Quoting tradition when it suits them

You can’t have it both ways; Jews for Jesus, and Christianity, essentially attempt the same thing.

Torah scrolls from Iraqi Jews 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Torah scrolls from Iraqi Jews 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I just finished reading Rabbi Rick Jacobs’ speech at the biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism.
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 really new.
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 life.”
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 we.”
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.
Everything 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 rabbis.
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 Jewish state.”
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 much.
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 Joshua.”
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.”
I 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].”
The author has been a rabbi at Chabad of Palm Beach Florida for the past 30 years.