A Voice from Hebron -- October 26, 1997
Democracy, as a method of government for a secular country, seems to be the best man-made method of self rule. The founding fathers of the United States, who themselves had religious backgrounds and convictions, sought to create a new concept of self government which would tolerate various beliefs while, at the same time, recognize monotheism.
The United States of America was established as a noble experiment to find a way for various religions and cultures to live together in freedom and mutual respect. It was to be a haven for all freedom loving peoples. While it can be argued whether or not the experiment succeeded or failed, no one can deny the intended purpose of that country.
The State of Israel was not created to become another noble experiment to become a homeland for various religions and cultures. Even on a secular level, it was created to serve as a homeland for the Jewish People exclusively. It came in the aftermath of the holocaust which graphically demonstrated that, for the Jew, there was nowhere in the world that he could find a safe haven from antisemitism. If Israel is to be a democracy based upon the same principles as is the United States, the concept of a Jewish homeland would soon vanish, as would the purpose of the state to be a safe haven for endangered Jews.
Judaism is far more than a religion. It is also a Divine nationalism which spans millennia and the scope of the entire world. The Bible clearly describes the plight and the destiny of the Jewish people. It defines the Land of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people for eternity.
The fact that the Jewish State has been re-established in this very land, especially at a time when the Jewish People had its numbers reduced by a full third via literal annihilation and in spite of the fact that it had no allies, should be evidence enough that it was a supernatural event. But add to that the fulfillment of prophesy which has already seen the Jewish exiles beginning to return from all over the world and unite under the ancient Hebrew language and Jewish culture, and one should be hard pressed to deny that Biblical Zionism is being fulfilled today.
Considering the tremendous variations of cultures and societies in which the Jewish People had been emersed for so many centuries, it is truly a miracle that Judaism was able to survive, much less revive itself in its ancient homeland. What is even more amazing is that this resurrection took place largely via the efforts of secular Jews who had little more than a vague idea of what Judaism was all about, but who knew that what they were doing had tremendous religious significance for them and for their people.
Today, nearly fifty years after the re-establishment of the Jewish State, we still labor under tremendous confusion as to the very purpose for which this state was created! We have a government which rules via principles that are foreign to Jewish Law. We even have "religious" participants in this government who have failed to recognize the religious nature of the state. While it is understandable that Jews, whose Jewish education is lacking, may seek to imitate the nations of the world, it is unconscionable that religious Jews, including rabbis, lend justification to policies which fly in the face of Jewish values and Jewish law.
Presently there is tremendous pressure from the reform and conservative movements in the United States to force the government of Israel to recognize their interpretations of Judaism as equally legitimate with that of "orthodox". Liberalism and Democracy are waved like flags of righteousness to justify alternatives to genuine Judaism. The Law of G-d, which was given to the entire Jewish People on Mount Sinai, is not subject to alteration. The only condition was either to accept it or not. We all agreed to accept it. We have no right to make changes in G-d's Law. If there are Jews who refuse to accept their obligations as Jews, that is their right. But no one has the right to sanctify that refusal by creating alternative religions, which reject any part of our Torah, and insist upon calling it Judaism.
A reform Jew is no less of a Jew than is an orthodox Jew. But, that which is called reformed Judaism, is simply not Judaism. Thus a reform Jew is a Jew who has, for whatever reason, chosen not to accept Judaism. This does not make him less of a Jew. But, in the interest of preserving Judaism, we cannot accept the concept of various alternatives to Judaism as being legitimate "branches" of that religion when they are really negations of "unwanted" portions of G-d's Law. A graphic illustration of this fact is seen by those who include Christianity as a fourth branch!
The outrage currently being expressed today by leaders of the so called reform and conservative movements seeks to imply that followers of such movements are disenfranchised by the Jewish State. While certainly these movements cannot be given legitimate status since they reject parts of our Torah, no Jew is deprived of his equality as a Jew even if he is not observant.
The Law of Return accepts all Jews equally. And even this concept, as it currently is practiced, is too lenient. It accepts the definition of a Jew as "One born of a Jewish mother, or one who has converted to Judaism". The problem is that there are Jews who call themselves "rabbis" who convert Gentiles via methods which are not valid under Jewish Law. As such there are many individuals who live in Israel and who are recognized as Jews, but who are not really Jewish.
The call to change the law of the state to conform with Jewish law is meant to avoid this serious problem. The proposed change would add to the present law the words "according to Jewish Law". Thus only a genuine rabbi who employs Jewish Law to conversions would be able to affect a genuine conversion. Anyone who wants to become Jewish can always do so. But to mislead a Gentile who sincerely wants to convert into thinking he has become Jewish when he really hasn't, is unethical and unnecessary. Rather than continue to perpetuate a fraud, all honest Jews should recognize the need for this change.
Yes, we must seek to unify the Jewish people. No, we must not use acts of coercion to force people into observing against their will. But we have no right to legitimize the alteration of Judaism in the hope that this will unify our people. For once we do that we lend a hand in the destruction of Judaism.
If the Chief Rabbi of Israel, in the interest of Jewish unity, were to declare that those Jews who wish to eat pork may do so if that conforms with their beliefs, then he would, in effect be declaring that Torah is no longer valid. The so called reformed Jew, even if he totally rejects Jewish Law, is still bound by it. The door to return to authentic Jewish practice is always open for him when ever he is ready. Should the reform movement achieve legitimacy, its Jewish constituency will have no motivation to return to authentic Judaism, and thus will be more likely to be forever lost to their people.