Forgiving Rav Ovadia, Rav Amar and myself

The Masorti Movement, along with other non-Orthodox movements, has continued to make a major positive impact, not only on world Jewry, but on  Israel too. This can be seen by the myriad of leaders, both rabbinic and political, who have sought us out for consultation. But it may also be seen by the many public figures who have spoken so derisively, so frequently, in so many public venues.


In a recent statement, Israel''s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Amar, vilifying these movements stated:


"There are countries in which it has reached terrible dimensions, and now this horrible disease is being spread in our holy country as well. They''re responsible (the Masorti and Reform) for this terrible treachery, and are supporting it openly without being ashamed, and now they are sticking their claws into the people residing in Zion and trying to dictate our lifestyle."


According to Amar, leaders of these movements are "spreading fear in various and diverse ways and have established legions of fighters within the Land of Israel with the sole purpose of uprooting the Torah from Israel."


"Legions"?  Thank you for noticing.


Clearly Rav Amar is guilty of Lashon HaRah, and possibly even incitement against the non-Orthodox. Rav Amar has chosen to promote dispute in Israel rather than serving as unifying force. He has pandered to the base instincts and sullied our Torah.


But as we near the Yamim Noraim - I offer my forgiveness. Rav Amar is like a Tinok Sh''Nishba (a baby kidnapped in his youth, and so unable to see reality even if he makes an effort to do so).


I offer my forgiveness as well to the sagacious Rav Ovadia Yosef, who has derided our pious Jewish women in ways that do not befit a scholar of Torah. Rav Yosef said of the Women of the Wall, that they are "stupid women who come to Western Wall, don a prayer shawl and pray." He then went on to claim that "women should make Cholent, and not deal with matters of Torah." They should, he said, "stick to cooking and sewing." He called the justices on the Israeli Supreme Court "bo''alei nidot", meaning that "they are all men who have intercourse with menstruating women."


But as we approach the Yamim Noraim, I must try to understand that he is unable to help himself. He is prisoner to a political system that has brainwashed many who draw near. So I must do my best to forgive him.


I do not yet have the strength to forgive those of our religious leaders who call upon soldiers to refuse orders. I can not yet find it in my heart to pardon those who devalue the life of minorities in our midst - a clear violation of the Torah. But I can hope that these people are moved to embrace the "ways of peace" that are the Torah way.


I am confident that this new year will be a year of success for the Masorti Movement. We have more youth involved in our Movement than ever. We have many Israelis turning to us for marriage and for conversion.  The number of our congregations is on the rise.


We are now part of a process, involving discussions at the highest levels - both here and in the Diaspora -  seeking to find solutions for the hundreds of thousands of potential converts in Israel, following the damage done by the Rabbinate and the folly caused by the legislation introduced by MK Rotem. May this new year see the start of a separation of religion and politics.


We are poised to challenge the racism that is so ingrained in the Interior Ministry that has left scores of people of color without the opportunity to make aliya - even though they have all necessary documentation of their Jewishness.


We have offered Israelis a new way to pray (using our Siddur: V''Ani Tefilati-An Israeli Siddur) and we will offer new liturgy for next year''s Yamim Noraim.


Israel''s official rabbinate has lost its way. It has become irrelevant. The haredi community has its own leaders and the non-haredi has little use for the Rabbinate.May this new year see a continued push for the privatizing of the rabbinate and a free market of Jewish ideas.


I apologize to those citizens in Israel for the failure of our Masorti rabbis to make our voices heard as often as we could have with regard to corruption in government, death on our roads, pollution of our resources, discrimination against our minorities and misplaced priorities of government.


I hope in this new year we will become a source of religious inspiration for those who seek to protect children, improve the quality of education and reduce the gap between the haves and the have-nots.


I hope that we will inspire Israelis to draw closer to Torah, not because we will see that they are paid to sit in our institutions (they are not), but because we can inspire with the words of our rich tradition.


I hope that we will lend a religious voice to those who call on all of our citizens to bear responsibility for serving our country and for paying taxes.


Too often it has been asserted that the Masorti Movement is in conflict with the Orthodox. This is just not so. The real divide is between those loyal to a Zionism that wishes for our state to be a "Light unto the nations," and those who do not care about the Zionist dream.


Let this be a year where we build the Zionist vision. Let this be a year where we inspire young Jews around the world that Israel is an endeavor in which they ought take part.


So for all of my failings of this past year, I do ask for forgiveness.


To quote our Machzor, "I hear-by forgive all who have hurt me, whether deliberately or by accident, whether by word or by deed. May no one be punished on my account. As I forgive and pardon fully those who have done me wrong, may those whom I have harmed by word or by deed forgive and pardon me, whether I acted deliberately or by accident. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you my rock and my redeemer."