the union. In a globalization union, countries with different historic traditions and political systems peacefully compete with each other – based on a set of mutually accepted rules of engagement that allows each competing country to preserve its own way of life. Such globalization creates favorable conditions for the Jewish people to demonstrate, in cooperation with the Judeo-Christian communities, great spiritual and material benefits of the Torah/Bible-guided way of building a better world for everybody. Such globalization is spiritually Jewish.
Contemporary examples of the spiritually Jewish globalization are a young USA, a young UN, and a young EU. A young USA was globalizing by imposing the US global-federal rules on all US states-participants. Those rules were minimal and did not inhibit each state in the union from preserving and enhancing its unique way of life. The leadership of a young UN and a young EU did not impose on their states-participants any severe rules, which might suppress their unique ways of life as well.
The answer is NO if the very idea of globalization is a political arrangement aimed at forcing countries and peoples with different historic traditions and political systems to follow one set of rules imposed on them by the rulers of a “globalization empire”. If that is the case, the Jewish people and the State of Israel would suffer since the Jews would be forced to follow the globalization rules – not their tradition. Globalization defined this way is not spiritually Jewish.
The recent history has had many examples of spiritually non-Jewish globalization.
Hitler tried to globalize Europe by imposing on the countries of Europe the dictatorship of Nazi ideology. The Jews suffered enormously with the six millions slaughtered in Holocaust.
Stalin tried to globalize Europe and the world by imposing on many countries of Europe and the world the dictatorship of Communist ideology. Although some Jews were among the enforcers of this dictatorship, the Jewish people suffered enormously because their religion, spirituality and tradition were considered hostile to the regime and therefore suppressed.
Unfortunately, a nowadays USA, a nowadays UN, and a nowadays EU are examples of globalization that suppresses the unique traditions of their countries-participants.
This suppression is justified by nice-sounding politically correct slogans, which are conveying one basic message:
You, who are the majority in your country and who have created your own unique spiritual realm in your country for your people, have to reduce your spiritual realm to create a spiritual space for not your and may be hostile to your spirituality. We the Government (of the USA, of UN, of EU) are going to move into this space the people of not-your spirituality and traditions. We the Government understand that you may feel uncomfortable and even depressed because of many things such as increased crime and poverty, more hostile traditions around you, and less respect for your Judeo-Christian tradition. However, and that is what we the Government are not going to tell you, we need all that to get more political and financial power for us the Government – at the cost of your way of life.
That is what is going on these days in Europe and America, and we have to be prepared to vote this year for those who understand our profound concerns and ready to defend our Jewish, Christian and Judeo-Christian spiritual realm.
By the way, the current blacks-against-whites rebellion in the USA is the result of this “non-Jewish” internal US globalization: the mighty US government is forcing some citizens who are happened to be racially black to follow “globalization rules” which are foreign to them. This rebellion has nothing to do with race relations. Those blacks who are guided in their lives by American-type Judeo-Christian moral rules, and there are many of them, live happily in America. The rebels are those, and there are many of them as well, who hate the American-type Judeo-Christian moral rules. Unfortunately, politically correct politicians are afraid of recognizing this, or using this to their advantage.
The true meaning of Brexit is simple and powerful: that is a spiritual separation from the others to preserve and strengthen the own identity and moral foundation (own spirituality). For the nation of UK, it is like the Exodus for the Jews that let the Jewish nation solidify and further develop the Jewish unique identity and moral foundation.
The entity we call the humanity consists of spiritually competing nations. A spiritually competing nation should not hate the others – it should peacefully compete with the others to become “the light for the others”, or should peacefully change itself if it sees something more attractive in the life of the others, or should peacefully isolate itself from the others if it cannot change or compete.
In the political realm – not in the religious one, the first known Brexit was done by the Jewish nation with the Exodus from Egypt and then at the Mount of Sinai. There the Jews decided to split from the others to preserve and strengthen their own identity based on the God’s Torah-guided rules of behavior that distinguished the Jews from the others, and the new spirituality/identity of this nation was codified under the name of Judaism. In the religious terms, this Jewish identity was to obey the God’s commandments presented in the Torah – in the political terms, that was to strengthen the true individual freedoms – in the image and likeness of God, translated in the contemporary world into a free market economic/social system of government.
Just 68 years ago, the Jewish nation made another Brexit from the others and formed the state of Israel, where the Jewish nation can practice its spirituality on its own without overwhelming influence of the others.
The Brexit of UK from the EU dictatorship is of the same “Jewish” spiritual nature – to get rid of the evil of all-powerful EU government, which is forcing the people of UK to surrender its national identity to the newly invented, politically correct “humanity” identity.
Now, the same kind of revolt in making could be observed in other countries of EU such as Hungary or Greece for example.
America made its first Brexit at the end of 18th century by splitting from the authoritarian UK monarchy to preserve and further develop a newly created Judeo-Christian Bible-based identity with a free market economic/social system and strictly limited government that was codified in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. At such system of governing, the government was helping the people enhance their Judeo-Christian spirituality with the free-market and social freedoms.
However, in the course of the last about one hundred years the US government has been increasing its power – slowly, in small steps – and by now it has more power than the people have. With the changes in the small steps, it was difficult to understand that those small steps were creating a new political and social reality where the politicians were using the system for their own spiritual and financial empowerment and enrichment at the cost of the people.
The new Brexit-type movement in the USA, which some call “Trump-ism” (Donald Trump is just a messenger of this movement) is a revolt of the Judeo-Christian majority against the all-powerful US government of any party affiliation. That is a sort of American Exodus to make “America great again” – great in the Judeo-Christian identity and spirituality.
The Exodus/Brexit supporters do not hate anybody, they are not racists or anti-immigration bigots – they respect all immigrants of different races, nations or religions assuming those immigrants support the Judeo-Christian identity of an Exodus/Brexit country where they reside, and ready to be assimilated. However, the Exodus/Brexit supporters believe those who are unable to adjust to the Judeo-Christian identity should live happily in the countries of their own identities.
Finally, I have understood why the rabbis are hesitant, or sometimes even afraid, to discuss how individual Jews may feel or sense their own Jewish faith. That is so because the rabbis are teachers of the Jewish law (including traditions and rituals) – not of the faith.
The faith is a strong belief or trust in someone or something, most importantly in the existence of God and His morality guidance on how to create a better world for everybody. The Jewish “tribe” has its own understanding of God-guided morality – the other “tribes” have their own understanding. The belief or trust in someone or something cannot be learnt – it is inherent at a sort of genetic level. If somebody in the tribe does not have the common faith of the tribe, no teacher is able to install it in this person. It looks like we are born with our faith. The Jewish faith-morality is presented in the Torah even for those who do not know of its existence (and never talked to a rabbi).
With the Jewish law (including rituals and tradition) everything is different. The Jewish law is a human codification of the Torah guidance on morality done mostly by the rabbis. Our rabbis have created the Jewish law, and the Jewish law continues to be developed. Since the Jewish law is of human development, it is a subject of human – in the Jewish case the rabbinical – competitiveness. That is why we have many competitive variations of the Jewish laws created by different rabbis at different times.
Below are the thoughts of two respectable rabbis in support of the above stated.
Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.
A rabbi is a teacher of Judaism qualified to render decisions in Jewish law. The term is derived from rav, meaning “great man” or “teacher;” Moses is called Moshe Rabbenu. (“Moses our teacher”).
In post-Talmudic times, the conventional title among Sephardi Jews was Hakham, “sage,” and this title is still used by the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim preferred the term “Rabbi” and developed a new form of ordination, in which a prominent scholar subjected a candidate for the rabbinate to an examination in order to determine his proficiency in Jewish law.
The professional rabbi was unknown before the fourteenth century. Scholars capable of rendering decisions in Jewish law performed this function without receiving any salary, following the Talmudic injunction against obtaining financial gain from the Torah, except that scholars were exempted from communal taxation and had the right to be served first when buying in the market-place, so as to enable them to devote more time to their studies.
Once the rabbinate became a profession, proper contracts of service were drawn up and these are discussed in the later [law] codes under the heading of general financial undertakings. This pattern was preserved among the Ashkenazim in Eastern European communities, as was the institution of the Hakham among the Sephardi and Oriental communities, and it is still the norm in the State of Israel and in the Diaspora communities of the older Orthodox type.
Thus, the rabbinate is a profession, and as any other professions rabbis have to compete with others in the field.
Rabbi Gordimer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. His writings on Jewish topics are published widely.
It is sometimes hard to believe what we are reading, as things are turned upside down in an effort to be politically correct and gain popular appeal. Orthodox Judaism has never sought to be politically correct – on the contrary, it has stood its guns no matter what direction the winds are blowing. Unfortunately, with the case of Modern Orthodox rabbis who have crossed the line into Open Orthodoxy, it has become almost commonplace to read the unbelievable, things that would never have been expressed were Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l, the Torah luminary of American Modern Orthodoxy, still with us. Sometimes, shocking ideas are articulated in direct contravention of his views, with the excuse that “times have changed.” Since when has that wellworn excuse been used in Orthodoxy? This, much as it hurts to write it, seems to be the case when it comes to rabbinic superstar, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, who seems to be on a much publicized collision course with tradition.
Theologically, the Reform and Conservative (as well as the Reconstructionist) movements reject the Singular Divine Authorship of the Torah and the other Cardinal Principles of Faith, and they have disavowed the binding nature of halakha.
I am not a rabbi but feel strongly that this rabbi is wrong: the other rabbis, whom this rabbi maligns, do not reject “the Singular Divine Authorship of the Torah and the other Cardinal Principles of Faith”. The other rabbis are tailoring and applying “the Singular Divine Authorship of the Torah and the other Cardinal Principles of Faith” to different human life conditions that rabbi Gordimer has not met yet.