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God and Religion in the Torah – and they may disagree


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.

Rabbis’ spiritual authoritarianism vs. Jews’ individual freedoms

Yes, everybody knows every rabbi is trying to impose on his Jewish constituency the Torah guidance in the interpretation of his ordination institution as the only truthful “Service to God”, and everybody knows every Jews is a profoundly independent individual with his own opinion on everything, who does not like to follow the crowd.

Many know the old joke about the Jew stranded on a desert island. When he is finally discovered after many years, his rescuers find that he has constructed two synagogues. One, he goes to – its prescripts are tailored to his individuality. The other? The other he would never set foot in – it follows wrong prescripts.

However, until the 19th century, this touchy combination was working nicely with no rift between rabbis and their Jewish constituencies.

It was so because until the 19th century the Jewish majority lived in spiritually isolated Jewish communities/ghettos with no competing prescripts on how to be Jewish and be in “Service to God”. For the Jews, living in isolated communities with no significant interactions with the outside gentile world, the definition of a rabbi on the meaning of “Service to God” was as a sort of final word from God for his community. A rabbi’s direction on what to do in a personal life to be a “servant to God” was not for a discussion. Any attempt by a Jewish individual to suggest a competitive interpretation to being “servant to God”, based on the individual’s personal understanding of the Torah guidance, was considered a sort of blasphemy.

In the 19th century, many in the Jewish communities began to question the traditional rabbinical definition of “Service to God” and rabbi’s exclusive role in its presentation that led to creation of non-traditional streams of Judaism and to abandoning rabbis as exclusive spiritual advisers.

This anti-rabbinical trend (which is not an anti-Judaism or anti-all-rabbis trend) was definitely evident in the discussion panel on contemporary Jewish identity, to mark holiday of Tisha B’Av mourning, conducted by the Jewish alumni network Reshet Ramah. This alumni network unites the Jews who were born and raised in the Haredim communities, and then left them in search for a more tolerant Torah-based spiritual environment.

The Reshet Ramah discussion for one of the participants, Srully Stein, Tisha B’Av is about more than commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples: it represents the loss he faced after he decided to leave the ultra-Orthodox community he was born into. Hailing from a rabbinical dynasty, Stein, 23, grew up in an ultra-Orthodox family in Williamsburg, New York. At age 18, he met his wife for just a few moments before they were engaged. They had a son, but he dreamt of college and the world outside his insular community. After struggling with conflicting feelings, Stein left the insular community and divorced his wife. As he stated, for him leaving was kind of a destruction of his own personal temple; he personally lost everything he had – his community, his job, much of his family, and he had to rebuild his own spiritual and personal life.

Srully Stein is hardly alone. Why he and many others like him are abandoning their Haredim rabbis, synagogues and communities – not to stop being “servant to God” but to being “servant to God” in a completely different way? They have done it to recreate their own personal temples they lost in the Haredim communities. That is why on Tisha B’Av, they mourn the destruction of a personal temple as well.

What is the true meaning of a personal temple? Any spiritual temple is a place where people learn how to be “Servant of God” – in their own individual image of “God”. Why an individual image – not collective? That is because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is a unique individual. God (in any of His possible images) did not created us as an impersonal flock – He created us as individual Adams and Eves, Abrahams and Mosess, Isaacs and Jacobs with our own personal spiritual temples that we create around us. Unfortunately, the rabbinical majority of the past neglected this – instead of teaching how to build and enhance a personal Jewish temple in coherent coexistence with the collective Jewish temple, they taught how not to create a personal temple and to obey only the directives of the collective temple.

Finally, the Jewish majority has realized that and revolted, and the stories of Srully Stein and many others tell it all.

So, what the rabbis can do and what they cannot do?

Rabbis can provide us the Jews with the knowledge of Judaic sources and of how various sages, prophets and authoritative rabbis tailored the unchanging Torah guidance to the changing historic circumstances of their times. Rabbis can provide us with the knowledge of rituals and proper behavior in the surroundings of our families, communities and synagogues.

However, rabbis are not able to tailor the Torah guidance to the little known to them our Jewish life outside the isolated, insular Jewish communities in the gentile environment, where most of the contemporary Jews spend most of their time – in schools, at work, in social circles, at travel, at charitable activities, in political circles, in government, in arts and science, etc. Outside the isolated Jewish communities, the Jews are performing their mission of the Chosen – the Chosen by God for Tikkun Olam to build a better world for everybody along the lines of Torah guidance.

We the Jews know much better than our rabbis the life outside Jewish communities in the gentile environment, and that is our responsibility to tailor the Torah guidance to this life using our God-given intellect.

We have to build our own personal spiritual temples around us and make our personal temples compatible with the collective temple, and the rabbis should help us to do this – not to force us to suppress our personal temples for the sake of the collective one.

Is there anything that may unite all hostile political parties in Israel?

One of the latest rounds of negotiations to establish a functioning Israeli government has been dealing with the following issues:

  • Should the government impose or not impose sanctions on the haredi yeshiva students who do not perform military service?
  • Should the government provide full financing of the ultra-Orthodox schools without any requirements?
  • Should the government allow the non-strictly-orthodox conversion?
  • Should the government increase the child allotments as the first priority without any other budget considerations?
  • Should the government change the existing legal relationships between religion and state?

The Israeli politicians have not been able to find the answers to those questions that may be satisfactory to the political majority. Let us try to find those answers based on the basics of Judaism.

One of the fundamental realms of Judaism is the Torah-based guidance on building a better world for everybody. The most important guidance in this realm was proposed by Rabbi Hillel two millenniums ago.

This guidance is called “the Golden Rule” and consists of one sentence: “What is hateful to thee, do not unto thy fellow man: this is the whole Law; the rest is mere commentary”.  

Let’s apply this Golden Rule to the unresolved political issues in the above, assuming the “thee” is a common Orthodox Jew and the “fellow man” is a common non-Orthodox Jew.

The “thee” honestly believes that the survival of Jewish nation and the State of Israel depends sorely on preserving the strictly Orthodox Torah interpretation. Concerning the political negotiations on the issues in the above, this Torah interpretation can be described in the following way.

  • Everything what is possible should be done to increase the number of the “thee” Jews who devote all the time to studying the Torah that precludes performing any military service.
  • Somebody has to provide the full financing for studying the Torah since the “thee” does not have any time to earn money necessary to support himself and the family.
  • Only the existence of the “thee” Jews guaranties the survival of the entire Jewish Nation; therefore, they have to be the authority in the strictly Orthodox religious conversion to make sure all the Jews are of the “thee” quality.
  • Since the strictly Orthodox conversion makes practically impossible the growth of the Jewish Nation by accepting the others into the tribe, the “thee” community has to have as many children as possible; however since there is no own financial means to support the children, somebody have to provide the child allotments with no budget restrictions.
  • Since all in the above already exist in Israel, the government of Israel should not try to make any changes in the existing state-religion legal relationships.

Nothing wrong with those beliefs of the strictly Orthodox “thee” community – the non-Orthodox “fellow man” community have to respect them. The problem is that the strictly Orthodox “thee” community wants to force the non-Orthodox “fellow man” community to do what the “thee” community itself does want to do – to be forced to change its own beliefs. The strictly Orthodox “thee” community wants the Israeli government to force the non-Orthodox “fellow man” community to take upon themselves much greater sacrifices in defending the country from external enemies, and much greater sacrifices in taking care of their own families and spiritual interests. That is a complete violation of the Hillel’s Golden Rule – the strictly Orthodox “thee” community is doing to the non-Orthodox “fellow man” community what the “thee” community does not want for itself.

The following may be suggested for the strictly Orthodox “thee” community to comply with the Hillel’s Golden Rule. This community should initiate discussions with the non-Orthodox “fellow man” community aimed at finding a Golden-Rule-based approach on the issues currently preventing the formation of stable Israeli government:

  • To agree that the security of Israel depends not only on preserving the economic and military strength – the security of Israel depends on preserving the spiritual strength as well.
  • To demonstrate that preserving the spiritual strength requires 100% commitment from its guardians the Torah study students – in the same way as preserving the military strength requires 100% commitment from its guardians the military.
  • To update the curriculum for Torah studies to make them relevant to the real life of non-Orthodox communities: family, work place, Diaspora Jews, collaboration with Christians, coexisting with Arabs, being the Chosen, and many more.
  • To create Mitzvah-based support instead of taxpayer support – as the Jews have done in our historic past.
  • To find an alternative Torah-guided provisions for non-strictly-Orthodox conversions and weddings – as our Rabbis did two millenniums ago concerning the father-mother Jewish lineage.

If it is done, the always-growing destructive rift between the strictly Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities may begin contracting, and the number of relatively observant Jews may begin increasing. Moreover what is most important, the Israeli government may become more stable and predictable – not only for the Israelis but for the Diaspora Jews and the entire world as well.

Does God want these people to gather in the Promised Land?

That is a reprint from Jerusalem Post



04/24/2015 18:10

Israel shocked by ultra-Orthodox mob assault of IDF officer in Jerusalem

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gang up on IDF officer in Mea Shearim

The officer, who serves in an infantry brigade, was wearing an army uniform and a knitted skullcap that is the hallmark of the religious Zionist community.

An ultra-Orthodox Jew gestures during a protest in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israel’s political and military establishment expressed shock and dismay on Friday hours after an IDF officer was accosted and lightly beaten by a mob of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem.

The officer, who serves in an infantry brigade, was wearing an army uniform and a knitted skullcap that is the hallmark of the religious Zionist community.

He had entered the neighborhood to pay a visit to two soldiers said to be in dire financial straits.

“In recent years, the IDF has enlisted into its ranks thousands of ultra-Orthodox, assigning them significant tasks and roles throughout the army and its various units,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement.

“The IDF views this incident with gravity,” the statement read. “The army denounces and condemns any attempt to harm its officers and soldiers who work day and night to protect the country and its citizens.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Friday with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich about the incident. The premier released a statement to the press saying that he was closely monitoring the police efforts to locate the assailants.

“This is an outrageous incident,” Netanyahu said. “These lawbreakers who raised a hand against an IDF officer must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“IDF service is a source of pride,” the prime minister said. The IDF is a people’s army that protects us all. The soldiers serving in it represent a number of communities that make up Israeli society. That is how it has always been, and that is how it will be.”

“A line has been crossed,” tweeted Aryeh Deri, the chairman of the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox Shas movement. “The assault of an IDF officer at the hands of Jewish extremists is an act of terrorism.”

“A grave act was committed, and I demand that the police do all in its power to bring those criminals to trial as soon as possible,” Deri tweeted.

Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of Knesset, also released a statement condemning the attack.

“This attack was perpetrated by a tiny group of extremist ultra-Orthodox Jews,” he said. “This is a violation of a major red line.”

“I am pained by the fact that on the week in which we remember our sons who are the reason that Israeli citizens can live in security, such violence and polarizing hatred erupts,” he said. “I call on the ultra-Orthodox community to adamantly condemn this incident and to immediately denounce the extremists in its midst who show contempt for all of Israeli society, particularly the ultra-Orthodox.”

An official with United Torah Judaism, the political faction that represents an amalgamation of Ashkenazi haredim, said that those responsible for the attack constitute “an extremist, fringe group that is even more violent towards the ultra-Orthodox than it is to the greater public.”

“These are the same hooligans who attacked UTJ MK Moshe Gafni and MK Uri Maklev when they came into Mea Shearim to pray at a local synagogue,” the source said. “The Israel Police have been way too lenient with them, and it is in contact with their leadership.”

“What we saw today was the result of the police’s silence and capitulation to this group,” the official said.

Spiritual closeness of Jews and Christians – in the Testaments and in the Torah’s guidance

Discussions on spiritual closeness of Jews and Christians are not just a sort of traditional theoretical discussions where some participants may agree and some disagree. Those discussions are of very practical importance. Those discussions are bringing closer the Jews and the Christians, Judaism and Christianity. Those discussions are advancing the mission of the Jews as the Chosen to create a better world for everybody based on the Torah’s guidance. Those discussions are enhancing the Jewish-Christian collaboration in fighting anti-Semitism and Islamic assault on Western Judeo-Christian Civilization.
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