Written by Michael

While evidence indicates that probably the Amidah and certainly the synagogue predate the destruction of the Temple, I see what you’re trying to say. My problem is this: when the post-Temple additions to Judaism were made, they were made with the idea in mind of sustaining the Jewish people in the face of a great theological/spiritual crisis, and also looking back on Jewish text and tradition to find a way to cope with this crisis; the idea that prayer was acceptable in the place of sacrifice is in the Prophets and was in fact supported long before the destruction of the Temple by certain Jews. Whereas Reform Judaism and to an admittedly lesser extent Conservative Judaism were created essentially because Orthodox Judaism was hard and created a stumbling block towards assimilation. Their theology came later. That is the difference.

So, to simplify, 2000 years ago, the Pharisees sat down and said, “The locus of Jewish worship is gone. How can we continue to serve G-d in a valid way? Let’s study our texts and tradition.” So they came up with the prayer service as we know it.

Whereas with modern Jewish offshoots, it went more like this: a group of secular German Jews sat down and said, “We want to become assimilated into European society. Our problem is that our religion is too foreign and Eastern. Let’s get rid of the Hebrew and put in an organ and get rid of those dietary laws so we can not only look like German Protestants, but eat with them too.” So they did that. Then, awhile later, after the fact, somebody sat down and hashed out a theological justification for it.

And it is condescending and wrong to assert that the rules of Orthodox Judaism are from the 4th century and that rules pertaining to the 20th are all a product of Conservative Judaism or Reform Judaism. For example, as we all know, Orthodox Jews do not drive on Shabbat. This is a 20th century law. Orthodox Judaism is just as flexible as Conservative Judaism, it merely refuses to let certain precepts be violated out of convenience. If cars had existed in Babylon 1600 years ago, I’m sure you wouldn’t see Rav Pappa or whoever behind the wheel on Shabbat.

I do believe men and women are equal in front of G-d. Women aren’t counted in a minyan because they are not obligated to do the whole three-times-a-day-group-prayer thing. Should we also count boys in under 13 in a minyan to preserve their feelings?

And no, I don’t find it disgusting. If I love Zimbabwe and perceive of myself as a Zimbabwean, am I one, or am I not really one until I move to Zimbabwe, become a citizen according to the law, speak the language and participate in the culture? And if I find something unappealing about Zimbabwean culture and decide to make up my own definition of what being a Zimbabwean is, would it be disgusting for the true blue Zimbabweans to reject me? (Man. Zimbabwe. What a great name.) If they rejected me, would it hurt my feelings? Sure. Would they have every right to, as it’s their culture and their prerogative to make the rules? Yes.

Posting information about how close movements can be won’t solve the problem if there are still major fundamental differences. I mean, hell, Judaism and Islam are similar in many ways, but pointing that out to the Ayatollah probably won’t get him to stop pointing those missiles at Israel.

About the author

Laya Millman

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