Judaism: Response to URJ Convention Speech
Rabbi Shlomo EzaguiAs Rabbi at Chabad of Palm Beach Florida the writer has been serving the Jewish community in Palm Beach Florida since 1987. He is frequently interviewed by every television station and newspaper in the Palm Beach area, speaks in local synagogues and temples and writes a regular column in two local newspapers. He runs a day school, summer camp, adult classes, and the only Mikvah in the area, as well as offering private consultations and therapy for various addictions.
I would like to quote the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson on the Reform movement. "I trust that you have also made a study of Jewish history. If so, you will have seen that what is considered 'contemporary' Judaism, namely Reform and Conservative, is nothing really new. As a matter of history, we have had in every generation deviationist movements trying to break away from the mainstream of Torah yiddishkeit (Judaism), yet hoping to remain within it. As early as Mattan (the giving of the) Torah and only a few weeks afterwards, there were already the Golden Calf worshippers, and so it went from generation to generation, down to Mendelssohn, the father of Reform.
"However, thumbing through the pages of Jewish History, one can see at once what happened to all deviationists. Either they completely returned to the Jewish fold, as was the case of the majority of the Golden Calf worshippers, or they were completely lost, as was the case with the minority. Similarly, with those who came under the influence of Mendelssohn, many of them returned to the traditional faith of their ancestors, while the minority completely assimilated and converted."
The speech is the same untruthful spin repeated again and again by members of the reform movement. Quoting tradition when it suits them so as to seem connected and linked with the past, and then suddenly sharply turning into an entirely anti and insubordinate position of principles, explaining that this is merely modern evolution and progression.
On the one hand, Jacobs talks about "the prophetic voice of Isaiah, the compassionate guarantees of Hosea, the wisdom of Maimonides, the loyalty of Esther, ...only eternals are not negotiable, everything else is.." and then in the same breath he says, "let's stop confusing the old and tired institutional patterns of Judaism with the underlying core commitments that count....".
Jacobs mentions the Talmudic passage which tells us that "no person ever greeted Yohanan Ben Zakai first, not even a non-Jew in the market place; It was always Ben Zakai who was first to extend his hand - to Jew and non-Jew alike. Yohanan Ben Zakai is known for completely reimaging Jewish life when the second Temple was being destroyed. The architect of the biggest turnaround in Jewish History knew what it was to be audacious. And so must we."
Everything Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai did was in order to fight exactly the kind of person Jacobs preaches one should be, the Sadducees of Second Temple times The Sadducees were those who Hellenized and compromised the pure word of Torah and scoffed at the tradition of the Rabbis.
However "trends are a wakeup call" he claims, and "in 1937 the reform 'repositioned' itself to be more open to traditional practices and to no longer oppose Jewish Nationalism." Perhaps we should be grateful.
Jewish Tradition has always been imbued, permeated, soaked and saturated with prayers, from the time of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai, in fact, for the return of the Jewish people to their land, our land, the land of Israel given to us in the Bible by G-d. And Jacobs wants us to accept that his is a movement connected to the "Jewish" traditions of the past?
Rick Jacobs continues, "I believe with every fiber of my being that young Jews are hungry, but not for a Judaism frozen in a distant time, no matter how loving and warm the purveyors - including Chabad, in particular - might be."
Is this the same Rick Jacobs who quotes the Mishnah when it suits him, but forgets to mention the first words and introduction to the Mishnah which begins with - "Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua.... ." G-d is the one who granted this wisdom, and as Maimonides rules, if a person should claim that even one letter of the Torah has not been granted by G-d, he is a heretic.
I find this statement to be the most egregious statement in the entire speech. Jacobs is kindly granting legitimacy to those who proclaim the Bible is the decisive and definitive word of G-d. This from the movement that believes "Halakhah (Jewish Law) has no binding authority ", fosters intermarriage and negates practically every commandment of our holy Torah as practiced for thousands of years, claiming the "the trend is decidedly....decisively toward Reform". While this is patently untrue according to the Pew Report, it is telling to see that in Jacob's view, our faith and religion follow not G-d's word, but - trends!
I end with another statement from Rabbi Schneerson the Lubavitcher Rebbe. "My considered opinion, as I have reiterated it on several occasions privately and publicly, is based on the undisputable Halakhic (Jewish Law) decision formulated by Rambam ( Maimonides Hilchot Teshuvah 3:8) , according to which the doctrines and ideology of the Conservative and Reform movement can only be classed in the category of heretical movements which have plagued our people at one time or another, only to disappear again, having no basis in our everlasting Torah, Toras Emes (Law of truth) , Toras Chaim (Law of Life) ..."