Beit Midrash

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To dedicate this lesson

What Is Next?


Rabbi Berel Wein

The Judaism haters amongst us never are satisfied. The fact that there are observant Jews still around in the millions apparently disturbs them no end. After centuries of attempting to secularize the Jewish people they are vastly disturbed and disappointed that there are still so many Jews who refuse to heed their clarion call for progress and modernity. It has been a battle for centuries in Europe regarding allowing Jewish shechita/ritual slaughter of animals. Sweden and Switzerland effectively ban shechita in their countries by requiring methodologies that are incompatible with halacha and kashrut standards. The Netherlands has also recently considered banning shechita. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of Britain has warned that there is a danger of the entire EU considering banning shechita. Of course all of this is portrayed as not being anti-Jewish; it is merely a matter of being more humanitarian to animals. In Germany in the 1930’s Hitler also banned shechita on humanitarian grounds and we are all aware what a great humanitarian he was. In pre-World War II Poland shechita was vastly curtailed and made well nigh impossible by an openly anti-Semitic government. And in the paradise of the Stalinist Soviet Union shechita was also forbidden. Even in the United States, animal rights activists, PETA and the radical left are always attempting to have kosher slaughter banned. Animals have rights and must be protected; Jews however have no right to observe their religion and must be coerced into the brave new world of murderous secularism. Of course the enthusiasm for anti-shechita legislation has waned somewhat since the Holocaust but never fear the avowed secularist/atheistic political action lobby has moved on to a new point of attack against Judaism.

The new culprit found lurking in Judaism and preventing the modern society from reaching the desired apex of free choice is the Jewish ritual of circumcision of male infants on the eighth day of their life. This ancient ritual attributed to our father Abraham and his son Isaac has been sanctified by Jewish martyrdom to preserve it throughout the ages. Again, couched only in purely compassionate and humanitarian language, there is a referendum scheduled for San Francisco California this fall to ban circumcision of infants on freedom of choice and humanitarian grounds. The obvious target of this high sounding proposal is squarely Judaism and the Jews. The fact that there is amongst us a number of nut-case Jews actually supporting this proposition only increases its shamefulness. There were Jews who voted for Hitler also in the early 1930’s German elections. No amount of rational argument, scientific and medical testimony as to its benefits or appeals to religious tolerance will move the anti-circumcision group. As with most committed secularists and atheists it is either their way or the highway. And as usual it is Judaism, Jews and Jewish practices that are the most disturbing elements of society as far as they are concerned. As a fallout of this by the way, the state of Colorado recently announced that it will no longer cover circumcision in its Medicaid program. This will save the state $186,000 out of a Medicaid budget of hundreds of millions of dollars. Other states are also banning Medicaid payments for circumcision though again the amounts previously allocated were paltry in the general budgetary scheme of things. Jewish organizations have protested but to no apparent avail. But never mind, progress and fiscal probity must always prevail.

Here in Israel the diehard secularists have amassed forty thousand signatures on a petition to prevent God’s name to be used in the official memorial prayer of the Israel Defense Forces for fallen soldiers. So now the traditional Yizkor prayer is under attack. Yizkor services were the link connecting generations for ages in the Jewish world. Yizkor without God’s name in it is meaningless, a travesty of Jewish history and a mockery of the purpose of the prayer. Without God there is absolutely no purpose or true meaning to the prayer. Every person has the right to decide to recite the prayer or not. But to attempt to adjust the prayer by the enlightened few at the expense of the sensitivities of the many whom they so disdain is arrogant and hurtful. As secularism declines here in Israel, the hardened believing (atheism is also a religious belief) non-believers have become more strident and bitter. So, shechita, circumcisions, prayers and Yizkor are all today’s battlefront for the continuity of Jewish life and values and traditions. But, fear not, our avowed secularists and anti-Semites will find other causes to war with us in the future. Truly, what is next?
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