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Mocking the old trusted ways smack of religious intolerance



Martin Zagnoev

Solomon mentions that all Progressive rabbis have studied the Talmud. Can she produce any such rabbi who is able to open any book of the Talmud in its standard Aramaic format and explain what is going on, without having to research it first?

Many Reform temples (as they are often called overseas) were indeed modelled on Christian services.

We like to speak of tolerance, yet when it comes to our ancient traditions we sometimes lose that tolerance and even mock the “old ways”. For example, one of the letter writers spoke of being inclusive, accepting and loving, but referred to those with a different view as narrow-minded.

Another writer compared someone to the Fuhrer. Yet another one seemed to imply that there is a belief that men cannot control their sexual urges if they see a woman’s hair. (Perhaps she was thinking of the tradition of a married woman covering her hair so that it remains for her husband’s appreciation only.)

Calling oneself “Progressive” smacks of elitism. What does that suggest about those who do not follow their approach?

The Orthodox believe that the halacha is the way of G-d and therefore cannot be changed by man. They also believe that adhering to it would benefit us spiritually. We may not agree with this but let us at least respect it. And if they are correct, it would then be harmful to influence people away from it.

Anyway, most of those who tried new approaches to Judaism throughout our history are themselves history. We do not know the details of Jewish law before it was codified in The Mishna about 2 000 years ago, but we do know that Jews have followed those laws since then without change.

Reform only began about 200 years ago by rejecting most of the ancient practices. This was mostly done in an attempt to escape anti Semitism and out of convenience, even if many of its current members are sincere in their spirituality.

Unfortunately these reforms led to disruptions in families and communities.

Regarding those who are offering a watered down version of Judaism to the youth so as to attract them to the fold, the Lubavitcher Rebbe pointed out that young people prefer that which is real.

There are many Orthodox Jews who are intolerant of outsiders. This is usually a defence mechanism born out of fear that members will go astray. It is offensive and scares people away. Hate the sin but not the sinner!

Some of the leading Orthodox rabbis positively glowed with love for others, even if the “others” weren’t religious. These included the Chofeitz Chaim (Gadol Hador), Rav Kook (Modern Orthodox), The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Chabad) and Moshe Feinstein (Gadol Hador). These leaders were motivated by love to keep others from abandoning the age-old religion.

Remember, the Talmud teaches that the great Second Temple was not destroyed because the Jews were irreligious, but because of baseless hatred.


Sunningdale Ridge, Johannesburg

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Liat

    Feb 26, 2016 at 5:56 am

    ‘For the last two weeks I have been reading the various opinions in the letters about Orthodox vs Reform Judaism. I went through all the stages of a griever: Anger at the fact that we as Jews can break each other down like this while hiding behind our beliefs. Denial that this could be happening at all while there are enough people out there who’s mission in life (and death) is to wipe us off the face of the earth.

    But in the spaces between the sentences I also saw hope. Hope in the knowledge that no matter what kind of Jew you are, in the end, we are One Nation. In every letter I saw pride, pride to be recognised as a Jew and tirelessly fighting for that recognition.

    In times of need, there is no other nation that can come together in unity. The same Jew who just threw a rock at a car driving on Shabbos, would rush to help a fellow Jew injured in a suicide bomb attack. A secular soldier with no religious affiliation would stand guard outside a shul so religious Jews can pray in peace.

    I am an Orthodox Jew with a deep love for our traditions and way of life BUT my heart is big enough to include all Jews. I may not personally agree with the Reform movement but in the end a Jew is a Jew. 

    If the rest of the world see us as One, is it not time that we do too?’

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