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November 12, 2004 - Image 91

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-11-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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did not just force Jews to rethink their
faith, Rabbi Greenberg explains. It
also prompted Christians to consider
anti-Semitism's roots within church
teachings. The result, he says, is "the
Western churches have undergone a
historical moral reformation. Jews
need to understand that and acknowl-
edge that ... official church teachings
have changed. The old stereotypes are
being eliminated."
But why would God, conceived in
traditional thought as being all-pow-
erful, allow an almost unbelievably
horrific event such as the Holocaust
to occur? Rabbi Greenberg says its
because God "self-limits" His divine
power "as a strategy to call humans to
greater partnership and responsibili-

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The covenant between God and
the Jewish people, in other words, is
an invitation to tikkun olam (repair of
the world), the process by which the
divinity's earthly creation gradually
achieves perfection through history.
This is so, says Rabbi Greenberg,
because humans, empowered by free
choice, cannot be forced to be good,
not even by God. They can only be
encouraged to be good through the
educational process we call religion.
But isn't the Holocaust an unneces-
sarily tough lesson? "God does not
step in to stop bad things from hap-
pening," Rabbi Greenberg responds.
"I'm shocked sometimes at how far
that freedom goes."
Despite concerns over how his
writings are received, Rabbi
Greenberg is not about to back down,
even as his Modern Orthodox com-
munity tilts increasingly rightward.
Two years ago, his son, Jonathan
Joseph "J.J." Greenberg, a rising star
in Jewish communal circles, was killed
at age 36 when struck by a car while
bicycling in northern Israel. The loss
profoundly impacted Rabbi
Greenberg and his wife (who have
four surviving children and 17 grand-
children living in both Israel and the
United States with another on the
way). Having experienced that pain,
he says, "What can my critics possibly
do to me?"
He adds, "What's most important
is what you stand for, not what you
run away from. I'm not getting any
younger and I'm even more impatient
to say what I believe.
"My first loyalty is not to
Orthodoxy, which is still an unfin-
ished system anyway. First comes God
and klal Israel [the entirety of the
Jewish people]." I I

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