Criticize with love

The Reform movement has strengths and weaknesses, but the issue is how Rabbi Lamm predicted its death.

reform stained glass 88 (photo credit: )
reform stained glass 88
(photo credit: )
I am simply a Reform rabbi who has lived in Jerusalem with my wife and two children for the past 15 months. In a few weeks my wife, also a rabbi, and I become the co-senior rabbis of a 900 family Temple Beth-El in Great Neck, Long Island. I am deeply saddened by Rabbi Norman Lamm's pronunciation that we will soon be saying Kaddish for the Reform and Conservative movements (Jerusalem Post, May 11). I am also disappointed by Rabbi Andrew Sacks' reply in his blog (BlogCentral,, for its failing, in my opinion, to address the issue that is screaming out at all of us. I believe that the Reform Movement has real strengths and some profound weaknesses. In truth, I don't know where the movement will be in 50 years. Neither the movement's strengths nor its weaknesses, however, are the real issue, and there is only one issue here. Sadly the most brilliant minds ignore this single most important issue, even at a time when all of us recognize the fragility of the State of Israel. No matter how powerful and extraordinary it is, and it is both, many of us see that it is in a fragile condition. What is this simple, obvious and single issue? Just last week we observed Lag Ba'omer. Some say it was the day that the fatal plague that killed Rabbi Akiva's 12,000 pairs of students, came to an end. The end of a plague is worthy of celebration. But the cause of the plague should be the concern that fills our batei midrash and divrei Torah. According to Yevamot 62b, these students, our best and brightest, died because of the respect that they failed to give to one another. Moreover, some have claimed that the students failed to give adequate respect because they once witnessed their beloved teacher Rabbi Akiva speak disrespectfully to his teacher, Rabbi Yohanan. Apparently, the well-being of our greatest scholars will depend not upon their brilliant Gemara skills or the funding the state provides or the threats to Israel from beyond. Similarly, Yoma 9, teaches us the famous passage that not only the lives of our most prized students are at risk. Our most sacred building, our Temple, will fall and even our sovereignty over the land will be lost if we treat each other with something called baseless hatred. What is this sinat hinam? It is the feeling that it is free, it costs nothing, to criticize, to diminish, to become judge over our fellow Jews. According to Yoma 9a, our Temple did not fall because of the great Roman army, because of hateful Roman anti-Semitism or even because of poor Jewish military might or strategy. The Temple fell and we lost our sovereignty over the Land of Israel because of the way we treated each other. THIS IS NOT BAD news by the way. This is the best news possible. Neither the Romans nor Hamas, Iran nor Hizbullah, have the power to determine our future. Because I for one believe completely in these sacred texts, we must recognize that our future is in our hands and in our minds and even more, in our mouths. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue," teach our Proverbs. The way we speak to each other will determine our future on this land. As Babbi Abraham Kook stated, the cure that will bring the third Temple will be ahavat hinam, baseless love. So, I would be unbelievably grateful and filled with hope, if Rabbi Lamm were to give another interview. In his second installment, for all of our benefit, he would focus on the blessings that the Conservative and Reform movements have brought to the world and to the Jewish community. He can for sure set forth his great concerns about these Jewish movements that he opposes. But, he needs to criticize with a sincere tone of love rather than with a bitter sense of victory. Please, Rabbi Lamm, I believe that you have the power to make a profound impact on our future.