Thursday, December 14, 2006


Rabbi Wein

Jerusalem Post 24 Kislev 5767 / 15 December 2006


I have often stated that one should never confuse Jews with Judaism itself. Jews are human beings, prone to error, folly and foolishness. Judaism however sets Godly standards and goals and though it is vastly tolerant of all sorts of human beings, it does not adjust its standards or worldview to make wrong right, bad good or aberrant behavior normal and acceptable.

The State of Israel as currently constituted, governed and ruled is a state of Jews. But it is not a Jewish state. In that I mean that it does not look to Judaism - to Torah - to set its goals or influence its policies. It is committed to the welfare of Jewish individuals but is lacking in historical traditional Judaism’s worldview. Its militant and Jewishly ignorant devotion to secularism at all costs when coupled with its resultant insensitivity to the norms of traditional Jewish behavior, leads it to often behave in a very foolish and counterproductive manner.

In dealing only with Jews and ignoring Judaism, it almost always shoots itself in the foot on what, at first glance; appear to be relatively minor issues. These, however, predictably blossom into great controversies and harmful situations. It ends up, in its current political correctness, in satisfying no one and only exacerbating the existing divisions within Israeli and Jewish society. By not having a sense of Judaism, but only of Jews, it forfeits its chance of being a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews.

The recent contretemps regarding El Al and Shabat and kashrut is an example of this. Is there no one at El Al that realizes that serving non-kosher food and flying on Shabat will bring about an automatic reaction of rage from the religiously observant public that comprises a significant base of its regular customers? Just good business sense would make anyone realize that the profit engendered from one flight on Shabat is not worth the lost revenue and public relations debacle that such a flight causes.

But El Al is merely an airline of Jews and it does not consider itself a Jewish airline. Many of its executives and employees are not trained to know and respect Judaism as a value all unto itself. A Jewish airline that is sensitive to Judaism would not have allowed itself to become embroiled in such a foolish and unnecessary brouhaha.

But without a sense of Judaism, and not merely Jews, they will just never catch on – they just won’t “get it.” El Al served non-kosher food on one of its flights. It “had” to do so because its regular kosher food spoiled because of the airport strike. On the plane therefore the steward announced that the kosher passengers would be given fruit while the other Jews would be given the non-kosher meals. Now, that shows a complete insensitivity to Judaism and to the pain of religious Jews who paid the same fare as the other ones for their seats to be treated as “fruit eaters” and be forced to watch Jews serve other Jews food that Judaism explicitly disapproves of.

There is a reason that I and thousands of other observant Jews fly El Al and not Continental. One of the main factors is that I do not have to witness Jews eating treif. El Al just doesn’t “get it.” After due apologies about the spoiled food, serve fruit to everybody.

The Conservative movement in the United States in its headlong plunge towards self destruction recently approved its clergy solemnizing same sex “marriages.” Again, in complete disregard for Judaism, it agreed to pander to a small sliver of individual Jews. It continued its decades-long slide into progressive, politically correct extinction. For if there is anything that guarantees that there will be no Jews left, God forbid, it is intermarriage and same-sex unions.

Judaism opposes both without compromise or flinching. But if same-sex marriages are forbidden by the Torah and Judaism and nevertheless allowed by the Conservative movement, then why not intermarriage? There are Jews who intermarry and there are Jews who are same-sex partners. But a Jewish organization, especially one that claims that somehow its purpose is to conserve and preserve Judaism that, nevertheless, caters to Jews but not to Judaism, will not stand the test of time and circumstances.

The Conservative movement by abandoning Jewish tradition and the divinity of the Bible has shrunk in size and influence over the past decades. Its own leaders admit to its problems and incipient weakness. So why continue to abandon Judaism in order to cater to some individual Jews? Will its membership rolls increase or attendance at synagogue services grow because of this “bold, historic” decision and policy change?

Forget the religious aspect of the matter – is this a business plan for success? It is Judaism that we must be committed to. Only then can we truly serve the needs of individual Jews as well.

Weekly Parsha 17 Kislev 5767 / 08 December 2006

As is well known, our father Yaakov is the prototype for the future generations of the Jewish people descended from his loins. Thus when Yaakov after a long, painful, dangerous and crippling experience in exile returns to his ancestral home he wishes only to dwell in peace and tranquility with himself and his neighbors. But immediately there descends upon him the ongoing tragedy of Yosef and his brothers which will occupy the latter decades of the life of Yaakov.

In fact it will now dominate his life completely, not allowing restful sleep or spiritual growth. In his sadness over the disappearance of Yosef he becomes disconnected from God’s spirit, so to speak, and is distracted from his vocation and goal of promoting monotheism and Godly values in an otherwise pagan world. Returning to the Land of Israel has not solved any of Yaakov’s difficulties in life. In fact, it has exacerbated them. It is in the Land of Israel that his beloved wife Rachel dies and it is in the
Land of Israel that his beloved son Yosef is sold as a slave by his own brothers.

Yaakov’s daughter Dena is assaulted and her brothers Shimon and Levi resort to brutal violence to free her from Shechem and return her home.
All of this is in the Land of Israel, the “promised land” of holiness and goodness. How ironic that all of these events and struggles should befall Yaakov in his beloved homeland, the Land of Israel. Having come home at last from decades long exile, Yaakov apparently felt that his troubles were behind him. But in fact they were just beginning.

There is a great parallel in all of this to our current situation here in the Land of Israel and in the Jewish world generally. We thought, that returning to the Land of Israel en masse and establishing a Jewish sovereignty within its borders would solve our problems. Herzl promised an end to anti-Semitism, Ben Gurion promised world acceptance, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan promised security and safety, Rabin and his successors promised peace. Sadly none of these promises have been realized.

The Land of Israel guarantees us no material benefits. Just as Yaakov did, so too do we face bitter internal divisions, violence, abductions, enmity and tragic deaths. In fact many if not most of the problems that Jews and Jewish society as a whole faced in the Exile are still omnipresent and sometimes even in a more virulent form here in Israel today.

We also wish for peace and tranquility, to dwell peacefully with our neighbors and ourselves. So far this goal has escaped us. But the lesson of Yaakov’s life is perseverance and tenacity. That is the lesson and agenda for us as well. The ride may be a very bumpy one but the road, nevertheless, leads to greatness and the ultimate tranquility and peace that we all crave. Yaakov stays the course because he has no other alternatives. That is most probably the lesson and prediction for us as well.

Shabat shalom.

Rabbi Berel Wein