Paradoxically, the only way to create unity among different denominations is for all to recognize that they are fundamentally divided. We need to stop asking for compromise on the very beliefs that are matters of personal conscience and therefore categorical.
All discussions of why certain marriages or sexual relationships are forbidden are doomed to fail! No human reasoning is able to explain them in any consistent way. It is for this reason that religious thinkers should distance themselves from giving primary reasons for these prohibitions.
The ruling by the Eida HaHareidit that Ethiopian Jews are not fully Jewish is scandalous and deeply embarrassing. It disgraces Judaism and is as anti-Jewish as can be. This and many other rabbinical decisions are not part of the Judaism I converted to. I abhor them and want no part of them.
Radical change has taken place in the Jewish world after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. We have been shown that it is impossible for all of us to stay outside of history. The Holocaust has taught us that we cannot survive without entering history. To argue that our yeshiva students are the ones who really defend us against our enemies, and that we do not need soldiers, is an escape from reality.
When we object to circumcision on the basis of its denying the child’s right to autonomy over his body, it could seem that we are making a valid claim. Indeed, by what right are we, as parents, allowed to make the decision to bring a child into the Covenant? But shouldn’t we also ask ourselves honestly whether we have the right to bring a child into this world at all? Is that not a much greater injustice than circumcision?
Today, Israel has many thousands of immigrants who are of Jewish descent, yet not halachically Jewish. Should we convert them even though we know that they will not live a fully committed Jewish life? Or should we abandon them, basically ignoring and excluding them as we do now? I believe there is a third way, a way of reconciling these difficulties.
A fairy tale with much relevance to today’s times.
If the Spanish-Portuguese community and Chief Rabbi Mervis give in to blatant blackmail by ultra-Orthodox elements then rabbis will no longer be able to speak their minds. The S&P and other communities will lose their independence and be subject to censure by all sorts of self-acclaimed rabbinical extremists, creating a situation that will terribly compromise Judaism.
When Orthodox rabbis are told that they are no longer able to speak their minds, offer new insights into Orthodox Judaism, or try to find solutions to serious problems by using innovative ideas, we are faced with a rabbinical world that is wearing blinders, is comprised of yes-people looking over their shoulders, and is generating a hazardous small-mindedness that has far-reaching effects.
In our day, the word “tolerance” has become very popular, as have words such as “pluralism,” “democracy,” and “unity.” These terms are used so often that one would hope most people have a proper understanding of their meanings. This is, however, far from true.