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.
Caroline Glick in “The tragic state of American Jewry”:
“The American Jewish community is steeped in multiple crises. They threaten its present and its future. The crises … are a product of another, more basic quandary. Throughout Jewish history, Jewish continuity and survival have been rooted in Torat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael. Torah literacy … was for thousands of years the basic pillar of Jewish exilic identity. It was through familiarity with the Torah and its laws that Jews were made aware of their uniqueness and maintained their ties to one another, to Jewish communities worldwide and to the Promised Land.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and with the rise of secularism in the US generally and among American Jewry in particular, Zionism and Jewish peoplehood became more prominent focuses in the formation and cultivation of Jewish identity for American Jewry.
Likewise, the emphasis that Jewish educators have placed on Holocaust education makes it difficult for Jews to understand that anti-Semitism is an enduring prejudice. Today Jews are hard-pressed to understand that anti-Semitism exists even when there aren’t death camps and that not all anti-Semites are Nazis. Some anti-Semites are their progressive professors.
The hard truth seems to be that the salvation of American Jewry can only come with the restoration, at wider and wider communal levels, of the three foundations of Judaism to their proper positions in a meaningful, substantive way.”
Caroline Glick has presented a very precise diagnosis of the state of American Jewry and how to fix it – to rejuvenate the American Jewry spiritually by returning it to the three spiritual cornerstones of Jewish people – Torat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael.
Torat Yisrael defines the Jews as the people guided by the prescripts of Torah; Eretz Yisrael defines the Jews as the people living in the Promised Land; Am Yisrael defines the Jews as One undivided Nation.
The problem is that these three cornerstones of Jewish people – Torat Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael – are defined differently by about 15% Orthodox minority and by about 85% non-Orthodox majority.
The 15% Orthodox minority defines these three cornerstones from the belief that the true faith is based on the Fear of God and this Fear of God has to be addressed and mitigated by prayers and rituals.
From the Orthodox thoughts:
Every Jew has a real soul emanating from the Essence of G-d. If we just tap into it, we would find that every Jew at his core wants to fear G-d and follow His command. It may take effort to reach that core but is the purpose of Hakhel. There really is not any other way because our character and upbringing is very different and we naturally have an ego that does not allow us to get beyond it, unless we tap into the soul, which is really one piece of the collective Jewish soul.
If it isso, most probably the 15% Orthodox minority defines the three cornerstones in the following way:
- Torat Yisrael means to study the Torah and derive from it the guidance for prayers, rituals and moral behavior inside the isolated Jewish communities;
- Eretz Yisrael means to gather all Jews in the Promised Land to do Torat Yisroel;
- Am Yisroel means to create in Eretz Yisroel the spiritually isolated Jewish Nation.
The 85% non-Orthodox majority defines all that in a completely different way. Based on their actions, it looks like the true faith for them is based on the Jewish mission to build a better world for everybody and together with everybody. That is what the 85% non-Orthodox majority is doing every day without or with some prayers and rituals – secular (hiloni), traditional (masorti), and some modern Orthodox (dati).
For the non-Orthodox majority, those three cornerstones of Jewish people should mean the following:
- Torat Yisrael is to study the Torah and derive from it the guidance for social, political and economic actions in the Judeo-Christian world (in America and elsewhere) to build a Torah-guided better world for everybody;
- Eretz Yisrael is to defend the State of Israel as the best part of the Judeo-Christian world and make it as a sort of the Chosen Country;
- Am Yisrael is to create in the entire world, first in the USA and the State of Israel, the Jewish Nation of the Chosen – not to govern over the others but to work with the others on building a better world for everybody.
The rabbis have to understand the meaning of the three cornerstones of American Jewry as it is developed – as a possible interpretation of the Torah guidance, not as a violation of the Torah guidance, – and lead the renewal of American Jewry to change “the tragic state of American Jewry” for better.
I have received from MiKu the following comment: “So you discard a Talmudic idea because it doesn’t fit your agenda, then you aren’t qualified to invent “Intellectual Judaism””, and I have responded in the following way:
“Michael, I am not discarding anything. I am, in my human duty as a spiritual scientist, trying to find out why the purely Talmudic-based Orthodox Judaism is not attracting anymore the Jewish majority, and the Jews are testing something else such as conservatism, reformism, secularism, etc. You may believe the purely Talmudic-based orthodox rabbis are the guardians of Judaism but what guardianship is this if the Jewish majority do not follow them. So I have decided, after many unsuccessful attempts to discuss it with the purely Talmudic-based orthodox rabbis, to go back to the Torah and figure out what may be done to attract the Jews again to the Torah’s guidance. What spiritual objections do you have against my search?”
This post is a part of my search.
We the Jews are united as Jews, all of us from the Orthodox to the Secular, by our collective faith rooted in the Torah, transferred from generation to generation most probably genetically, and enhanced through Jewish education.
We the Jews, all of us from the Orthodox to the Secular, are disunited almost on everything by our diverse and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the Torah guidance.
Why the same Torah is the source of our unity and disunity?
The Torah comprises of two different universes.
One of them is the so-called God’s universe, where God with His multiple images such as Supreme Power, Adonai, Nature, Big Bang, etc. is the Higher Authority above us the humans. The other one is the Religion’s universe. They are different.
Naturally, God Himself created the God’s universe – in all His multiple images. Our human authoritative leaders called in the Jewish nation the Rabbis created the Religion’s universe.
The God’s universe is presented in the Torah with God’s guidance on how to build a human society where every human individual is acting in all his/her life endeavors in the individually understood “image and likeness” of God. We accepted the guidance of the Higher Authority above us the humans after the failure of numerous humans to play the role of such authority. The most fundamental part of this guidance is the so-called “Free Will” that encourages all human individuals to compete with each other for better designs of various parts of the God’s better world.
Based on the Torah’s guidance, the rabbis created the Religion’s universe with their guidance on how to understood the “image and likeness” of God in terms of human moral behavior. The rabbis’ role as teachers in this Religion’s universe was extremely valuable. However, in the course of religious history, the rabbis began to exercise another role – the role of authoritative rulers, and in this role, the rabbis created disunity. In order to secure his power as an authoritative ruler, a rabbi was declaring that only his guidance was the true God’s guidance, and all others were mistaken. This authoritative-ruler approach obviously breaded disunity.
When the Jews lived in the isolated Jewish communities (shtetls, ghettos), this disunity was hidden – the Jews were not interacting with the real God’s world outside the Jewish communities, knew only their rabbi’s guidance and obeyed him.
However about two centuries ago, things had begun to change – the Jews had begun to be accepted by the gentiles and begun real competitive coexistence in the gentile world. The life conditions for Jewish individuals had become completely different, and the rabbis were not able to adjust their spiritual guidance to specific life conditions of everybody. That was the end of the traditional Orthodox spiritual supremacy in the Jewish nation – not because of somebody’s revolt but rather because of inability of the Orthodox rabbis to adjust the Torah’s teachings to the changing times. The Orthodox rabbis were not prepared to tailor their teachings to the enormous changes in the world created along the lines of God’s laws of nature. The result: the birth of new spiritual Jewish movements – conservatism, reformism and secularism. Those feuding movements are trying to find the God’s guidance in new life circumstances, created in the God’s world by the God’s laws, – the guidance the orthodox rabbis were not able to provide.
The Ten Commandments and the Social Justice are the two systems for redistribution of individually created wealth aimed at making a better world for everybody, or Tikkun Olam in Jewish spiritual terms.
If we have two wealth-redistribution systems suggested for creating a better world for everybody, we have to figure out which system is better. The great majority would agree that a better world for everybody should be a just world. If it is so, the most important is to define what is just and unjust in both systems.
In the Judeo-Christian universe (observant and non-observant), the Ten Commandments and the entire Bible (Old and New Testaments), which is tailoring the Ten Commandments to various life circumstances, define justice and injustice. Those definitions are coming from the Higher Authority above us called God. We may disagree on the image of this Authority (God, Adonai, Supreme Power, Nature, Big Band, etc.) but not with the need for and the importance of such authority. This Authority unites all of us since, as the Bible declares, this Authority creates all of us as equals – in His image and likeness. If we are created as equals, the definition of justice and injustice, which is coming from this Authority, have to be considered just for everybody.
The guidance of this Authority for creating a better world, which is just for everybody, is clear and simple:
- A better world, which is just for everybody, is the world where every individual has the opportunity to be an individual spiritual and material wealth creator in all areas of his/her life – family, community, religious institutions, employment, politics, social development, charity/mitzvah, etc. Moreover, to be personally responsible for the results of individual creative work.
- The purpose of government is to secure the individual opportunities, not to impose on the individuals the government’s own ideas on social justice. The government has to legislate along the lines of the Bible – to strengthen individual families, to provide safety for families and communities, to keep forceful confiscation of wealth to a minimal level just needed to support a minimal government.
- About 10% of the individually created wealth should be used for helping the less fortunate to enhance their individual opportunities through individual charity/mitzvah wealth transfer – not to enslave them in the welfare system forever.
In the secular universe, which might be even artificially observant, an elected or non-elected government defines what is just and what is unjust. Any human government, although necessary at some minimal level, disunites people. Why? Because any human government operates with one important goal in mind – to preserve its power at a next election cycle.
There is an established practice of how to preserve the power in this secular universe:
- A government convinces the society that not all people are created equal, and therefore the role of a government is to be a sort of equalizer. To perform this role, a government finds a small group of wealthy individuals with a lot of individually made wealth but with a negligible voting power, and forcefully confiscates a significant part of their wealth.
- Then, a government redistributes the confiscated wealth to a large group of less wealthy (most of them are not poor in a classical definition of this word) but with a decisive voting power. If the redistribution is correct, the government preserves its power.
- However, such redistribution is unjust for the entire society. The wealthy individuals are unhappy – they think the injustice was committed against them. They believe so not because the money was taken from them – but rather because the money was taken forcefully without their consent on how much to take and how to redistribute. The injustice is committed as well against those who are receiving the redistributed money. It is so since the government decides what is good and what is bad for them – they are deprived the opportunity to make their own choices.