Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why the Fights are so Vicious...

According to a recent article in the Jewish Daily Forward Orthodox Rabbi Stuns Agudath Gala With 'Heresy' Attack on Open Orthodoxy Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker rebbe and the rabbinical head of Agudath Israel was quoted as saying, "“The Torah must be guarded from the secular forces that seek to corrupt its values and the lives of [Jews], from intruders who sometimes in the name of Judaism completely subvert and destroy the eternal values of our people.”

This quote was in reference to the Open Orthodox founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss. Rabbi Weiss has also founded the yeshiva Chovevei Torah, whose teachings are dedicated to Halacha and modern observance Avi Weiss

We should note that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was in attendance at the event where Rabbi Perlow made these remarks. It was an evening dedicated to the Mayor’s vision of universal preschool, in which the yeshivot would play a significant role.

What is interesting in part, about Rabbi Perlow’s remarks is he is now turning his venom towards Modern Orthodox Jews having written of Reform and Conservative Jews altogether. And what he is implying is that Jews who are not ‘Jewish’ enough, in his eyes, are the greatest evil that Judaism faces today.

My article started with the title, “The fights are so vicious.” The rest of the quote, which comes to us from the academic world is, “because the stakes are so low.” I mean this somewhat tongue in cheek. Proportionally , there are very few of us in the world today, and I am distressed by how much time we devote to attacking one another.

It fascinates me how much time is devoted by the more “observant” to denigrating those not like them. It is not as if we in the Jewish world don’t have serious enemies like anti-Semitism around the world or the so-called BDS Movement, which is seeking to eradicate the State of Israel. Instead this man is focused on attacking his fellow Jews.

I used to be bothered by what the Ultra-Orthodox had to say because in my younger years, I deep down believed that somehow they might possibly be more ‘authentic.’ And then I realized, their devotion to the word of the law often contradicts the spirit of the law. They are so devoted to following Halacha, to the detriment of others that they have forgotten God’s central mitzvah of, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord Your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2).

Rabbi Perlow’s hateful words definitely sting. He is using them to attack a man in Rabbi Weiss, who I have had the pleasure of studying with and learning from. Rabbi Weiss has a vision of an openly pluralistic observance deeply rooted in tradition, and he is not deserving of such an attack.

More than that, when one begins spewing hate in the name of God, I feel they are the true transgressors. Thankfully for Rabbi Perlow, Yom Kippur is coming up in just a few months. This is good because he certainly has both some teshuvah and explaining to do because he is clearly missing out on understanding the true eternal values of our people.

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