The disagreements among Jews on almost everything is not something new – it has been always an important feature of Jewish character. From the very beginning, various Jewish groups were competing with each other for a “right way” of following the God’s guidance (codified in the Torah) in always challenging and changing life circumstances. During the Moses’ times: enter or not to enter the Promised Land? During the Roman times: fight the Roman political rule or not to fight? And nowadays: should an individual define himself whether he/she is a Jew or somebody else should tell him/her who he/she is?
From the very beginning, the Jews were split on how to define “a right way” of following the God’s guidance that is codified in the Torah.
If an individual Jew believes he/she is made indeed in the image and likeness of God, he or she is searching individually for “a right way”. The Jews, who have found similar “right ways”, form a collective to compete, hopefully peacefully, with other Jewish collectives. In the past, they were Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Sicarii; nowadays the Jews are split between various Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Atheist movements.
However, many rabbis believe that a simple Jew is not able to search for “a right way” individually – a rabbi has to tell him or her what is right and what is wrong. It looks like those rabbis believe only they are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore are capable to search and find God’s “right way”.
From the news media by Dr. Afshine Emrani:
I’m a proud Jew who loves to shine the Jewish light onto the nations. But today, the Israeli Chief rabbinate rejection of this remarkable woman, Ivanka Trump, makes me put my head down in shame. Rabbi Lookstein who performed the conversion is a former Rabbi of one of the leading Orthodox synagogues in Manhattan and former principal of one of the preeminent Modern Orthodox schools, the Ramaz School. The decision of the Israeli religious court to reject Ivanka’s conversion to Judaism by this highly qualified and well respected Rabbi is a slap in the face to all Jews. This action is nothing short of religious dictatorship. I lived in Iran, I know. I recall how the Mullahs ruled. It’s the scream to stay in absolute power. It’s the tyrannical desire to rule the masses. It’s about the power to twist text into financial gains.
Thus, Ivanka Trump, who was not Jewish by birth, and a Jew by birth Jared Kushner have decided to build a Jewish family making this decision themselves, as human individuals made in the image and likeness of God, and Orthodox rabbi Lookstein taught them how to build a true Torah-guided Jewish family. Suddenly, the Orthodox rabbinic establishment of Israel got irritated by this new Jewish family and by their rabbi-teacher and declared only they have the authority to make a family Jewish. In other words, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment declared that a new Jewish family have to be in an image of God this establishment has created for a Jewish family – not in an image of God a Jewish family creates for itself individually.
From the news media by Rabbi Baruch Efrati:
The secular world and the observant world live side by side. The non-observant … are open to tikkun because of the light spilling over from the religious world existing beside them and their sacrifices for the Jewish people. The secular Jewish world does not want to take over the religious world from a theological point of view, but to live beside it – hence, the possibility of influencing that world, listening to its hearts’ desires, elevating its holy sparks to their heavenly source. The secular are actually non-observant Orthodox, they do not present an alternative organized religion that turns transgressions into an ideology intended to take the place of the Torah. … In contrast, the Reform Movement has a “progressive” ideology that wishes to exchange the Oral Law’s G-d-given message. It does not wish to ask questions about the Torah but to create a religious empire of its own. It has an organized theology that grants legitimacy to transgressions and turns them into religion. There is no possibility of living side by side, but a theological battle over who will lead the nation. Our dialogue is thus one between enemies, not lovers. It is either we or them, the holy or the ritually impure and their ideological rebellion against the Oral Law.
Thus, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment believes the non-religious, secular Jews are OK but the non-Orthodox religious people are … close to devilish ones. Both the non-religious secular and non-orthodox religious Jews have defined their God-guided Jewish way of life based on their own individual interpretation of the image of God codified in the Torah. However, the Jewish Orthodox rabbinic establishment want all Jews to be modeled in their own rabbinic image of God – not in the true image of God in the great variety of possible images a “Chosen” Jew can chose for him/her-self to create his/her own Jewish way of life that reflects an individual life circumstance.
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 concept of Supreme Power over us the humans called God is vital for our human wellbeing. It is vital even for those who call themselves atheists. It is vital mainly not for the purpose of praying to God and asking for guidance and favors but most importantly for accepting God as the unchallenged source of our moral rules, which cannot be changed by us the humans.
That is why it is difficult for me to understand the reason for an orthodox rabbi Donniel Hartman to dethrone God from the first to the second place in Judaism.
From the news media:
Donniel Hartman, the head of an orthodox educational powerhouse, Shalom Hartman Institute, argues that the great monotheistic religions are fatally flawed — by an obsessive focus on God that overwhelms what should be our prime imperative, to live decent, moral lives.
Donniel Hartman insists his resonant call to put God second is not some superficial provocation. Rather, it is issued out of a conviction that “the more we put ethics first, the more I am a religious person” and the less that God is “a destructive force in our lives.”
The rabbi Hartman’s innovations are what indeed we need in Judaism and in other religions, for Jews and Gentiles, namely – to teach how to live decent, moral lives and how and why to put the ethics first. That is indeed necessary and long overdue – to bring back the true meaning of the duties of the Chosen, which are to build a better world for everybody with everybody – the world where the complete majority can live decent, moral lives along the lines of Torah/Bible guidance. However, to do all that we need to have God at the first place in our lives.
In order to decide whether we live decent, moral lives we have to define common basic characteristics of decency and morality. Those characteristics have to be alike for Jews and Christians of different spiritual streams from the ultra-Orthodox to the ultra-Atheists. In the Judeo-Christian world, without One God at the first place with His Torah/Bible-codified rules for decent, moral behavior, it is impossible to have decent, moral lives. The current rules for “decent, moral behavior” are different for many Jewish communities as well as for many Christian communities.
Here are just a few examples. Some believe in the decency of socialism-inspired redistribution of wealth with the “helping hand” of the government while the others support free-market capitalist system with the mitzvah/charity helping hands. Some believe in the absolute morality of “do not do to the others what I do not want to be done to me” while the others consider to be just the severe punishment of devilish people. Some believe that only a family of man-woman-children is decent and moral while the others do not see anything wrong with a gay family. Some believe the decency demands considering a person to be Jewish if he himself believe so while the others trust in a rabbi’s decision on the Jewishness.
Thus, what principles are decent and moral enough to be used for building a better world for everybody, even for everybody inside the Jewish nation? I do not see any other approach but – in the course of competitive spiritual and peaceful discussions – to find it in the guidance of God at the first place.
The history tried to do it without God as was done for example in Stalin’s Russia, in Hitler’s Germany and in Mao’s China and the result was millions and millions of murdered people.
From the news media:
An Israeli rabbinical court did not accept a conversion by an Orthodox rabbi who also helped Ivanka Trump become Jewish.
In the latest case exemplifying the tension between Israel’s rabbinate and Orthodox groups in the Diaspora, a religious court prevented the marriage of an Israeli man and an American woman, who converted under a well-respected New York rabbi, Haskel Lookstein.
And in an unusual twist, which has brought the case into the limelight, Lookstein is also the rabbi who converted Ivanka Trump and officiated at her wedding to Jewish real-estate scion Jared Kushner, an advisor for presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
That is one more example of bad moral rabbinical prescripts as the result of removing God from finding proper Torah/Bible-guided decisions.
At Mount Sinai, some human tribe had become Jewish since it decided to follow the God’s prescriptions on “decent, moral lives”. If somebody decides now to follow these prescriptions, this person is Jewish by God’s definition, and no human rabbinical court can change it.
When I visit the Western Wall for prayers and inspiration, I always observe here Jews, and even non-Jews, of different “colors” – in completely white/black uniforms and in just colorful t-shorts – trying to find here the meaning of their individual lives. Everything looks peaceful and inspiring.
Then I read in the news media:
Clash between Haredi and non-Orthodox Jews at Western Wall. The Western Wall plan continues to spark riots: Today, hundreds of Reform and Conservative Jews arrived at the Western Wall in order to hold an egalitarian prayer service in protest of the decision to delay the plan. At the holy site, they encountered dozens of Haredi Jews who shouted and whistled in order to disrupt their prayer service.
Women of the Wall have been fighting a 25-year long battle “to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”
In what may have been his first words on the subject in Hebrew, Netanyahu said: “At a time when we are continuing in our efforts to reach a solution that will allow every Jew to feel at home at the Western Wall, there are those who would prefer to divide our people and even declare that other Jews are wicked or not Jews at all. We must reject these words and these inappropriate acts that are opposed to the fundamental spirit of the State of Israel.”
At the Western Wall, the Jews are expressing and strengthening their faith – they are not here because the Jewish law is compelling them to do so. At the Western Wall, the Jews are as inspired faithful individuals – not as an organized group led by a rabbi or somebody behaving like a rabbi.
However, sometimes a rabbi or somebody behaving like a rabbi lead to the Western Wall an organized group that disrupts the Western–Wall harmony of the faithful – with the goal of strengthening his/her religious group and membership and with clear knowledge that it disrupts the Western-Wall harmony of faithful. Those official and nonofficial rabbis put their business-based professional interests above the Jewish faith.
That is a well-observed troubling general trend in the “professional Judaism” – the rabbis of multiple different streams and sub-streams are interested more in emphasizing their difference to attract more members and money instead of searching for and strengthening the common foundation of Jewish faith which is the “design” of the God-guided better world for everybody.
Recently I have addressed this subject in a post “The rabbi is wrong on the roots of anti-Semitism”. However, the newly revealed acts of anti-Semitism in Europe moved me to address this subject again.
From the news media:
Writing in The Telegraph on 3rd May, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis addresses the problem of anti-Semitism on the hard left of British politics. The Rabbi says: ‘To those who so eagerly reach for a vicious Holocaust reference in order to exact the maximum amount of pain and offence upon “Zionists”, I say: You are spreading that ancient and insidious virus of anti-Semitism. Look around you’.
From the news media:
In his May 4, 2016 article “This cannot be, it must not be our Europe!” the first vice-president of European Commission Frans Timmermans says:
Anyone who knows anything about our history knows that anti-Semitism is Europe’s most pernicious disease. It is the red line that we must never, ever cross.
A well-respected European religious leader, the UK Chief Rabbi, and a well-respected European political leader, the Vice-President of European Commission, described the anti-Semitism as a sort of recognized social illness. If it is so, the anti-Semitism has to be dealt with as we do with all recognized illnesses – by medications, in this case by social medications such as anti-hate-crime laws.
However, if we incarcerate the anti-Semites, in the jail they would not become the “pro-Semites” – contrary to this, many more potential anti-Semites will take their place under the banner of freedom of speech and of resistance to some mystical Jewish cabal around the world and in Israel. Below are just a few examples of that.
A UK prominent anti-Semitic politician Ken Livingstone: Creation of Israel was ‘a great catastrophe”.
London is electing first Muslim mayor – over a Jewish contender!
Finally, the time has come to realize we have wrongly diagnosed the roots of anti-Semitism and therefore our treatment is counterproductive. The anti-Semitism is not an illness and therefore cannot be treated as an illness by social medicines.
The anti-Semitism is a sincere spiritual believe among many gentiles that the Jews are moving the gentile world into wrong, destructive direction.
The anti-Semitism has to be dealt with by creating a sort of “Semitic”, Judeo-Christian spiritual movement led mostly by Christian leaders of various Christian religious streams with the goal of proving to the gentile communities that the Jewish ideas are moving the gentile world into right, God-guided direction. This spiritual Judeo-Christian movement has to be created by Rabbis working together with Priests.
Some prominent rabbis are already working with the Christians on strengthening the mutual “belief-foundation” of Judaism and Christianity where the Jews are respected and honored as the elder spiritual brothers.
The time has come to make the next step – to create the mutual Judeo-Christian, Bible-based foundation for the structure of a better world for everybody in our contemporary times for all crucial components of this structure such as rich vs. poor, individual freedoms vs. welfare, government vs. people, Supreme Power above us vs. supreme powers among us, etc.
This foundation has to demonstrate that the Judeo-Christian, Bible-based structure of the better world is superior over the Islamic, Communist/Socialist and many other structures at least in our “Western hemisphere”, and that the Jews should be recognized as the elder brothers in developing and promoting such structure.
This work would deliver to all potential anti-Semites the much-needed message: the Jews are moving the world in the right direction beneficial to you – they are not moving the world into the wrong direction contrary to your interests. This message has to be supported by demonstrating the Jewish achievements in creating the basics of contemporary Western Judeo-Christian civilization – in economics, science, social institutions and elsewhere. The most difficult part of this effort is to overcome the prevailing politically correct dogma that all religions and religion-like political/social movements are spiritually equal and our Judeo-Christian morality is not superior over the other moralities – of course, in our Western civilization.
In the contemporary world, the restoration of public Judeo-Christian morality/spirituality is the prerequisite for beginning the mitigation of the anti-Semitism. I believe Jewish leaders who are willing to begin this process exist.