Trying to See the Forest for the Trees and Branches

Trying to see the forest for the trees and the branches At Sinai residences my mother approaches each week with trepidation nervously awaiting my next article to see which group I might offend and which neighbors she should avoid.   Thus, for her sake, I shall critique all branches of Judaism and offend everyone, so that no group feels targeted. The Orthodox deserve praise for clinging to tradition, the glue that holds Jews together through tough times.  However, in the modern world, this glue often gets us stuck in the past. The Orthodox long ago abandoned rational thought, promoting creationism and believing themselves chosen by God whose inerrant book orders genocide for those who worship the wrong god, and execution of disrespectful children, Sabbath violators, non-virgin brides et al, in an orgy of death that would make ISIS blush, and provides the blueprint for their barbaric Sharia law.  Disowning their children for following their heart in marriage, seems mild in comparison.Conservative Jews seek to conserve the good and strike a balance between tradition and modernity. However, it is defined mostly by what it is not, i.e. not Reform and not Orthodox.  Their beliefs about God, Torah and afterlife are vague even to most adherents, thus their numbers dwindle and their synagogues vanish.Reform deserves high praise as champions of tikkun olam (social action), but does such a poor job describing its diluted view of God and Torah that it has become the default branch for lazy, “non-religious” Jews, with the self-described “very Reform” relegating holidays to a family meal and avoiding synagogue except for a Bar Mitzvah.Reconstructionist Jews are advanced scientifically, embracing evolution, but their ideology is so open that key questions about God and Torah are up for grabs, decided by the whim of each congregation.  Its founder, Mordecai Kaplan sought to unite all branches of Judaism into one community, but, as is often the case, his followers quickly lost sight of his vision, which ossified into yet another branch of Judaism, the antithesis of Kaplan’s dream.To their credit, humanists cherish science, rejecting Biblical mythology forthrightly, but they go overboard.  For them the Torah is mere literature, nothing is sacred, and there are no miracles. The great scientist and Jewish icon, Albert Einstein, said we can live as if everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle; he chose the former, while humanists choose the latter.  Einstein sensed the numinous in everything, even “empty” space, while most humanists don’t see it at all, their services often resembling a college lecture, devoid of inspiration.Jewish Renewal captures the spirit and imagination of the young with song and dance, but displays the mystical, illogical and anti-Israel naivete of the far left. Chabad, like Orthodoxy in general, practices archaic, sexist, irrational Judaism separating men from women and themselves from all other “heathen” Jews. However, they are such good promoters that they attract those who do not share their primitive notions, due to their friendly outreach.  In this regard, they have much to teach other Jews.Sadly, the majority of Jews don’t support any synagogue, the lifeblood of Judaism, content to see our precious heritage disappear or cede responsibility for its survival to others.It’s time for Jews to see the Torah as sacred not because it was written by God, but because it was written by our people in search of God.  Then we’ll see the forest for the trees, and the tree for the branches, and not get stuck on one branch, while the tree of knowledge (science), and the tree of life (Judaism) elude us. If the Jewish tree of life is lost among a petrified forest of archaic religions, which petrify children with hell and a wrathful God, it will wither. From our beginnings, Jews have sought a broader, cosmic view.  Divided by denominational barriers, our light becomes diffuse and as noticeable as a black hole. But when light is focused it becomes powerful, able to cure disease.  Once Jews unite science, reason, idealism and the best of all denominations, with our indomitable spirit, our light can become focused like a laser, i.e.Let’s All Start Energizing Religion”, and may become the “light to the nations” which is our destiny.  On that day, perhaps even the unaffiliated may return, and together, the Jews may launch a Messianic age. Rabbi Barry Silver is the Rabbi for Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, which unites the best of all Jewish denominations with science, and may be reached at Rabbi Barry Silver 18624 Cape Sable Drive Boca Raton, Fl. 33498(561)

This article appeared in the “Jewish Journal”