Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Serving Hashem, Mitzvot and Repentance
To dedicate this lesson

The Universal Jew


Rabbi Berel Wein

אלול תשע"ב
The modern liberal Jew has redefined Judaism according to his or her wants and fashion. He or she has created a religion that has no fixed laws, that is built on vacuous slogans (see tikun olam), that embraces moral relativity and abhors tribal loyalties and defines Judaism in purely currently acceptable universalistic terms. This type of Judaism has removed all the peculiarities and uniqueness of Jewish life and tradition. It seeks mainly to appeal to the non-Jewish world by showing that we and they are really the same - and that there is nothing special about being Jewish or unique about the beliefs of Judaism.

As an example of this, a recent issue of Commentary magazine quoted a young Reform rabbi in Los Angeles as stating: "Don’t keep kosher, that’s fine; don’t keep Shabat, that’s fine; marry a non-Jew –whatever. But understand that it will take away your Jewish identity if you don’t fight for justice." The fatuousness of this is breathtaking. Judaism is now reduced to a struggle for an undefined and almost indefinable universal concept called justice.

And somehow this idea is to become the core of one’s Jewish identity. Is there any hope for Jewish survival with such religious redefinitions of Judaism prevailing? The liberal Jewish community in America and elsewhere has turned Judaism on its head in its public and principled support of unlimited abortion, gay marriage, unwarranted and untrue accusations against the State of Israel and its very right to exist, and the complete abandonment of the necessity of any observances of Jewish law and tradition whatsoever. Well, whatever this liberal hodgepodge of ideas may be it is certainly not Judaism.

This idea of Jewish universalism versus Jewish particularism is an ancient one, disproved many times over by the events of Jewish history themselves. Twenty five hundred years ago the then leaders of the Jewish exiles in Babylon came to the prophet Yechezkel and declared their intention that the Jewish people, the House of Israel as they phrased it, should be identical in outlook, behavior and goals with the rest of the non-Jewish world.

The Lord informed the prophet that such an arrangement would never really take hold – not because of the Jewish side but because the non-Jewish world (the instrument of God’s wrath, so to speak) would never yet permanently agree to such an arrangement. It is the very particularity of the Jewish nation that makes for its value to all mankind. The more German Jewry became German, the more the Russian Jews became Soviet Marxists, the more fertile the ground became for hatred of the Jew.

As long as Jews insist on being liberals first and Jews second or not at all; feminists first and Jews second or not at all; greeners/environmentalists first and Jews second or not at all, etc. then eventually a large portion of those groups of Jews will simply disappear.

As long as attending Harvard or Yale is more important to Jewish parents than giving their children a basic Jewish education and the ephemeral pursuit of utopian world justice is more important than Shabat or marrying a Jew then the disappearance of large swaths of American Jewry is guaranteed.

It is the modern liberal Jew that is loathed throughout the non-Jewish Western world today. The Israeli government’s foolish secular message that "we are just like you" has little resonance in the EU or the UN. The support that Israel receives from many Christian groups is based on their perception of Israel as a Jewish state, biblically ordained, and not as a universalist, liberal, fixing-and-repairing-the-world bunch of Jews somehow living in the Middle East.

The Jewish liberal establishment preaches inclusion of non-Jewish partners but wants very little to do with the Orthodox Jewish world. It is somehow outside of the pale of inclusion despite its expanding numbers and growing influence. When one is occupied with fixing the world one has little time or patience for one’s brethren who still are unwilling to countenance the public desecration of Shabat and oppose intermarriage with non-Jews.

Being busy with the universal leaves little ability to be occupied or even interested with the particular. I am fascinated by the fact that there are two main groups within American Jewry who voice vociferous opposition to the State of Israel. One opposes the state because it is too Jewish and the other opposes it because it is not Jewish enough in its eyes.

The universal Jew is ashamed of the Jewish state. It is too small, too parochial, too mundane and certainly too narrowly Jewish. But Jewish survival – a worthy end all in itself – will never be assured through the outlook and ideals of universality for the sake of universality alone.
את המידע הדפסתי באמצעות אתר