That is a conversation with Rabbi Alan Lefkowitz of Congregation Beth Ahm in Windsor, CT concerning the thoughts in my post “Why among the most influential Jews there are no spiritually influential rabbis” in this blog. This conversation might be a good first step in a much needed discussion on why the majority of contemporary Jews are not looking for an advice of a rabbi to find a “Jewish response” to contemporary life challenges and how to fix it.

Rabbi Alan Lefkowitz (RAL):
As your post indicated, that is true many Jews do not want to be influenced by rabbis as that would mean they have a connection to religiosity.
Vladimir Minkov (VM):
You are right - many Jews do not want to be influenced by rabbis since the rabbinical majority led them to rituality called religiosity under the slogan of the Torah. However, the Torah is not a ritual document - it is the spiritual guidance from the Supreme Power above us the humans on how to build a better world for everybody. Our rabbis to better understand the essence of the better world for everybody created the ritual part of our religion, Judaism. Unfortunately, most of our rabbis nowadays practice only ritual part of Judaism making many Jews unsatisfied - the rabbis have to get back to the very creative essence of the Torah.

RAL:
It is propagated in part by denominational split in Judaism - denominations in Judaism are obsolete.
VM:
Agreed - it should be this way.

RAL:
In spite of that, many rabbis have offered so much good to how we can live better lives.
VM:
We are thankful to the rabbis for all that. However, these days the Jewish majority are not asking for spiritual advice of a rabbi. Why? Because the Jewish majority is concerned with more concrete and practical challenges surrounding them such as for example how to find the best combination of secular and religious education for kids; how to find a common morality with my Christian friend, whom to vote for in federal elections, federal taxation is good or bad for me, etc. Rabbis have to teach how to apply the Torah guidance to myriads of such challenges.

RAL:
I do, if someone lights the Chanukah candles dates after the holiday is over, I am grateful that they did something Jewish. I explain the Siddur in a post it note fashion. On the HHD, I ask the congregation family members turn to each other and say: Hinei, here I am, you can count on me."
VM:
That is great! However, I have not gotten from my rabbi and many other rabbis with whom I communicate through internet, I found all that through my own Torah studies, how to be Jewish at science, at politics, with the Christians, with anti-Semites, with the government, etc.

RAL:
My work as rabbi is how do I take what is traditional and make it relevant to today's Jews.
VM:
That is great!

RAL:
Also, Pirke Avot still has practical wisdom.
VM:
For many my friends and for me, it is too generalized to be useful in contemporary complicated world.

RAL:
Abraham left his father's house to go to college. The Golden calf is about immediate gratification, just like the internet. Joseph was an economic planner. It is ok to struggle with a problem, Jacob did.
VM:
That is true, so what? Do you think Abraham and Joseph being resurrected nowadays with their old skills would be able to lead us successfully in contemporary affairs?

RAL:
Absolutely, Abraham stood up for something he believed in, he wanted to get away from idol worship and human sacrifice, issues that we are facing today. Today's idol worship is the cell phone, wherever we go, there they are. And human sacrifice is happening before our eyes as there are those in the world who would not hesitate to remove one's head.
VM:
You thoughts concerning Abraham in our days are very interesting. I like it very much especially if we add to the idol worshipers those who worship the made-by-human-gods politically correct rules replacing the Torah/Bible guidance.

RAL:
Torah is contemporary, we are living and reliving it today. History as well, as we are living like the days of the Roman Empire.

VM:
Concerning contemporary importance of the Torah, no doubt in my mind that is the case - without Torah guidance, there is no Judaism and Jewish nation. However, the Torah guidance has to be tailored to the always changing - by God's design - human living conditions. And that is missing in many-many cases in our communications with rabbis. Most of them are indoctrinating instead of trying to find together a proper interpretation.

RAL:
I think that I am influential, I lead with kindness and I teach about keeping a good reputation by how we speak, watching our language.
VM:
Everything what you and other rabbis are doing is great ... but not enough for many contemporary intellectual Jews.

RAL:
These days it is very hard for rabbis as so many congregants want to maintain the traditional and yet say they want modernity, these are confusing times.
VM:
You are right - the times are confusing, and I see the only way to get back to the spiritual clarity is for the rabbis to begin a dialogue with the ordinary Jews to figure out why many of us do not ask any more for their advice - and address this confusion using the Torah guidance.

RAL:
What about secular Jews - secular religious, a contradiction in term.
VM:
You are religious if you believe in the guiding power of the Supreme Power above us the people. Some people are able to receive this guidance directly from the above without help of rabbi or priest, and many of them call themselves atheists. If it is so, there is no contradiction.

RAL:
For me, it is not about belief, I do not believe in God or a Higher Power, I live in the awareness of the greatness that surrounds me, I am constantly in awe. Saying "I believe" is just too limiting!
VM:
The consequence of not believing in One God above us the humans as the source of all greatness that surrounds you is the destruction of all greatness that surrounds you. Why? Because the omission of One God as the source of moral rules of the greatness around us lets the authoritative humans present themselves as a sort of human gods and replace our Torah/Bible-based moral values by completely different, destructive rules nowadays called politically-correct rules, and in the recent past - Nazism, Communism, etc.
-----------------------------
Indeed, this conversation might be a good first step in a much needed discussion on why the majority of contemporary Jews are not looking for an advice of a rabbi to find a “Jewish response” to contemporary life challenges and how to fix it.
 

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share