I just finished reading
Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ speech at the biennial convention of the Union for Reform
Before discussing Rabbi Jacobs’ speech, I would like to quote
the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson: “I trust that you have also
made a study of Jewish history. If so, you will have seen that what is generally
considered as ‘contemporary’ Judaism, namely Reform and Conservative, is nothing
As a matter of history, we have had in every generation
deviationist movements trying to break away from the mainstream of Torah
yiddishkeit [Judaism], yet hoping to remain within it. As early as Mattan [the
giving of the] Torah and only a few weeks afterwards, there were already the
Golden Calf worshipers, and so it went from generation to generation, down to
Mendelssohn, the father of Reform.
“However, as you thumb through the
pages of Jewish history, one can see at once what happened to all deviationists.
Either they completely returned to the Jewish fold, as was the case of the
majority of the Golden Calf worshipers, or they were completely lost, as was the
case with the minority. Similarly, with those who came under the influence of
Mendelssohn. Many of them returned to the traditional faith of their ancestors,
while the minority completely assimilated and converted.”
And now to
Rabbi Jacobs’ speech itself, which consisted of the same worn-out, shallow,
self-serving and untruthful spin repeated again and again by members of the
Reform movement. Quoting tradition when it suits them, to pretend they are
somewhat linked with the past, only to then suddenly sharply turn into an
entirely insubordinate position, explaining this is merely a modern “evolution”
and progression of the old.
You can’t have it both ways; Jews for Jesus,
and Christianity, essentially attempt the same thing.
On the one hand
Rabbi Jacobs talks about “the prophetic voice of Isaiah, the compassionate
guarantees of Hosea, the wisdom of Maimonides, the loyalty of Esther... only
eternals are not negotiable, everything else is,” and then in the same breath he
says, let’s stop confusing the old and tired institutional patterns of Judaism
with the underlying core commitments that count.
Maimonides makes his
stance pretty clear in his books of law, and would be appalled and disgusted at
Rabbi Jacobs’ statement, “In North America today, being ‘against’ intermarriage
is like being ‘against’ gravity; you can say it all you want, but it’s a fact of
In his speech, Rabbi Rick Jacobs mentions the Talmud, saying, “no
person ever greeted Yohanan ben Zakai first, not even a non- Jew in the market
place; It was always ben Zakai who was first to extend his hand – to Jew and
non-Jew alike. Yohanan ben Zakai is known for completely re-imagining Jewish
life when the second Temple was being destroyed. The architect of the biggest
turnaround in Jewish history knew what it was to be audacious. And so must
This association is so disingenuous, hypocritical and deceitful it
is akin to drawing inspiration from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream”
speech to pitch the importance of segregation and racism.
about Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai epitomized the fight against exactly the kind of
person Rick Jacobs aspires to emulate, namely a Sadducee, one who Hellenizes and
compromises the pure word of our Torah and the tradition of our
Rick Jacobs makes mention of the position held by a majority of
Reform rabbis, who undoubtedly agreed with the words of the Pittsburgh Platform
of 1885: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community;
and we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship
under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning a
However, “trends are a wake-up call” he claims, and “in
1937 the Reform ‘repositioned’ itself to be more open to traditional practices
and to no longer oppose Jewish Nationalism.”
Thank you very
So until 1937, the official policy of the Reform movement was to be
against a homeland for the Jewish people. The Reform movement opposed a guiding
principle in the same Talmud mentioned above, practiced for thousands of years,
pointing all hope and prayer for our return back to our homeland. But today, it
is “more open” and “no longer opposes” Jewish Nationalism? Huh? Jewish tradition
has always been permeated with prayer, from the time of Rabbi Yochanan ben
Zakai, mind you, for the return of our people to the land, our land, the land of
Israel given to us in the Bible by God. Yet we’re to accept this is a movement
connected to the “Jewish” traditions of the past? Is this a movement firmly
anchored in Jewish tradition or merely something with a superficial coating of
Judaism, while at the core completely separated – intentionally – from our past?
Unless off course it suits them to reconsider what they “really” believe in at
the present moment.
Rick Jacobs continues, “ I believe with every fiber
of my being that young Jews are hungry, but not for a Judaism frozen in a
distant time, no matter how loving and warm the purveyors – including Chabad, in
particular – might be.
“We believe that our understanding of Judaism is
right: that God did not literally hand down sacred laws in the Bible and the
Mishnah at Sinai, but rather that from our encounter with the Divine, Jews have
written our sacred texts, striving to understand in their own time what God
called them to do.”
Jacobs quotes the Mishnah when it suits him, but
conveniently forgets to mention the first words and introduction to the Mishnah,
which begins with: “Moses ‘received’ the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to
GOD IS the one who granted this wisdom, and as Maimonides rules,
if a person should assert that even a single letter of the Torah was not granted
by God, he is a heretic.
One last quote from the speech: “Orthodox
Judaism is, of course, a legitimate choice for those who choose it.”
find this statement to be the most obnoxious and daring of the entire speech.
Rick Jacobs gives his permission to those Orthodox who proclaim the Bible to be
the decisive and definitive word of God.
And then, says the proponent of
a movement that believes “halacha [Jewish law] has no binding authority,” the
“trend is decidedly... decisively toward Reform.”
So now our faith and
religion follows not God’s word, but – the trend! The Reform movement affirms
“the fundamental principle of Liberalism: that the individual will approach this
body of mitzvot and minhagim [Jewish law and custom] in the spirit of freedom
and choice. Traditionally Israel started with harut, the commandment engraved
upon the Tablets, which then became freedom.
The Reform Jew starts with
herut, the freedom to decide what will be harut – engraved upon the personal
Tablets of his life.”
I end with a statement from Rabbi Schneerson, the
Lubavitcher Rebbe: “My considered opinion, as I have reiterated it on several
occasions privately and publicly, is based on the undisputable Halachic decision
formulated by Rambam [Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuvah 3:8], according to which the
doctrines and ideology of the Conservative and Reform movement can only be
classed in the category of heretical movements which have plagued our people at
one time or another, only to disappear again, having no basis in our everlasting
Torah, Toras Emes [Law of truth], Toras Chaim [Law of Life].”
has been a rabbi at Chabad of Palm Beach Florida for the past 30 years.