Thursday, July 21, 2011

Judaism vs. the Jews

18 Tammuz, 5771
July 20th, 2011

           Rabbi Max Arzt was one of the most successful and influential pulpit rabbis of the 20th century. Widely respected, Rabbi Arzt was once asked by a group of recent seminary graduates about the secret to a successful career in the pulpit. “Ahavas yisroel” (love for Jews), he responded. When the young rabbis started laughing, he looked at them and said, “What? You think it’s easy?”
            I have to admit to mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, I am convinced of Rabbi Arzt’s wisdom. All my best moments are inevitably tied to accepting those I serve for who they are and letting love grow. My failures spring from the opposite mentality.
            However, for people of my generation there is a dark side to what Jewish pundits proclaim as, “peoplehood,” which is this: it is characteristic of American Jewish synagogues to love Jews, but not Judaism.
            Many people tell me that the purpose of synagogue is the connection of Jews with other Jews preferably (but not necessarily) with the celebration of Jewish culture. Many will openly state that they find the Judaic function of a synagogue secondary, tertiary, or irrelevant.
            There are a number of problems here. First, people like me who fell in love with Judaism have no home. Being a rather assertive (or obnoxious, as some people call us) group, we choose to defect, form our own groups, and leave extant communities behind.
            Second, I have reluctantly been convinced that the rest of humanity does not have to agree with me. People have the right not to like religion. But using davenning to create peoplehood is like using a turkey baster to fix a computer: even if you can get the job done, the tool has lost its purpose.
            There is much to say on this topic, and I welcome your thoughts. But please, friends - ahavat torah (love of Torah), ahavat HaShem (love of God) created ahavat yisrael. The child is bereft without its parents.

No comments:

Post a Comment