Counterpoint: Ghosts & Goblins

No soldier was killed in any of Israel's wars, no child was crushed by a train and no Jew was murdered in the Holocaust because of a lapse in ritual observance.

October 25, 2007 15:29
4 minute read.
Counterpoint: Ghosts & Goblins

2610-forman. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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When Binyamin Netanyahu was prime minister, he was concerned about political leaks emanating from his staff. He sent the mezuza on the office doorpost to a rabbinic authority to be checked to make sure it was kosher. At the same time, a petition submitted to the Supreme Court claimed that Netanyahu had wasted the state's money on a $500 bottle of wine when he was in the United States. Since there is probably no kosher wine that costs so much, chances are the wine wasn't kosher. For one who was so concerned about the purity of a mezuza, it was shocking that he just might - perish the thought - drink unkosher wine, which could cost $500 a bottle. Why perish the thought? Because the week before his visit to America, Netanyahu went to pray at the Western Wall on the 10th of Tevet, a traditional fast day commemorating Nebuchadnezzar's siege of ancient Jerusalem - but only after he reportedly ate a breakfast of yogurt and cereal. Netanyahu is not alone in his pseudo-religiosity. Upon becoming president, Shimon Peres was apparently struck by a heavenly call and ceremoniously placed a note in the Western Wall to thank the Almighty for His divine intervention, which ostensibly secured his election. An earlier visit to the Wall by Ruby Rivlin did not help him in his quest for the presidency. Virtually all our national leaders perform similar acts of "godliness," not realizing the sheer banality of their conduct. Unfortunately, such behavior adds to the authority of some of our modern-day rabbinic sages - or rather gurus - who propagate this kind of religious inanity through absurd pronouncements in the name of Judaism. On June 11, 1985, 19 children were killed in a collision between a school bus and a train. Whose fault was this horrific tragedy? The mezuza! Because the families of the children either did not have mezuzot on their doorposts or the inscriptions in the mezuzot were blemished, a curse was placed on them. Such were the sympathetic comments of one of our wizened rabbis. Who can forget the thousands of idolatrous worshipers who trekked to Netivot to kiss the Baba Sali's hand or bowed down before Rabbi Yitzhak Kadouri, asking for healing for a loved one, and receiving their saintly assurances that wearing a brightly colored kerchief or caressing a particular amulet would avert an evil decree and thereby cure a medically incurable illness? BUT ALL this pales when compared to the pontifications of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who, prior to Rosh Hashana, in his weekly Torah commentary, said: "It is no surprise soldiers are killed in war. They do not adhere to the laws of Sabbath, keep the laws of Torah, pray every day or put on tefillin. God have mercy on them and make them repent. Only then will they live in peace." Numerous articles were written refuting Yosef's outlandish mutterings, particularly mentioning observant soldiers killed in the Second Lebanon War, which is completely beside the point. No soldier was killed in any of Israel's wars, no child was crushed to death by a train and no Jew was murdered in the Holocaust because of a lapse in ritual observance. Granted, when I hear Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron accusing Rabbi Uri Regev of committing crimes worse than Hitler because he heads the worldwide Reform movement, I do wonder if a demon entered his body. Maybe a dybbuk takes possession of some of these rabbis' souls, making them regurgitate such mean-spirited gobbledygook. More upsetting than the pandering on the part of our political leaders to such displays of religious perversion - in Yosef's case, his Shas puppet, Eli Yishai, was the first of his marionettes to defend his spiritual leader's complete insensitivity - is the silent resignation of the public. Acceptance of these rabbis' supercilious drivel, along with our political leaders' never-ending pilgrimages to Ovadia Yosef, only serves to embolden the religious charlatans in our midst. JUDAISM has been turned into voodooism, its rabbinic interlocutors into soothsayers reminiscent of those who served in Pharaoh's court. During our escape from Egyptian bondage, as we wandered the desert in search of our homeland, we were commanded to become a "kingdom of priests," not a nation of magicians. And yet here we are in the 21st century, witnessing a brand of religious hocus-pocus tripping off the tongues of "holy men" who command legions of blind followers and wield immeasurable political influence. To think we are beholden to rabbinic ghosts and goblins for decisions that might affect the welfare of the Jewish state is spooky. The mezuza contains the sacred words of Shema Yisrael (Deut. 6:4) - a command for obedience given by God to the Israelites. The commandments referred to are the Ten Commandments of the previous chapter (Deut. 5:6-18), which stress the moral aspects of our tradition. But even here, any sane individual knows that a person of great moral stature is not shielded from tragedy any more than one who is fastidious in his ritual practice - no matter the circumstances. We must stop seeking spiritual guidance from our Ovadia Yosefs, who tell us we are cursed, deserving of some dreadful calamity because of a defective mezuza or irregular attendance in synagogue. It is they who need to be examined for preaching their intellectual, moral and religious idiocies.

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