Are We At a Crossroads?
(photo at right: Gil Yohanan at YNet News:http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3750813,00.html )
I have been reading the recent news items about serious breaches of the law by prominent religious rabbis and raucous "demonstrations" (read: rioting) against other Jews by "religious" Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) in Jerusalem, and my mind is reeling.
Instead of a public outcry from the Haredi leaders against the lawless rabbis, there is mostly silence. Unfortunately, there is also mainly silence from these leaders with regard to their own sect violently clashing with police and overturning and burning city dumpsters while strewing trash all over the streets and sidewalks, turning parts of Jerusalem into a veritable stinking garbage dump. This is at best a disgrace, and at worst, in my opinion a big chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).
I said mainly silent, because except for one article I read in which a Haredi protester was interviewed. He stated that the violence is perpetrated by 'at risk' youth (my term), and is not a manifestation of the general Haredi community. Even if that is so, the Haredi community then has a responsibility to manage/help rehabilitate these youths.
The violence sometimes also extends to merely riding the buses in Jerusalem (on certain routes): the situation with "segregated buses" might be getting out of hand. On YNet Opinion an article was written entitled Going Too Far, in which the author "slams" the idea of segrated buses (I commented on that article), and I agree with him. One should be able to uphold one's religious beliefs, even some chumrot* as well, but not at the expense of others:
Of course, the author is attributing to Rabbi Amar these reasons for his actions (and I hope he is right) but if true, it demonstrates how one can be religious and still be a "mensch." Kol haKavod* Rabbi Amar, for upholding your interpretation of our laws, while respecting others in the process.
Not too long ago, I saw Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar attend an official ceremony in Jerusalem that featured a female singer. Yet he did not leave the site when she started singing, even though according to Orthodox Judaism men are generally not allowed to hear women sing.
As we can assume with certainty that the rabbi is familiar with this decree, and as we are completely certain that he is not en route to abandoning his religious beliefs, it’s clear that his decision to remain in the ceremony was made on the basis of a quick Jewish law decision: The honorable rabbi decided not to insult the female singer and the event’s organizers.
As far as the corrupt rabbis are concerned, every Rav (rabbi) in the U.S. should have been condemning them from the pulpit, as Rav Levi Brackman writes in his excellent article on Religious Jews Don't Launder Money. His introduction says it all:
Jews who take their religion seriously and truly fear God don’t cheat, and when they hear about others who do they are outraged and do all they can to put a stop to it.I think that the Jewish people are at a crossroads of sorts, and we need to reinstate our wise body of lawgivers and a supreme judiciary-our Sanhedrin (read more about it here).
At this point in time there is no one Rav nor is there one overall judicial body or bet-din* accepted by all Jews, and times are tough. We need to make decisions for our future as a sovereign nation. We need to make formal distinctions between, and declarations of what is actually Divine law, and what is custom, or what are syagim* around the laws. We need to decide if Judaism is meant to be interpreted in an authoritarian manner and forced on all Jews, or implement a live-and-let-live philosophy towards secular Jews, while demonstrating by our own behavior what we believe to be the Jewish Way of Life.
As Rabbi Levi Brackman put it, there is no excuse for complacency. Our future may depend on it.
*Kol Hakavod: 'honor is due,' literally "all the honor..."
*chumrot: stringencies (in interpreting Jewish law)
*syagim: 'fences' around the law, to protect it.
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