A reader sent me this article written by Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo featured at The Algemeiner. I’m not sure what Rabbi Cardozo might have thought about the old Failed Messiah site run by Shmarya Rosenberg. Nor can I begin to guess what he may think of this blog. But I get the impression that he would approve of the spirit in which we (publishers, contributors and commenters) who refuse to be silenced, are willing to tackle problems in the Jewish world. The Jewish world needs its critics. It needs people willing to shake off the dust, rattle the cages of stagnant (and sometimes harmful) belief systems, upset the status quo, and inspire growth.
By definition, growth is change. And the Jewish world, especially the haredi and Orthodox Jewish world, have become very good at resisting change. In some cases that is very good. It’s often times the most important tool to preserving our culture. But like any tool it has the potential to be used for building or destruction. This is an important consideration in the application of Jewish law in a constantly changing world. An example that immediately comes to mind is the law of Mesirah which addresses a Jew informing non-Jewish authorities about the crime of another Jew. Under Roman or Persian rule refraining from informing may have been a life preserving act. It had the potential for great merit under unjust governments. However, today, in the United States and other parts of the free world, the traditional application of these laws too often creates lawlessness and criminal cover-ups. Furthermore, it is now being used to create more pain for the victims of these crimes.
This is readily seen in situations of child sexual abuse that occur in the Jewish world, like the CSA cover-up by Chabad in Australia. Not only was the crime not properly reported to police, but the victims and their families were shunned, ostracized, and left without support systems compounding their pain further. We’ve seen the same thing in New York where the victim of Hasidic molester Meir Dascalowitz was kicked out of his Jewish school. Meir Dascalowitz, thanks to the bravery of the victim’s father, is serving 5 years in jail. The local Jewish community in turn works hard to persecute and increase the pain of the victim’s family.
How is it that we have allowed ourselves to become a people like this? And how do we fix it? Certainly not by passively remaining quiet and pretending the problems don’t exist in an effort to save the criminals from embarrassment and preserve a phony reputation for the Orthodox, haredi, and rest of the Jewish world. Nor will we fix it by shutting up those who are outspoken and preventing communication between them (as the new owners of Failed Messiah appear to believe).
We need our rebels. Our children need the examples (and obviously sometimes the protection) of rebels too. On that point, I am very much on the same page as Rabbi Cardozo.
The establishment of the state of Israel, together with the challenges that modernity has presented to the Jewish people, have confronted Judaism with a reality unlike any other that it has encountered for nearly 2,000 years. Therefore, there is an urgent need to rediscover, reactivate and even (carefully) recreate Judaism in accordance with its great vision and beliefs.
The time has come to deal with the real issues and no longer hide behind excuses that will ultimately turn Judaism into a sham. Our thinking is behind the times.
Judaism is about bold ideas and bold actions. Its goal is not to find the truth, but to inspire us to honestly search for it. Torah study is not only the greatest undertaking there is, but also the most dangerous, since it can easily lead to self-satisfaction and spiritual conceit. The leashing of our souls is easier than the building of our spirit.
What today’s Judaism desperately needs is vocal critics who can spread and energize its great message. It needs spiritual Einsteins, Freuds and Pasteurs who can demonstrate its untapped possibilities and undeveloped grandeur. Judaism should be challenged by new Spinozas and Nietzsches, by remorseless atheists who would scare the hell out of our rabbis, who in turn would be forced to start generating bold ideas.
Rabbi Cardozo makes great point after great point. Read it all.
(hat tip: Hawkeye)