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July 11, 1986 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-07-11

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Perils Of Pluralism

Continued from preceding page



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Jews in our time.
Those movements are, by virtue of their
choice to subvert Jewish law, something
other than what history defines as
NOTE: There is, in that naked state-
ment, not a word of rejection of any Jew
who may affiliate with those movements.
Indeed, there is no judgment there of any
person at all. There is only a careful con-
sideration of facts and a reasonable con-
clusion therefrom.
We Orthodox do not 'seek to deny any-
one his or her free choice of a belief system,
nor do we want to coerce anyone into ob-
servance of Jewish law. We simply want
to preserve • the meaning of the word
Judaism, as established by the millenia,
and to relegate other systems to the large
and illustrious file of philosophies and
social movements which, wonderful
though they may be, are not identical to
Any Jew may choose to reject any or all
of the premises we Orthodox operate on,
but, given our assumptions — that the past
is the key to the future, that what our an-
cestors gave their very lives for commands
our careful respect, that Jewish law is not
an arbitrary convenience, a toy for beard-
ed children — given all that, it should shock
no one and hurt no one that we reach the
conclusions that we do.
Disagreement with Torah-Judaism is
one thing. But disparagement of Torah-
Judaism because its conscience refuses to
allow it baptism in the font of the Zeit-
geist, is quite another.
Such disparagement, so common today,
is truly close-minded, intolerant, and
hopelessly provincial. All the things we
Torah-Jews are incessantly and wrongly
accused of.
Some critics point to the long history of
pluralism within Judaism, citing the
numerous disputes between the students
of Hiliel and Shammai and the radical
reforms made by Maimonides as exam-
ples. But the clear difference is that the
framework of halacha embraced Hiliel and
Shammai as well as Maimonides, who to-
day would clearly be considered a "right
So the claim for precedent in times long
gone for movements like the modern ones,
is a farce.
Is there, then, no pluralism in Judaism
today? •
Of course there is.
It not only is, but it is every bit as far-
ranging as ever it was. Within Judaism,
as defined by the Orthodox—that is to say
among Jews who accept uncompromisingly
the tenets and laws of the Judaism of the
Ages —are Jews who wholeheartedly sup-
port the secular State of Israel, and those
who do so only with serious reservations,
Jews who suppOrt the ideal of higher
secular education and those who do not,
Jews who could put efillin on other Jews

they have just met and Jews who shudder
at the thought. There are Jews who sup-
port more separation of Church and State
and Jews who want less, Jews who sup-
port disinvestment in South Africa .. .
When non-Halacha-espousing groups in-
voke their own systems of law, Orthodox
Jews cannot at the same time be faithful
to their own tradition and accept the rul-
ings which these groups decide on.
One who has little regard for, or know-
ledge of, money, of course, would not make
a very good financial consultant.
Which is why a convert to the Reform
or Conservative movements — conversion
being a clearly legalistic, halachic realm—
is not accepted as a Jew, by Orthodoxy.

Avi Shafran

Missing, at very least, is the clear halachic
requirements of "acceptance of Mitzvot, "
i.e. the acceptance of divinity of the Torah
and the authority of halacha. If the of-
ficiating rabbi himself (or herself) does not
feel such conviction (though his or her
Jewishness by birth is, of course, unaf-
fected thereby), how could he or she be ex-
pected to communicate such conviction to
the would-be convert?
Orthodoxy has absorbed particularly
harsh condemnation for "rejecting these
sincere converts," though it is not the con-
verts at all or their sincerity which we re-
ject, but the conversion.
It might be helpful, in order to under-
stand the dilemma Orthodox Jews face in
this area, to postulate a hypothetical
A particular Jew, say a Reform Jew,
decides of his own free will to keep one area
of kashrut. He, for instance, will refrain
from eating pork products, as indeed many
otherwise non-observant Jews do. A group
of well-meaning Jews, meanwhile, have
developed what they feel is a better form
of Judaism, say one which has social ac-

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