If Judaism and science do not go hand-in-hand, we are in spiritual trouble
Yes, that is true – if Judaism and science do not go hand-in-hand, we are in spiritual trouble. Judaism and science have to go hand-in-hand, and that is a message from the Torah: Judaism defines what to do and the science defines how to do it. In this regard, the latest directives from Israel’s Education Minister Bennett are confusing.
You can read the entire post at http://www.intellectualjudaismjewishidentityincontemporaryjudeochristian.world/
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.
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? 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.