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The Western Wall impasse as an indication of what is wrong with our religious leaders


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.

Rabbis are teachers of the Jewish law – not of the faith


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.

Who decides you are Jewish – a neighbor, a rabbi or you yourself?


Who decides you are Jewish – a neighbor, a rabbi or you yourself? With all non-Jewish faiths and ethnicities, their definition is based on how somebody defines him/her-self. If somebody says, I am a Catholic, or an Assyrian, or a Russian, or an atheist … the others accept it without any doubt. With the Jews, everything is different.

From the news media:

The boxing website thesweetscience.com reported on Wednesday that Muhammad Ali attended Shabbat services at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in April, to celebrate the bar mitzva of his grandson, Jacob Wertheimer.

Ali’s daughter, Khaliah Ali-Wertheimer, was raised as a Muslim, but described herself as “not into organized religion” and “more spiritual than religious.” Her husband, attorney Spencer Wertheimer, is Jewish and their son, according to Khaliah, chose to have a bar mitzva because he “felt a kinship with Judaism and Jewish culture,” the Inquirer reported.

According to Islam, a child’s religion is passed down from the father, while according to traditional Judaism it is passed down through the mother. This means that Islam, the religion of Jacob’s mother, considers him to be Jewish, and his father’s Jewish religion considers him to be a Muslim.

Thus, Jacob Wertheimer himself has decided he is Jewish, a Jacob’s Jewish orthodox neighbor has no doubt Jacob is not Jewish since his mother is not Jewish, and Jacob’s non-orthodox rabbi, knowing that Jacob’s mother is not Jewish and therefore Jacob has to be considered non-Jewish, nevertheless performed a bar mitzvah. In defining the Jacob’s Jewishness, who is right and who is wrong?

From the news media:

Application that identifies (((Jews))) online disappears from Google Browser. The developer of the Google Chrome extension Coincidence Detector, which identifies Jewish individuals and organizations by putting triple parentheses around their names, pulled the application last night after several news reports exposed it to the general public.

In this case, Google developers were deciding who is Jewish and who is not.

From the Hitler and Stalin’s directives:

A person with 1/8 of “Jewish blood” should be considered Jewish, or a person, which is identified as Jewish in his/her passport, is Jewish.

Here the government decides who should be considered Jewish.

It looks like almost everybody in this world has an opinion on who is Jewish and who is not. If it is so, what might be a right way to define the true Jewishness?

The true Jews are those who follow in their individual lives the original spiritual ideas precisely described by the Chabad in the following way:

Throughout our 3300-year history, what has defined us as Jews is a relationship and commitment. We are Jews because G‑d chose us to be His “cherished treasure from all the nations… a kingdom of priests and a holy people” (Exodus 19:5-6). We are Jews because G‑d chose us to play the central role in the implementation of His purpose in creation: to orientate our lives in accordance with His will, and to develop a society and world community that reflects His goodness and perfection. The substance of this relationship, the charter of this commitment, is the Torah.

Thus, the true Jews is somebody who is applying the Torah moral principles to his work on developing a society and world community that reflects the Torah guidance. Only the true Jew, who may call him/her-self religious or non-religious, may decide for him/her-self how to apply the Torah guidance to all that. If he/she feel uncertain how to apply, a rabbi may be asked for an advice – but for an advice, not for marching orders.

If it is so, an individual have to decide for him/her-self on being Jewish – not a neighbor or a rabbi.  

Judeo-Christian moral principles vs. “Social justice” ideology


In essence, the current US Presidential election battles are the battles for defending the country’s Judeo-Christian moral principles from the assault of “Social justice” warriors. If the “Social justice” warriors win, the injustice in our society will rise as is easily seen when the Judeo-Christian principles for family, equality and morality are compared with similar principles of the “Social justice” ideology.

Family

Judeo-Christian Bible-guided family-related principles are clear – a family is the most important collective unit in the human society created only for one reason – for happy and successful recreation! If it is so, two LGBT persons living together may be respected as cohabitants but not treated as a family.

A family should make unified decisions on what political and economic arrangements in the country are preferable and how to educate kids – and be responsible for its decisions. If a family is in distress, it has to rely on the charitable help of a wider spiritual community. A family should have one vote and anybody in the family may deliver this vote.

“Social justice” ideology destroys the family as the most important collective unit in the human society – husband and wife are encouraged to have different voting opinions and kids’ education is moving from the family care to the government care – with the government, imposing the mandatory rules of behavior for all. A government is trying to convince you that your family is not your friend and defender – the government is taking upon itself this role. A sort of government-guided slavery replaces the Bible-guided family freedoms.

The following example demonstrates the destructive consequences of the “Social justice” family-related beliefs. Yes, we had forced the blacks brought here from Africa to work at our plantations. However, when our majority realized that it was the true slavery indeed, we went to a civil war to abolish this slavery and begin treating the blacks as normal citizens – of course with “normal” prejudices that existed at the time, and exist even now, against some communities such as for example Jewish and Catholic ones. However, for the “Social justice” warriors it was not enough – they created the affirmative action laws with many welfare provisions that had destroyed the family structure in the black communities and made the black majority deeply dependent on the government. The result – the social injustice for those who are forced to comply with the anti-Judeo-Christian affirmative actions’ laws.

Equality

Judeo-Christian principles of equality are clear – all people are born equal (created equal in the image and likeness of One God) – blacks and whites, europeans and africans, manual workers and people at high intellectual positions. And all people have to have equal opportunities to reach their individual best. For different people, “the best” is different. “The best” may be reached everywhere – in agriculture and science, in manual work and high-tech, in politics, in position of social responsibilities, in spiritual life. If you reach your best, even if your best is at the earnings’ level much-much lower than that of your neighbor, you are happy.

“Social justice” ideology is trying to convince you that you are unhappy if your earnings are much-much lower than that of your neighbor, and the government is here to help you – to help you by confiscating the wealth of your richer neighbor and by transferring the confiscated to you free of charge. However, the confiscation and transfer would be done only if you follow the government orders. Again, that is a sort of government-guided slavery replacing the Bible-guided family freedoms.

The following example demonstrates the destructive consequences of the “Social justice” equality-related beliefs. The “Social justice” warriors created a concept of the “minimal wages” for a family needed for maintaining the “normal” family life. If the family earnings do not reach the level of “minimal wages”, the government would provide it – either through welfare supplements or through legislative pressure on the businesses. The family responsibilities are replaced by “Social justice” goodies. The result – social injustice for those who are robbed – without their consensus – to maintain the “minimal wages” of the others.

Morality

Judeo-Christian principles of morality are clear – they are the Ten Commandments which are presented and detailed in the Torah/Bible and in numerous authoritative instructions. For each stream of Judaism and Christianity, the instructions are different in details but unified in principles. In the Judeo-Christian countries, the non-Judeo-Christian communities may exist – however, these communities have to respect and follow the Judeo-Christian governing principles outside their communities as the Jews have been doing during all their history.

“Social justice” ideology is denigrating the Judeo-Christian morality by proclaiming that all moralities are equal and the governing principles of a Judeo-Christian country should accommodate the non-Judeo-Christian principles thus assaulting the morality of the Judeo-Christian majority. By promoting the “Social justice” ideology over the Judeo-Christian moral principles, its creators are creating for themselves the positions of human gods. Unfortunately, the spiritual Judeo-Christian authorities do not resist the “Social justice” ideology thus denigrating their own beliefs.

The following example demonstrates the destructive consequences of the “Social justice” morality-related beliefs. The “Social justice” warriors believe that in the Judeo-Christian countries the Islamic morality should be accepted as equal to Judeo-Christian morality – in spite of Islamic antagonistic rules on the coexistence with the others, in particular with the Jews and Christians. The result – the Muslim immigration to the USA and European countries with no serious restrictions, Islamic terrorism and ultimate injustice to the Judeo-Christian majority.

Judaism by reason and by prayer


By now, two things are almost scientifically proven: (1) the human behavior, which defines human moral principles, is steered by individual genes’ combination, and (2) the great majority of Jews have common genes’ combination, which steers their behavior along the moral lines defined as Judaism. This statement does not contradict the basic belief in Judaism: the spiritual principles of human life were presented at Mount Sinai by the Supreme Power called God to the human tribe called the Jews since this tribe were genetically prepared best to understand the principles, follow them and help the other tribes to do so.

Now after over three millenniums of Jewish spiritual Torah-guided development, the Jews are visibly divided into two spiritual groups: (1) the Jews by reason and (2) the Jews by prayer.

The Jews by prayer

From the news media:

Satmar Rebbe Rails Against Secular Education Bill.

A powerful Hasidic leader has slammed a bill in the New York State legislature that would enforce laws that require religious schools to teach secular subjects.

Some Hasidic schools for boys routinely flout the existing laws, offering minimal time for English, history and math, or skipping the subjects altogether. The new bills that would give regulators new tools to enforce those laws come amid increased statewide attention on the lack of secular education in some Hasidic yeshivas.

The leader of the Kiryas Joel-based segment of the Satmar Hasidic sect, Grand Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, said, “We should pray every day that these evil doers [those who insist on secular subjects in Jewish education] should not lay their hands on the Jewish children here in America.”

“The worldview taught in public school, it’s hard to even bring it to my mouth,” Teitelbaum said.

Satmar Rebbe

So, Satmar Rebbe does not want any secular education for the Jews. The reason is clear. He is one of the leaders of the strictly orthodox religious streams who believe that a better world for everybody should be built by God and God will do so only if the Jews will be asking Him endlessly by Torah-inspired prayers. If it is so, no secular education that is necessary for building a better spiritual and material world for Jews and Gentiles is needed – in the view of the Rebbe and his followers. That is Judaism by prayer.

The Jews by reason

The reason is clearly defined in the Torah: since the humans are created in the “image and likeness of God” the Creator, the Jews as the Chosen have to help the other human tribes continue the God’s creative work to build a spiritual and material better world for all humans. God does not need our prayers – God needs our creative work “in His image and likeness”. Prayers are needed for us to figure out what and how God wants us to create but the prayers are not the ultimate goal. To figure out all that and then work on implementation, the secular education is needed – without such education, the prayers become the ultimate goal, and that is not what unites and identifies all Jews.

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The Jews by reason and the Jews by prayer should be spiritual Torah-guided friends, and the rabbis should be working on creating such spiritual friendship. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

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