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

85 Comments

  • Obviously anyone who doesn’t believe that Judaism can be and must be reconciled with the values espoused by the latest edition of Newsweek is a reactionary.

    Change and submission to the dominant secular liberal culture, whatever it is, is paramount.

  • I very much enjoyed Michael’s post. But the denominational differences go even deeper. Lets focus on the Amidah. It is not merely a substitute for mitzvot we can no longer do; it is not a retrospective recreation of Temple sacrifice.

    The Amidah is forward looking as well — it prepares us for what we will have to do when the Temple is rebuilt. In short, it is not just a substitution, it is practice. And just like a ball team practicing, practice keeps our eyes on the prize, keeps us focussed on our goal and our mission — the ingathering of exiles and the rebuilding of the Temple, so that we may have a full national-religious life. Just as members of the Beitar movement 80 years ago understood that Jewish children must train with weapons and Hebrew even BEFORE a Jewish state exists, the Amidah recognizes that Jews must train themselves in Holiness BEFORE full holiness is restored (may it be in our days).

    The innovations of the Reform and Conservative movements are not forward looking. They are purely responsive to current cultural developements, but do not serve to bring our redemption closer. Indeed, they are agnostic about whether it is a good idea — the Conservative Amidah makes the prayer for the restoration of Temple sacrifice optional, and I think (but don’t know for sure) that the Reform version drops all reference to sacrifice. In other words, they do not much care about the restoration of the Temple. (The downplaying of sacrifice cannot be attributed to concern for animals, since these movements do not oppose killing animals for food or clothes — they only get squeamish about killing a very small number for the service of HaShem.)

    Similarly, the Reform and Conservative movements do not like the idea of honoring Cohens and Levis (again, these are my impressions, I have not studied their theology in detail and apologize for errors). This position also makes the restoration of the Temple difficult: who will do all the work there if Cohens and Levites aren’t exempt from other work? Unless society particulalry honors those who serve in the Temple, they’ll pick better opportunities and go to law school like everyone else.

    If we downplay the importance of the Temple, as I believe the Reform and Conservative denominations do, we risk forgetting that we are living in a broken, shattered world; that our exile is not at an end, that our national/religious institutions still need rebuilding. It is an acceptance of the Galut.

    In short, Michael is right that “Orthodox” innovations like the Amidah are designed to keep the people/religion together, while Reform and Conservative innovations are designed to ease assimilation, which explains why the former are so rare and incremental and the latter so rapid and major. My point is that Orthodox innovations like the Amidah also differ from the Reform and Conservative ones in that they seek to end the disasterous affairs inaguarated by the Romans 2000 years ago.

  • Cool blog,

    Something we sink our teeth into….

    Men are the weaker sex in a spiritual sense. I
    have emphasized this before. However, I say
    this from my own point of view again. I think
    somewhere and sometime there are situations
    when and where there doesn’t have to be
    things like a mechitza or Men only Kriat
    Hatorah and Tefillah chazeret hashatz. There
    is some place I think for experimentation with
    removing those bariers in a limited way if thats
    what it takes to interest those who are just
    insensitive and dettermined to have thier way.

    I am just a guy with limited spiritual
    accomplishment. I can’t always concentrate
    on tefillah every day, every minyan with
    enough energy to over ride my male instincts.
    If the lady be next to me… I am sorry, I can
    only speak for myself… I just can’t always
    concentrate in a usefull way. I am sorry for
    being just a wimpy piggly male…
    Sorry, sorry, sorry….
    I need the mechitza, I will look for the minyan
    with ten men and a facility that sports a proper
    mechetza. There is a good chance, these
    days, especially in Yerushalyim, I will find one
    that complies with this requirement. One day I
    will get my stuff together to eventually get to
    the level where I can understand the true
    voice of tefillah in my soul that I can withstand
    such distraction…

    I am just stating the way it is for me now..

  • 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.

    Michael, you call it culture. What has that to do with religion? I can’t argue with the rules for membership in a club. Is that what O is? A club?

  • At least according to the Internet, Conservative Jews views on Cohanim stem from the following:

    Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet (14th century) differentiates between authentic Kohanim of ancient times, and those who carry the title today. He rules that today’s Kohanim, lacking documentary evidence of clear right to the priestly title, owes any privileges and obligations not simply to halakha (law) but rather to the force of minhag (custom). [Sefer Bar Sheshet, responsum 94, Lemberg, 1805].

    Rabbi Solomon Luria (16th century) rules that because of the frequent persecutions and expulsions of Jews throughout history, Kohanim lost track of their genealogy.

    The Magen Avraham also rules this way, and Rabbi Jacob Emden ruled similarly.

    One could argue strongly that the point of the Orthodox amidah is to keep the people together while other streams use the amidah to tear the people apart. That is, in fact an absurd statement since other movements have prayers. More strange, however, is the notion that the amidah was created to end what the Romans began 2000 years ago. The amidah was created to replace the Temple. Period. By creating rabbinic Judaism and allowing prayer in synagogues (mini-Temples) and prayer in general (sacrifice replacement), rabbinic Judaism was re-interpreting Judaism to suit current circumstances. In how many places does it say in the Torah that one may not perform sacrifices away from the Temple? The rabbis innovated according to the requirements of the time. For some reason, we treat their modifications in the same way we treat the Torah, but when a modern movement comes along and modifies again to acknowledge recent changes in our understanding of the world, somehow they are seeking to assimilate.

    Puhleeze.

    And why did we move the discussion here when it’s out of context with respect to the other discussion? I’m reposting this over there.

  • Anyway, Laya, I owe you a major appologie, and I don’t know if you even have a clue why, but I do. I no longer have your email and I don’t want to make appologies over this forum, but if you give me an email I’ll explain.

  • I agree with you, themiddle, that the Amidah is designed as a replacement for the Temple. But it is a replacement in the way that a government-in-exile is a replacement for the normal government. It is meant to tide us over until the Temple is restored. This is evidenced by the fact that one of the things we pray for is the restoration of the Temple! And when that happens, it would be nice if everyone knows more or less what to do; or to put it differently, it won’t happen unless everyone knows in advance what to do. All these issues are still relevant today; consider the fact that we still can’t go up to the area where the Holy of Holies was. Of course we don’t know quite where that is; this information gets lost over time and the Amidah serves the function, among others, of encoding some basic Temple practice in our collective conciousness.

    Why treat older innovations with more respect? For one thing, they’ve stood the test of time. Keeping a people together for 2000 years of exile is an accomplishment so stupendous that we should be utterly confident of our wisdom before we tinker with it. For example, “our understanding of the world” changes every year: one year the physicists say the universe is expanding, next year its collapsing. One day its round, the next day its spiral shaped. Or something like that. I’d wait ’till we were certain of something for hundreds of years before I proposed it as a basis for rethinking the slightest detail of halachah.

    But the real question is what has changed that makes the halachik system unsuited for our times or our modern understandin? I can’t think of anything, but I may be blinded by my religious beliefs.

    But I think we’ll agree on the bottom line. Halachah aside, the question is, has the Conservative movement presented an approach to Judaism that will in practice have the extraordinary cohesive and preservative powers of traditional Judaism? Is this new system a vision for the future, or just for today? Of course its to early to tell, but the Conservative intermarriage and fertility rates suggest that whatever they’re selling, people aren’t buying.

    I take no joy from this fact, or from the plight of any Jewish denomination — I’d be much happier if Conservative Judaism had enough force to keep itself going. I don’t think Jews should be Orthodox or nothing; I’d rather have them as Jews. But as it is, I don’t think the Conservative approach is a long-term stable equilibrium for the Golden Galut of America.

  • purim hero, I’m a little confused, but you’ve got mail, please, explain away. And nice post shem tov.

  • Let’s be honest here, guys. I was reading something by Max Diamont (The Jews in America, 1979) that said (to paraphrase) that people generally “observe” at a level just below the shul they attend. For example, many people who attend Reform temples are not attuned to the tenets of Reform Judaism; they just want a place to go for their kids’ B’nei Mitzvot and the HH’s. Likewise, most Conservative Jews could care less about the actual basis for the Conservative movement, they just feel that Reform is below them and they’re intimidated by Orthodox. As for Orthodox: don’t tell me that everyone who goes to an Orthodox shul keeps as many of the 613 as they should. At any O shul I’ve ever seen, there are cars parked around the block, women in non-tsnius clothing (and without hair covered on a daily basis), and a significant percentage of the congregation who doesn’t eat strictly kosher or use the mikveh. Max Dimont argues that they’re actually Conservatives, and I’d be inclined to agree.

    I hate to have to keep saying this, but there are people who belong to Conservative shuls that look and behave the same way as those who go to Orthodox shuls. As a third-generation CJ shul-goer, I’d have to disagree with the assessment that CJ is a death sentence.

    As an aside, Rabbi Natan Slifkin was here last night and our audience was the largest he’s spoken to- more people than Flatbush, even. The majority of those attending belong to the Conserv shul here. Tell me again how we’re a dead-end street?

  • I just read in an ad for the “Jewish Outreach Institute” that

    “Children of intermarriage now outnumber the children of in-marriage.”

    That jibes with the recent Jewish population study that showed that American Jewish women have slightly fewer children per capita than non-Jewish American women, of the exact same class, educational level and mind-set.

    WHAT do they have we don’t?

    Machinery is the same.

  • Judi makes the common mistake of relying on anecdotal rather than empirical evidence. It is true that there are many wonderful Conservative shuls, some quite full of life, and that not all self-identified Orthodox Jews are as observant as they might profess.

    However, when commenting on general social phenomenon, it is the overall picture that matters, not one’s personal experiences: ie statistics rather than stories. And statistically, intermarriage is a serious problem among all but Orthodox Jews. I wish it were not so.

    But saying in response to this that one goes to a great Conservative shul is like denying there is no intermarriage problem in American because both one’s own parents are Jews.

  • sigh… This is like talking to a wall…

    My Great Grandparents were Orthodox. So were many of the Grandparents of others who go to Conservative shuls, Reform temples and nowhere at all. Your point is worthless because obviously the Orthodox movement failed somewhere along the line- otherwise we’d all still be there, generation after generation. The lead-up to the crisis of intermarriage has its roots in the dissatisfaction of previous generations with the existing Jewish order, otherwise known as Orthodoxy. This is not anecdotal evidence, this is real life.

  • Yes Judi, point well taken, Orthodoxy did not fare well in its first encounter with American wealth, openness and modernity. Now its back on its feet. The question is, which of the current options is sustainable for the future? I believe that now that the shock of the new has worn off, now that people are begining to see you can be a religious Jew and a good American and regular person and successful professional all at once, now Orthodoxy is best positioned to guarantee a Jewish future.

    I understand the many people several generations ago stopped abandoned Orthodoxy out of dissatisfaction with it. They thought they had developed an alternative that would allow for a Jewish future while abandoning the parts they did not like. I think current evidence suggests there alternative is not viable in the long-term. If our grandparents who stopped going to shul had been armed with this knowledge — the knowledge that half their grandchildren would be goyim — I think they would have reconsidered their departure from Orthodoxy.

  • Judi makes a good point there. But Sandy Koufax still shouldn’t play ball on Yom Kippur, even if he eats non-kosher.

    If all of had only studied Talmud all day, there would be no Salk polio vaccine.

    But, still, there will always have to be people who only study Talmud all day.

    Maybe we need different kinds.

    But none of them should play ball on Yom Kippur. You have to draw the line somewhere. It can’t all be easy either.

  • S-T, True, it may be back on it’s feet, but it’s tap dancing to the right. In order for it to be sustainable, it’s going to have to reconcile itself with the fact that many who affiliate themselves with the movement are not its desired poster children.

    Personally, in order for me to affiliate myself with Ortodoxy without being a hypocrite, they’d have to reconfigure themselves to look a littl bit more like Avi Weiss’ vision. But that’s just me.

    JM made a very good point. If you look at the number of Jews who have been awarded Nobel Prizes, the number is staggering. If you filter your results to exclude those who were not observant, you’re going to have your list greatly truncated. Just guessin’ here, but I suspect there’s a reason!

    That said, I’ve got to go prepare for Shabbos. And I don’t mean vacuuming the car so it’s ready for tomorrow morning! Shabbat Shalom. To be continued, I’m sure.

  • Yes, there has been a tension between secular accomplishment and observance. I think this tension is not an inherent one, and it has and will diminish. Yet if the tension was inherent, I’d have to say that while Nobel prizes are great, but if I had to choose between a Nobel prize and and Jewish grandchildren, I’d take the latter in a second.

    I agree with Judi, Avi Weiss is fantastic, a great model. Why is that not enought to “affiliate” Orthodox? Of course it doesn’t matter; affiliation is overrated.
    Shabbot shalom, Judi, and happy Independence Day if applicable.

  • Shem-tov, it’s not just Nobel prizes, it’s business success that helps in part to support the Orthodox community, and it’s also the creation of Israel. The Orthodox are able to boast growing numbers in large part because they can rely on their non-Orthodox brethern to provide the foundations for their growth and strength.

  • The Orthodox boast growing numbers because they have more children and intermarry less. I do not believe that most Jews have few children because they are financially strained because they’ve given all their money away to the Orthodox. Indeed, there is an inverse relation between Jews’ prosperity and the nubmer of children they have.

    Most Jews don’t have replacement rate of children and marry out of their ethnic group for the same reason that eveyone else in America, and the Western world, doesn’t reproduce and intermarries. What that reason is is hard to tell, but the phenomenon is happening all across Europe, Japan, etc, and you can’t blame the Orthodox Jews there. The same problems that are facing non-Orthodox denominations are facing the liberal main-line Protestant denominations. I don’t know if the Episcopalians say that the success of Evangelicals is made possible by Episcopalian success.

  • But thanks to Reform and Conservative movements for supporting their Orthodox brethren! We should all support each other. What makes this difficult is when a denomination changes the halachak on who is a Jew, ’cause then we don’t even know who each other is anymore. So some things really we need to have one party line on. Other than that, yeah we should all love one another.

  • Shem-tov, people have as many babies as they can afford to support. In Israel, the Orthodox are supported by other taxpayers and traditionally have seen their large families subsidized. Here in the US, we support the Orthodox through a variety of institutions that help with schooling and other needs.

    My comment had nothing to do with the growth rate of non-Orthodox families. I agree that they tend to have as many babies as the society surrounding them tends to have.

    Your second comment does touch on the crux of the problem. How do we identify who is a Jew. You’ve now been reading devout Jews who are Conservative, among them some converts. Yet we both know that you do not consider their rabbis to be real rabbis and the converts to be true Jews. I find this to be very sad.

  • The Orthodox are mainly supported by Orthodox. All the schools I went to didn’t get any non-orthodox Jewish funding.

    TM this has already been explained. You and the conservative don’t believe what ou fathers told us ie that We were at sinai when G-d gave us the Torah.

    You say that maybe yes probably not. Therefore its all what we as people decide.

    Without the fundamentals of Judaism all else is worthless.

    …and yes your converts are not Jewish and I believe that there is a good chance that your grankids won’t either be.

  • Joe, the other day I Googled for 30 seconds to find Jewish Mother a link showing that the Orthodox schools in Denver are subsidized. This is true around the country, and other institutions are subsidized as well. They are also heavily subsidized in Israel.

    If you mention my future grandkids disparigingly again, I will point out that your kids are probably surfing porn in a Jerusalem coffee shop, so you better stop.

  • My point is that all the O’s, and C’s and R’s are
    all F’ ups when in comes to sharing the blame
    for who is assimulating.

    Themiddle’s point is right about who is footing
    the bill. One way to look at that is like,

    so what?

    Maybe the people deciding where that money
    is going know what they are doing.
    Even though the people coming up with
    money often personnally affiliate somewhere
    else; the grand donors still give money and
    support to those who they realize may F’ up
    less then the donor’s themselves…

    Themiddle is right again when he points out
    that many of those self proclaimed hypocritical
    O’s just don’t appreciate that.
    Again, so what…..?
    Sometimes being generous and kind is just
    thankless. What do you want from this world?

  • Wow. It’s really great to re-read a discussion about whose-better-the-orthodox- or-the-conservatives-and-which-movement -is-doing-better-and-which-one-funds-who… After all, it got us pretty far the last few rounds.

    There is really a question deep down that Muffti feels no one is making explicit. Namely, are CJ and RJ valid jewish theologies and is practicing CJ or RJ a valid Jewish lifestyle? The orthodox amongst us are pretty clear about this: No. It’s not. That’s why they don’t accept the conversions. There’s an assymetry in all this of course: RJs and CJs accept that OJs are legitimate practicioners of the religion.

    So Muffti has a radical suggestion: why don’t we just decide to go our separate ways and then contribute to our common interests? Instead of ‘judaism’, there can be three different religions and it will make as little sense to argue back and forth about who is being a good ‘Jew’ as it will to argue about who makes better Conservative Jews: Hindus or Muslims?

    We can then all practice as we see fit and not argue in silly ways about who is being a better Jew: OJs are being better OJs than CJs and RJs, CJs are being better CJs then OJs and RJs, and RJs are being better RJs than either. We have a common interest: Israel. So we can agree to supporting Israel theological differneces aside. And we stem from a common source so we can agree to try to set up charitable organizations to help eachother. But we can stop bickering over questions that stem from one group not recognizing the legitimacy of another group’s form of practice. It all seems to come from everyone trying to fit under the blanket term JUDAISM while some members of the tribe don’t really regard the practices of others as legitimately under that blanket.

    Clearly this option is ridiculous. So what is a better solution that will avoid endless bickering that gets one nowhere, given that not every Jew is going to become Orthodox?

  • Muffti, why take it out on the non-Orthodox streams?

    Besides, there are those who don’t support Israel.

  • Whose taking anything out on anyone, TM? As for those that don’t support Israel, well, they can be left out of the union of religions loosely affiliated since they don’t share common interest. So much the better if they go.

  • There is this great fear among many affialted Jews that their children will intermarry, their grandchildren would be baptised and all that. When in truth when that happens the grandparents get over it and enjoy their grandchildren non the less. When you get to that age you are happy if you have minor aches and pains in your body only.
    But that is why many Jews in the Diaspora affiliate w/ the Orthodox, send their children to yeshivas, even tho they don’t observe Shabbat much. or they do and years later the parents face a crisis of sorts, as the infatuation period w/ strict and dogma breaks up. OK, it says in the Torah keep the Shabbos, don’t work. Shabbos is for your God, OK so if I want to take a train to the beach, how is this work? If I get serene at the beach, is this not a day for my God? I don’t want to get into the minutia of this. The point is that those who follow the Orthodox way, would not look at such a Jew in a proper way. it would be deragatory, or that they are Children that have been kidnapped. It is a condescending attitude. When in fact, in this example, the person, does not enjoy Shule, gets there late, is bored w/ the Torah reading, the speeches, the davening, the singing. Not really there. Doesn’t go to mincha, but makes a real Seudah Shlisis, w/ several courses, for 40 minutes, and then says the Grace after Meals, for 15 minutes, and is thus, close to God.
    That is why we should not say one stream is the correct way, they are all correct. So long as they are getting a person close to God. This is one foundation of the religion. The other imo is morality. This can also be a bit more subjective than we allow.

  • TM and Mufti,

    TM,
    I didn’t say that no non-orthodox money is supporting any orthodox schools. What I am saying is that the schools I went to and those I know about are not. I’m sure some schools get funding but federation-funded yeshivoth are a rarity.

    There do exist non-religious people, like sephardim or others who are just not so religious but who identify and understand what Torah is, that also join in supporting yeshivoth.

    But reform and conservative as movements don’t and federations barely do.

    I don’t challange those links – just that they are very little in the context of all the schools that are self-supported by Orthodox.

    Mufti,
    I agree with you here.

  • Some of them give very little for scholarship. It is a shame. I will probably be taking 2 kids out of Yeshiva. Even tho they lowered it to 6K each, I can’t go on like this anymore.
    If they want to make it free, fine they can go. Even tho I hate the school, the principal, the directors. They suck.
    Basically I will probably ruin my marriage. or not. There comes a point where you can take back your life. As you understand it.

  • Another 30 second google and another source that proves you wrong.

    Tuition does not cover the actual cost of educating each child. In Los Angeles in 1997, the 36 day schools had a combined annual operating budget of $67 million, while tuition covered only $52 million. The gap between tuition revenue and per-student expenditures varies widely. A 1997 study that excluded New York-area schools found the following:

    Affliation of School Average % of budget covered by tuition

    Community 68%

    Reform 88%

    Conservative 90%

    Orthodox 57%

    The source is here

    So Federations across the country are making up the shortfall in school funding, as are many private donors and education oriented programs like Avi Chai. Since the Orthodox schools represent the majority of Jewish day schools, and since they require the greatest share of assistance among all streams, and since the majority of funds contributed to the various federations is from non-Orthodox benefactors, why are you so ungrateful that you would call us Destroyers of Judaism and parents of future non-Jews? Why are you so ungrateful that you continue to debate with this holier than thou attitude about how your stream defines true Judaism WHEN IT IS CLEAR YOU REQUIRE THE SUPPORT OF THOSE YOU ABHOR TO ACHIEVE YOUR GROWTH AND SUCCESS?

  • aaaak! Middle, please dont break the page with super long links. I’ve fixed it for you.

    And maybe we, like, all need each other? Just a thought.

  • Ah, Laya, we do all need each other. That is correct. And if you’ll notice, I don’t reject the Orthodox as non-Jews or lesser Jews. Neither do Conservative Jews for that matter.

    As for lengthy links, don’t worry too much about it. Very shortly I will not have access to any posts where I have editing abilities at all and at that point I will probably have to stop posting. C’est la vie.

  • I hope you know and understand that not for a minute to I regard conservative, reform, reconstructionist, heredi or athiest jews as non-jews or lesser jews either. God forbid. But for me at least, that is not the issue.

  • Once again, any person affiliated with Orthodoxy who is a true practitioner would never be so bold as to insist that he or she is a better Jew than anyone else. That having been said, I do not dare to presume anything about anyone and would easily concede that being reform or conservative does not make you less of a Jew and being orthodox does not make you a better Jew. I’ll go even further and say that it is possible to be non-jewish and be closer to g*d than say, me. I don’t hate or abhor anyone (except for, like, nazis) and i don’t assume that my lifestyle is neccessarily going to produce better jews than anyone else’s. I just have certain beliefs, i try to live by them (and yes, even the most religious orthodox rabbi prays for forgiveness on yom kippur, no one does every mizvah and follows every commandment all the time) and that’s it. I do not believe in reform or conservative conversions, i am religiously precluded from attending their services, but i do not consider them less jewish than me. So why all the hysteria? Sheesh.

    And the middle, what’s up with your posting and editing stuff? Did you try using firefox? also, you’ll have mail…

  • I’ve tried Firefox and it doesn’t seem to matter. Maybe we need to establish a brand new account for me while keeping this one?

    Anyway, I just missed your call by a second. Grrrr!

  • I love being Jewish and I’m all for debate, but seriously we’re getting nowhere here are we? Honestly, sometime last week or maybe a bit earlier, it got to me. I woke up, walked to the living room, got ready to daven and thought, “Fuck it, it will never be enough”. You see, it won’t matter to anyone in the orthodox world whether or not i daven 3 times a day, keep shomer shabbos, eat kosher, etc. It will never matter, i’m just a guy who’s interested in Judaism…”silly goy, he’s just so interested in Judaism. We’ll, we respect that buuuuut….

    See, it got to me, but I got past that. I remembered why i became Jewish to begin with and it was to be closer to g-d. So, if I daven and keep shomer shabbos…I do it for that reason, not to gain acceptance from the orthodox world, puts things in perspective. Although, orthodox world i have love for you…best shabbos dinner I ever had was after an orthodox minyan.

  • Elon, well said. Do it for yourself and ignore what others might think or say. And let me repeat to you that you’re no less Jewish than any of these folks who reject your Jewishness.

  • Oy Elon, look I don’t want to discourage you in any way shape or form. Do whatever it is that makes you happy and makes you feel good and honest etc. If you really do not seek Orthodox acceptance well… don’t get so upset when they in fact do not accept you. However, that having been said, based on your descriptions and level of practice, an Orthodox conversion ought to take like 3 days? I’m just sayin’ is all …

    And I must also add, that no, you do not as TM said “do it for yourself,” you do it for klal yisrael. Judaism’s all about community, all about the team. Once again, just sayin’

  • If we were doing this for “klal Israel,” then we would treat converts such as Elon with the same respect as Ruth received from the elders at the gate. Klal Israel is not only what the Orthodox feel like dictating. Jus’ sayin’.

  • T_M, you’re the one always talking about how Judaism has evolved, so maybe you should accept that Judaism and Jewish law have evolved a little since Ruth converted a few thousand years ago (a conversion, by the way, that nobody knows the details of).

    Alternately, what if Ruth had decided that they disagreed with a few precepts of the Israelite religion, like say they didn’t believe that God wanted offerings of doves for individual atonement, and got together with some of her other Moabite friends and made an “almost Israelite religion” that they claimed was just as valid as the one all the other Israelites had been practicing, because after all, the times change! The Israelites have to keep up!

    What would the elders have thought then?

  • Middle wrote:
    Elon, well said. Do it for yourself.
    – – – – – – – – –
    That’s funny, I thought the point of religion was to do it for G-d – because one is in a relationship with G-d.

    This little love-fest between Elon and the middle is unintentionally revealing, and cuts to the heart of the matter.

    After all the PC talk about “tolerance” – Elon really is after HIS OWN EXPERIENCE, in a classic statement of the modern “spiritual” idiom.

    Judiasm is a RELIGION – the literal Latin translation of “Re-ligate” means “re-connnect”. For once, the Latin word aptly expresses a Jewish value.

    Jews are in a *relationship* – one which, although loving, is not equal. Your parents and spouse can make demands upon you. So can the King or the community. You are obligated to them.

    You cannot cherry-pick these obligations. And they don’t always make you feel good.

    The child does not tell their parents “I am only going to do my homework when I feel it’s *meaningful* to me.” Instead the child has some underlying faith that his loving parents know what is good, and willingly obeys the course they have set – and THIS is the germ of that child’s OWN ability to love others!

    We keep the Torah because it is the marriage contract between our Father (G-d) and our mother (the nation of Israel).

    Many MANY times it is inconvenient, or not to our liking. But we have faith that this path has been dictated out of love. And we also know that true love and “closeness” come with obligation.

    We accept that however much we may want to come close to G-d, we are not G-d.

    Elon: people who really want to “get closer to G-d” through Judaism have, at some point, to internalize this. It is the core of the Jewish way.

    People who have convinced themselves that “G-d doesn’t really care” about His own Torah, people who blithely set themselves up as experts in Halacha despite their own ignorance – are not connecting to Judaism and its path of spiritual growth. They are playing dress-up. It’s still about them, and not about G-d – not as much as they claim.

    Of course, the middle’s eager embrace of this reveals just how non-halachic and cherry-picking his Conservative Judaism is – and how far it has drifted from the Temple (where this thread began) to the 7-Eleven.

  • Elon,

    Maybe another story will help you look at
    things in a certain way.

    Once upon a time, about 15 or so years ago in
    a far away land called Israel. I was given a very
    strange, what I thought, request from my
    teacher at the time, a Rabbi in the Israeli
    Yeshiva I was in, whom also was a teacher in
    the New Jersey Yeshiva I went in the same
    Chabad system a few years before. I have
    known the Rabbi for several years. He is a
    Persian who I knew got his ordination in the
    top Rabbinical College in Crown Hieghts New
    York.

    The request was this:

    Could I go with the Rabbi to Tel Aviv and
    testify in the Rabbinut building that the Rabbi
    was Jewish, to be a witness to prove he is
    jewish? Not just to sign the Ketuba, I actually
    didn’t go to the wedding. I am sure the Rabbi
    got other witnesses to do that. The Rabbi
    needed me and another Yeshiva guy to prove
    to the Rabbinut that he is Jewish for the
    purposes of the State of Israel. The Rabbi is
    an Iranian Jew that lost his papers when he
    had to leave that Country most likely under
    durress.

    How strange I thought that was. A Rabbi, I
    had to prove was jewish…. a Persian, whom I
    didn’t think have intermarriage issues whiteys
    suffer from, so I thought….
    I had lots of guestions and not to many
    answers at the time.

    The Rabbinut building looked like the Van
    Nuys Court House where I went to take care
    of a few Traffic Violations and a civil court
    issue I had. It was a big ass building with huge
    hallways and myriads of confusing little rooms
    that seemed to have people buzzing all over
    and in very bad moods; very uncomfortable to
    say the least. I was directed to a room where I
    was in a long line to see some Rabbi or
    something. This guy wanted to know if I was
    Jewish. I gave what proof I could come up
    with, not a very nice procedure. I had no
    papers. Just the guys scratching his head or
    whatever sifting through all the information I
    fowarded to the little guy. After a half a day
    going through all that, I was directed to wait in
    the uncomfortable bench that was for people
    standing by waiting to enter the court room
    where the Bait Din for the Tel Aviv Rabbinut
    was. As I was sitting the bench, this African
    looking man sat next to me with a very intense
    forlon look on his face. I wasn’t in a talkative
    mood then, so I didn’t ask the fellow what was
    up. It didn’t take me long to learn basically
    what was bothering him at that time.
    This obviously american woman looking in her
    late 50’s or 60’s started talking to the African
    Man. That was durring the time the Ethiopians
    were arriving to Israel. That woman started
    waving her finger at the man and saying ”
    don’t listen to those Rabinuts…. you are jewish
    and thats it…” in New York accented english.
    The African man said a few words to the lady
    but he didn’t seem to feel any any better and
    just looked at me with the same forlon look. I
    just didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
    Finally after more time at that bench, I was
    directed to go into the Bait Din Courtroom.
    On this platform in front of the grand wooden
    stage it seemed to me one of the Rabbis
    asked me in english if I would swear that my
    Rabbi-teacher is Jewish. I answered, ” I think
    so.” My Rabbi-teacher was there and cringed
    and my other Yeshiva buddy who just finished
    doing what I was doing nudged me and
    whispered into my ear,”thats not how you talk
    to a Bait Din!”
    To late, the Rabbi on the stage said, “Quote
    that, the man said, He thinks so….”
    I then said, “no, I know he….” to late….

    As it turned out my teacher-Rabbi got his
    Rabbinut papers and went on to get actually
    married a few weeks later.

    I never did learn what became of that
    Ethiopian. I know many of the Ethiopians
    learned to deal with the Israeli Rabbinut.

    I don’t know all the details as to why he had to
    go through all that. I could guess, but it wasn’t
    my bussiness. I did what I could as friend and
    student of that Teacher. It sort of worked out.
    I think after some time he eventually divorced
    that lady he went through all that over and
    got remarried…

    I have a lot of reason to think that there was a
    power issue between one Bait Din and
    another comunity that were both super
    meticulous observant. My Teacher-Rabbi was
    educated in Crown Hieghts, but the Lady or
    her family wanted to have Israeli authorized
    Rabbinut to provide that extra power that is
    State Israeli Rabbinical ….. something like
    that, who knows, who cares, I was just trying
    to help my friend.

    I can see why a lot of people don’t wan’t to go
    through all that. Some people just don’t
    because they can’t stand the Rabbinut and
    flee the country or just say F’orget it, it doesn’t mean much to me…I will just do whatever and whatever will be will be.

    So what I am saying is that what you may
    going through is a kind of power struggle
    between one group of people authorizing
    what they do and another. The question that
    is youres to answer is this:

    Can I live with the authority vested in my paper
    work that I have current issue with? Because
    that is what I have observed this is all about.
    The Rabbinut wasn’t concerned about how
    well my Rabbi-Teacher dovened or kept his
    Kashrut. They certainly didn’t wan’t to know
    what a good Teacher and Chasidic guy he is.
    They seemed to factor in somehow that we
    were all Shabat observant, thats it as far as I
    could tell. In all the at least 6 or so hours there thats it.

    The answer isn’t really my bussiness. I am just
    painting a picture of how I percieve all the
    characters are deployed.

    When I say you can’t fight “city hall” on this, I
    mean something at least as intense with the
    authority issue as in “city hall.”

  • Ben David,

    I am not a Conservative Jew.

    Elon is a valid Jew regardless of whether you think he’s doing it for himself or for the Jewish people.

    You reject him and his devotion. You reject him and his desire to belong. You reject his Jewishness because of some lame reasons about how you carry the truth, even though so far nobody among the Orthodox commenters here has satisfactorily answered how Ruth, THE ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID, could have a simple conversion while rabbinic Judaism has added rules that make even a practicing Ethiopian Jew who goes back 2000-3000 years in Jewish pratice have to convert after months and months of study of all the changes wrought by Jews of a different background.

    And then, when Elon in his devotion and faith says, “So what, I am still a good Jew even if these people reject me,” you dare accuse him of selfishness. The selfishness is yours. You dare not open your mind. Perhaps it is fear that it will lead you to weakness and loss of faith. Perhaps it is recognition and insecurity that you accept blindly the teachings of men as if they are connected to god. So you pretend it is a penultimate truth.

    You speak as if your faith is for the overall good of the Jewish nation, but it is in fact merely arguments you make to feel better about the choices you’ve personally made. For example, when asked to look at the torah itself, Michael’s only defense is that things have evolved. Your only defense is that we are children who have to accept the contract of the torah, even as you reject one of the torah’s key stories.

    Michael is right, of course, Judaism is evolving. But if it is, then humans are making those changes. And if humans make the changes, then there is always the possibility of an error or of the influence of the times, etc.

    You’re not “doing it for G-D.” How do I know this? Because you, my man Ben David, are just that – a man – and have no clue what god wants. You are doing what you do for yourself, and the claim that somehow Elon is selfish because he doesn’t subscribe to your view of what god wants is not very logical and has nothing to do with god or the Nation of Israel.

    The rabbis who formulated the rules that you follow, were also merely men, and they too were guessing what god wants, because they could only guess. That’s why you don’t eat cheeseburgers, dude, because they didn’t know and wanted to cover all the contingencies. Heck, you won’t even eat chicken with cheese because of a verse about young CATTLE not being cooked in their mother’s milk. You do this because you want to do what god wants or what you believe he wants based upon what those rabbis decided? Of course it’s the latter and we both know it.

    What’s even more surprising in your comments is your self-assuredness that you “keep the torah.” Huh? You keep a translation of the torah; a rabbinic explication intended to allow for the survival of Israelite religion with a destroyed Temple and a people torn asunder. Go ahead, prove this statement wrong and provide a single source to back you up. You know you can’t and that history stands by my version.

    And Michael,

    The same goes for you. You can’t have it both ways: first you say, one has to keep all the rules of rabbinic Judaism because one cannot change the rules of the torah as explicated by these early rabbis – they are firm rules given at Sinai and can only be changed within the context of the immutable halacha; second, you say that Judaism is an evolving religion and the inconvience of knowing Ruth had a much simpler conversion than Elon or any Jew who attends a Reform, Conservative or Orthodox conversion would ever have to encounter, can be addressed by claiming that Judaism is always evolving.

    What a contradiction. It evolves for you when it’s convenient and it stays firm for you when it’s inconvenient. It comes from god when it’s convenient, and it comes from man when it’s inconvenient.

    To take Ben David’s weird metaphor to its rightful conclusion, Ruth, with a simple sentence, took on the child’s obligation of living with a torah that is the contract between the God (father) and the Nation of Israel (Mother).

    Elon’s preparations for his conversion went much farther than Ruth’s ever did.

    So Ben David rejects his own thesis, as a look at the Ruth story shows. And you have chosen convenience instead of intellectual rigor in your explication, Michael.

    Make it easy for all of us, you two, and just say, “We feel comfortable excluding this good convert because he doesn’t subscribe to our human understanding of Judaism’s requirements, and to our specific sect’s preferences.”

    But you should know that it is your flaws that are being expressed here, my mortal friends, because your understanding of what makes a Jew may have nothing to do with what god wants. How would you know what he wants? How can you be so presumptuous? The elders in Ruth’s time would have been closer to Sinai than you or the rabbis who wrote the halacha, and these ancestors of ours let Ruth become a member of the Israelite nation in a very simple way. What hubris you have to reject this torah story and lesson and then tell others they worship falsely and not as Jews.

  • I dont think its the commentors here that have failed answer your question on Ruth, I think it is you who has failed to address that answer.

  • Wait, didn’t I say nobody, including you or me, could know the process of Ruth’s conversion, since it’s not actually described? For all you or I know, she could have gone to a mikveh, or attended an original cast production of Rent in Megiddo with the elders of the city, Boaz, and, oh, hell, Pharaoh.

    The law of Judaism has indeed evolved under the guidance of men who were steeped in knowledge of Jewish worship, life, law and practice. The Torah itself says that wise men will be put in every generation and should be followed. And inconvenient as it for you, T_M, the Judaism that exists now is the Judaism that should be followed. You can’t just pull a random example out of the Tanakh, an example which may not even be the complete story, and claim that Judaism should still be like that. Should we bring back levirate marriage and stoning rebellious sons at the village gates? Should we break a heifer’s neck when we find a dead man in the field?

    What is it you want, T_M? And as long as we’re on the subject of answering questions, why should Orthodox Jews have to accept conversions not performed to the standards of Orthodox Judaism? And why are you qualified, as a non-Orthodox person, to claim that Conservative conversions are 100% valid and kosher if Orthodox Jews do not accept that?

    At least when I reject the validity of non-Orthodox conversions I’m drawing on the tradition of the Jewish religion as it has come down to us. You’re drawing on the fact that T_M doesn’t like Orthodox exclusiveness, and that 3000 years ago it wasn’t as hard to convert. So what?

  • Nice themiddle,

    You know the only you said that realy made sense to me was the first sentence you stated in that there #46 of youres.

    You said,

    “Ben David,

    I am not a Conservative Jew”

    That is statment that has value to me.
    It is true and perfect in its form.
    I love it….

  • Middle waxes poetic – and lets some more revealing and instructive statements slip:

    You’re not “doing it for G-d” How do I know this? Because you, my man Ben-David, are just that – a man – and have no clue what G-d wants.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Judaism is based on the belief that the Torah is true and reflects G-d’s will. Sinai enfolds both the national myth and the moral code of Judaism.

    Without this, you are not talking about Judaism.

    Without this – you are playing dress-up.

    Recent history has shown the flyblown, unbearable lightness of all “rewrites” of Judaism that tamper with the notion of Torah from Sinai – including sufficient faith in the sages to adhere to halacha.

    Now, 40 years after non-O American Jewry began frantically searching for the bodies, I need not offer any explanations to you or to anyone else.

    The burden of proof lies always with the innovators. I am not “intolerant” for not agreeing to innovations now shown to be of dubious worth.

  • Hey, by the way, does Conservative Judaism officially accept a Reform Conversion? And if not, as my googling research implies is usually the case, aren’t they being a little, you know, exclusive? I mean, aren’t C rabbi’s who don’t accept Reform conversions just “excluding this good convert because he doesn’t subscribe to [their] human understanding of Judaism’s requirements, and to [their] specific sect’s preferences”?

    Feh. Reactionaries.

  • So nobody has a response, just a lot of defensive assertions?

    Michael, reread Ruth and tell me what it says.

    As for what I want?

    I want the stupidity of this exclusivity which ultimately is unfair to the convert, not to mention to the interaction among streams of Judaism to end. I guess my version of “klal Israel” is slightly more inclusive than that of the last couple of commenters in this thread.

  • Middle, just because people aren’t saying what you want to hear doesn’t mean its a non response. And YOU, my friend, have yet to address the inconsistency in YOUR view of Ruth, or any of the other things that people have brought up for that matter.

    For instance, I’d still like to hear your thoughts on Conservatives generally not accepting Reform conversions. How is that not exclusivity and ultimately unfair to the convert? Please explain why that is different or address the other issues instead of continuing to push your own very narrow agenda.

  • Ck- That is what my post was about. I was very much more affected than i thought i would be by my rejection from the Orthodox world, but i’m past that. And yes, i could probably have an orthodox conversion and its not something i’m ruling out. And i really hope you didn’t interperet my comment as to think i believe my practice is “for myself”, i’m team klal yisroel all the way 🙂 I converted with a Conservative Rabbi, I go to a conservative shul (at least as long as I’m in NYC), but i didn’t convert to the conservative movement. I converted to Judaism.

    Ben David- There are a lot of words I’d like to share with you, but a lot of it boils down to this. Check yourself, you don’t know me like that. If you did you would surely rescind your personal statements about me and we could even go to shul together, I’ll drive. (that was a joke 🙂 )

  • I realize I am picking up on the absolute wrong part of Michael’s essay, but I found the following lines to be hilarious:
    “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?”
    By that standard, a healthy, and I do mean healthy, percentage of the Anglo olim to Israel are not really Israelis.

    Careful what you say, man. You are disenfranchising a nice chunk of Jerusalem.

    Present company excluded, of course. I speak Hebrew. ;P

  • And I love Sarit Hadad. And Tipex. And Dag Nehash. And l’mangal. And being blunt with clients (oh my G-d, you have NO idea how glorious that is!). And salatim. Hate bamba and humos though–that stuff is so nasty.

    I wonder if that is enough to disqualify me? Perhaps it is offset by the fact that my clothing tastes have somewhat altered to include really tight pants?

    Am I or ain’t I Israeli? Good question to sleep on.

  • Hey, that’s like the first thing I noticed coming to the Old City. I heard more English than Hebrew. I thought, “There are neighborhoods in New York way more Israeli than this, and this is the center of the capital!”

    So that’s why I decided that when I make aliyah, I’m not going to live in Jerusalem. That way I can’t surround myself with English speakers and never learn Hebrew or make any Israeli friends. Hopefully.

  • Truthfully,

    I couldn’t stand the the tune, Israeli’s national anthem I belive, untill I heard Teapacks put thier spin on that number.

    The way hatikvah had been treated before made me feel all sappy, soggy and kind of mushy. Teapacks did that good. In the Teapacks CD I got Sara Hadad finishes does a repetition that isn’t nearly as good in my oppinion. I like Sara Hadad, but her finishing off the tune with Teapacks didn’t seem to work as well for me.

  • Laya, in Israel the Reform and Masorti movements fought through the Supreme Court for acceptance of their conversions together. So I don’t think you’re right about the exclusivity. In addition, I believe Conservatives do accept Reform conversions, although I believe they require a circumcision and purification in the mikveh. In other words, they say that if you fulfil certain basic criteria of the covenant, then you can be converted by other streams and you’ll be accepted. Seems to me that’s a lot more reasonable than blanket rejection of anybody who isn’t Orthodox.

    I am not sure what about Ruth I’ve evaded answering. The story in the Book ofd Ruth is fairly clear, and while we can read plenty between the lines depending on the point of view we wish to foist upon the poor convert who is being rejected by our stream, the story is straightforward. She says she wants to accept our god as her god and remain with our people. That’s enough. So I’m not sure which claims I’m avoiding in your view. If you mean that paragraph of Michael’s about how we don’t read the Torah literally, I think that speaks directly to my points in this discussion. As long as there is change, it is ridiculous to claim that your way is the only way.

  • TM, the fact that they fought for it together means nothing. From the 5 minutes of googling I did on actual tachlis practices of conservative Jews, it seems the y do not, in general, accept reform conversions. try just a basic wikipedia search and move on from there. That would have been nice to know in your post on Conservative Judaism, don’t you think?

    And like, what if a dude really loves reform Judaism but just cant part with his foreskin. Conservative Judaism would not accept him. But really, isn’t the choice to mutilate your member (or not) a personal one? How dare conservative rabbis not accept him. Such exclusivity.

    But hey, Conservative Judaism has standards. So does orthodoxy. So what’s the problem?

    The Issue of Ruth is the one that Michael brought up: Wait, didn’t I say nobody, including you or me, could know the process of Ruth’s conversion, since it’s not actually described? For all you or I know, she could have gone to a mikveh, or attended an original cast production of Rent in Megiddo with the elders of the city, Boaz, and, oh, hell, Pharaoh.

    but the really interesting thing is that you are so sure that what worked for Ruth thousands of years ago should remain unchanging, but you criticize the orthodox for their perceived resistance to change. You see the issue of Ruth as “fairly clear” according to Torah, but other matters told to us in the same book you have no problem poo pooing, because, you know, society changes, and TM doesn’t like certain things.

    So really, I think you must pick a position. Either we should live according to the rules in Torah, not taking into account the evolution of our people and all that entails, or changes should be made to certain aspects in Torah as society and the Jewish People changes. I really dont think its fair to jump from Torah times to conservative Judaism, ignoring centuries of Torah Judaism in between.

    Again, to quote Michael whom you did not answer

    The law of Judaism has indeed evolved under the guidance of men who were steeped in knowledge of Jewish worship, life, law and practice. The Torah itself says that wise men will be put in every generation and should be followed. And inconvenient as it for you, T_M, the Judaism that exists now is the Judaism that should be followed. You can’t just pull a random example out of the Tanakh, an example which may not even be the complete story, and claim that Judaism should still be like that. Should we bring back levirate marriage and stoning rebellious sons at the village gates? Should we break a heifer’s neck when we find a dead man in the field?

    here’s a question for you. would you marry, or give your blessing for your children to marry a Reconstructionist convert? And what about the Reform convert wth no brit milah?

  • Themiddle,

    We know about the Israel supreme court stuff. That won’t help a convert wrestling with acceptance issues from one synagague to another and all the different spins there are in this sick world. Each group of Jewish spin has thier own hypocracy that doesn’t stink any more then the next. I am a Chabadnik. I realize there is a lot of offensive behaviour that Chabadniks have done that stinks. Expect no apology or justification from me. From what I learned, there are vast religions that have made much of thier faith on apology….Its not mine.

  • Laya,

    My 5 minutes of googling indicated that Conservatives tend to accept Reform conversions but usually don’t if the Reform convert did not adhere to certain Jewish customs such as circumcision. So it seems we asked Google different questions.

    My research’s conclusions about how they treat Reform converts fits in with their philosophy, actually, and shows open-mindedness but respect for tradition and certain laws that can be considered bedrock foundations of Judaism. No?

    Of course that’s what it shows. Now, how is that different from Orthodox? Well, let’s see…I don’t see the Orthodox accepting anything that isn’t Orthodox. In fact, on Jewlicious, Orthodox Jews have expressed greater faith in Orthodox rabbis who break laws than learned non-Orthodox mensch rabbis who are upstanding citizens. It’s safe to say the Conservatives are far more open-minded.

    Having said that, I don’t see my place as being the apologist for any movement of which I’m not a member. I purposely have chosen not to be affiliated, because I choose not to be bound by any rules. You, on the other hand, Laya, Ben David, Michael et al, speak as Orthodox Jews and uniformly reject others as Jews who were not converted Orthodox. You should be defending your positions since you reject devout believers.

    I won’t address the circumcision issue here because it is one I haven’t come to a decision about yet. I do think that it is one of the bedrock foundations of being part of the Jewish nation and goes back to our earliest days as a people. How should that play out today? I know what decision I’ve made, but I won’t foist it upon anybody else.

    This is interesting to me because I never – when meeting other Jews – ask them to drop their pants. So how do I know someone is Jewish and somebody is a good Jew? Could an uncircumcised person infiltrate Orthodox Judaism? I would think as long as they remain unmarried, yes. So how do you tell?

    Anyway, back to the topic…

    I still don’t get your argument about Ruth. You are the one who chooses to believe in the Torah as god’s word, and as the Oral Law as god’s word. I don’t believe either position, so why can I not pick and choose what I think might be valid from the torah and what isn’t?

    If I think the creation stories conflict with each other, and to some degree with scientific knowledge we’ve acquired, I can reject them. On the other hand, if a story about a convert involves what seems to be a story that rings true with the customs of the times, why shouldn’t I believe it? To me the Torah is a book that is part history and part myth and is a compilation of materials. I let that be my guide.

    If you look at the Pseudopigrapha, you realize that some materials were kept out of the Torah. Should I just ignore them then, knowing that if any one of those books had been included in the Torah, the Orthodox would then give these writings a very different status of holiness? I see them as additional books, just like the other books which were accepted into the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The difference lies in their impact upon Judaism, which was obviously diminished by not being included in the Torah.

    Having said that, I also recognize that the Torah is the basis for our faith and religion, and I treat it with its due respect.

    You, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing. You have to accept all of the Torah, and then you have to accept all of the assorted explications and halachot that stem from the study of the Torah. So you end up with the complex entanglement of having to explain how you can casually ignore a plain and straightforward Torah story about a convert, but profess your staunch faith in a dressed-up man-created conversion and give those additions greater weight than the original.

    Your argument that it’s “not fair” to jump from Torah to Conservative Judaism while ignoring the centuries in between makes my case for me. Again, if your customs are based upon man-made choices, then they are not given to us directly from god and therefore you should actually believe in Conservative Judaism which seeks to continue the evolution of our understanding of Torah and halachot. But that’s not what you mean, of course. What you mean is that laws locked in the 4th Century and in the 1st Century are the sole guideposts for us and have to be treated as holy laws.

    I’m sorry, but this means you defend man-made laws as holy, argue on their behalf as part of an evolving tradition but then reject changes that you don’t like.

    Oh, and one more thing about this point. You may have had centuries of“Torah Judaism” (Conservative Judaism is also Torah Judaism, by the way, even if you reject this idea), and therefore don’t wish to jump to Conservative Judaism, but the fact is that whether you like it or not the Enlightenment has changed humanity’s understanding of the world in the last 200-300 years. Non-Orthodox streams have been born because of this paradigm shift in our understanding of the universe and the Earth. So yes, a jump from then to these movement does make sense.

    As for Michael’s quote, I did respond to it. You just don’t like my response. If he accepts that Judaism is evolving, and that men are in charge of this evolution, I don’t see how he can claim in good faith that“The Judaism that exists today is the Judaism that should be followed.” How does he know? How do you know? How do you know that the wise men of this generation are not people like Rabbi Schorsch? Don’t you see that the minute you take god out of the picture and insert men, it then becomes a matter of choosing which men you believe? Don’t you see that at that point, you have no idea whether their decisions were absolutely correct?

    That’s why I gave you the cheeseburger argument. What if they read that verse wrong? What if its meaning is that one shouldn’t harm offspring by using a device of the offspring’s parent? What if it was a cooking tip, because slow-cooking beef stew in milk doesn’t taste anywhere near as good as cooking it in tomatoes?

    At the point where you agree that the evolution of Judaism is dictated by men, you then have to choose whether you are going to accept laws written by men who may not have known what you know about the universe, and had no idea about how societies would evolve over centuries. Spark plugs? Who the hell even conceived of spark plugs in the 1st Century?

    As to the type of convert I would accept if a marriage for my son was in the offing? You’re ahead of me by many years, but I suppose it’s a good question. My answer will probably evolve, but I think the prospective spouse needs to be a babe needs to show a commitment to sharing the fate of the Jewish people and a passion for our writings, thought, and history. I think I would like them to commit themselves to following our customs, such as differentiating Shabbat from other days, celebrating holidays, teaching themselves and their kids Hebrew, the Torah and Judaica. I believe they should participate in Jewish institutional life. I don’t have a response about the circumcision. In my heart, I believe they should get one, but what would one do if there is a medical risk involved? Would the person not be considered Jewish by me because they couldn’t get circumcised? I don’t know. It’s easy for me to demand it of another adult because the choice was taken from me when I was an 8 day old baby. As for the movement to which they should belong? As long as they don’t believe that Jesus is the son of god…I don’t think it’s up to me to decide who has a lock on truth, merely on what feels “comfortable” or “right” to me. I certainly can’t presume that my “sense” of what’s right is absolutely correct.

  • Yes TM, you can indeed choose to remain unaffiliated and thus clam there is no hypocrisy. Its very convenient. And you can pick and choose the things that work for TM, that’s convenient and unchallenging as well. Maybe I’ll start practicing “laya Judaism” and make it up as i go, and just point out all the flaws in everyone else’s movements. It might be fun for a while.

    You’re a Jew, and not better or worse than any one on the basis of your affiliation or non affiliation. I think you grossly misunderstand orthodoxy and halacha, which you really can’t be blamed for. It’s hard to really understand a game you don’t play.

    But on this issue, I feel I have pretty much said what I need to say, what you have understood or refused to understand is up to you, but don’t have the koach to keep repeating it. So I for one will be moving on. But thank you for playing.

  • Tsk, tsk, rather than walk away politely and say, “We disagree,” you can’t help yourself and include the crap about “grossly misunderstanding” Orthodoxy.

    Au contraire, ma petite Laya, I understand. In fact, I may have been exposed to that world for longer than you. But no worries, as I keep repeating this is not about you and it is not about me. And since you’ve already agreed previously to my suggestion about getting a prenuptial “get” agreement before you wed, I know you’ll be just fine. Even if you don’t count at a minyan.

    Anyway, hope to see you in other discussions.

  • Laya, can Muffti be a Laya-jew? Do you accept atheists? Muffti will be glad to criticize everyone with you for our lack of acceptance.

  • now, generally, I’d say only Laya can be a laya-jew, cause its more convenient that way, but then again, I don’t want to be exclusive, so, although some sense of a Deity is preferred, Muffti can indeed join. Now, how do you feel about Shabbat on Tuesdays?

  • Is my shiksa girlfriend permitted under Laya-Judaism? If it helps, she promises not to eat pork on Yom Kippur, which by the way I think should have its fast replaced with Burger King.

  • hmmm, these are interesting questions you raise, Michael. The Laya Committee on Rules and Customs rules that Shiksa girlfriends are allowed on an individual basis by the standard of cuteness. We have to keep the Laya jews a good looking people after all. This is for Klal Yisrael, mind you. But your suggestion of Burger King has been overruled and replaced with Burgers Bar, for Zionistic reasons.

  • I feel your refusal to consider Burger Ranch (or “Burger Rantz,” as I always wind up reading it) as exclusive.

    Also, I will use this opportunity to declare Laya-Jewish jihad upon the heretics at ck’s Temple of Ephemeral Jews.

  • WHAT? Michael you little bitch! I make you a blogger and this is what I get? I started ephemeral Jewry! Laya is the heretic. I guess you are too. That’s it. I reject your converts. So there.

  • Such lively and spirited religious debate! This is why I love the Jewish people! Except for David Abutthead.

    Oh yeah. I went there. I brought it.

  • You and your Mom should be thankful that you are no longer under my care Michael Fucknor.

    You been served beeyatch.

  • Speaking of being served, WHERE ARE MY FUCKING PICTURES, SLUTFACE?

    Oh yeah, and Ayelet keeps calling me and complaining that you don’t respond to her e-mails. So make my life easier and respond.

  • Uh… slutface? Yup. You got me there. Zinger!

    client: step back and mind your own friggin business bitch, this is between me and the little shit stain, ok?

    kidding client. Michael is indeed a shit stain, but you’re free to weigh in any time you like. To answer your question, no. The witty repartee between Michael and I is merely a ruse. I actually like him lots. Otherwise he wouldn’t be here. Literally… there was a moment on Massada when I could have easily knocked him over, no one woulda known, but I didn’t do it. So there.

  • Dude. If you had killed me at Masada, Roni would have avenged my death with ninja skill.

    But thanks for making me part of the team anyway. Sharmuta.

  • ck! I am not part of your team so save your ruse for michael and the gang.

    kidding ck. I need no roses from you either.

  • A Laya-Jew? An Ephemeral Jewish heretic? Converts? I’m lost. Maybe I should found my own shul too: it shall be called ITSFTS: I’m Too Sexy For This Shul, and it will be led by Rabbi Right Said Fred.

    The “witty repartee” between Michael and CK is neither “witty” nor “repartee.” In fact, they’re this close to engaging in a “yo mama” style character slam which will resume if and when CK and Muffti return from East LA. Discuss.

    Milat hayom hee: slutface.

Leave a Comment