Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Friday, 22 May 2009

Nationality vs Religion

One thing the heterodox (as Rav Yonasan Rosenblum called them) don't seem to understand is why Torah observant Jews don't recognize their conversions. After all, as independent "streams" of the Jewish religion, shouldn't they have an equal right to decide who gets into "the club"?
This lack of understanding is compounded by the actions of (not so) well meaning secular judges in Israel who also see Judaism from a religious point of view and don't comprehend a difference between the concepts of Orthodoxy and heterodoxy. It's all the same to them, just with a varying degree of observance of the rules.
Thus this article from YNet which shows that Israel's high court remains intent on turning Israel into an "enlightened" non-Jewish state as soon as possible:
The High Court ruled on Tuesday that the State must fund private conversion classes operated by the Reform and Conservative movements, in addition to the regular funding of private Orthodox institutions.
The Movement for Progressive Judaism in Israel petitioned the High Court demanding funding for private conversion schools that are operated by the movement, and that refer their students to independent Reform and Conservative rabbinical courts at the end of the process.

There are three fundamental flaws to the thinking that non-halachic conversions can ever be accepted by the Torah observant community.
The first is the idea of a non-observant rabbinical court. The idea is, to be frank, absurd. Could one imagine a legal tribunal anywhere composed of lawyers and judges who are outspoken opponents and non-observers of the law they supposedly represent? Imagine a traffic court judge who holds that speeding laws are unconstitutional and therefore refuses to find guilty any speeder no matter what the evidence. Would such a judge maintain his position for long?
The basis for Reform and Conservatism is rejection of the traditional halacha and its absolute authority in a Jew's life. What you feel, what you like, what gives you a good personal moral sense is the ultimate rule in heterodoxy. Am I expected to acknowledge the authority of a judge on such a court when he himself refuses the acknowledge the authority of the Ribono shel Olam over him? What does he base his authority on? What binding legal sources? And if everything is an option, how can he rending an enforceable judgement?
The second is the idea that Israel must, in its unavoidable role of being at the centre of the Jewish world, maintain a standard that is acceptable for the vast majority of Jews. To put it simply, heterodoxy recognizes Orthodox conversions. Orthodoxy does not. Therefore, if the State is going to authorize and play a role in the conversion process, it must restrict itself to only those nearly universally held.
The third and final problem goes to the heart of the difference between Torah observance and heterodoxy. Reform and Conservatism see Judaism as a religion. As a result, they do not see conversion in terms of anything more than a lifestyle choice. Yesteday one may have chosen to bow in church. Today he'll have a bagel with lox.
For Torah observant Jews, Yiddishkeit is much deeper than this. It is first and foremost not a religion but rather a nationality. For the Reformer, a Jew is a Canadian who happens to be Jewish. For the Orthodox, a Jew is a Jew who happens to be living in Canada. This is more than just semantics! Secondly, one who identifies as a Jew has a responsiblity to feel a sense of brotherhood with not only the Jewish people alive today but with the nation as it has existed since we stood at Har Sinai. The reason Orthodoxy cannot recognize the Reform and Conservative conversion process is because it does not create in its contestants the sense that they are leaving behind a "citizenship of the world" and exclusively joining the Jewish people. As another article in Ynet notes:
In their flashy website it says that aside from going to the mikvah and undergoing circumcision, one may adhere to mitzvot in line with his personal ability to adhere to them in light of circumstances of time or place. That is, if a convert finds it difficult to keep the Shabbat or fast on Yom Kippur, he need not do it. Such person would also be exempt in cases where a mitzvah contradicts his conscience.
This is in complete contradiction to the Orthodox expectation that a person joining the Jewish people joins them completely, for good and bad, for convenient and annoying, because he has chosen to leave behind his gentile life and pledge his complete loyalty to God and Torah.
For all these reasons, we cannot accept or acknowledge any legitimacy to those who would change our nation into just another culture with interesting cuisine. Fortunatley, with the continued poor growth rates of heterodoxy in Israel, this is not likely to become a major issue in any case.

11 comments:

Manya Shochet said...

Once again, the gerim or would-be gerim are the political footballs in somebody else's game. In this case, they are being cynically exploited by the "heterodox" machers.

Dispicable and deceptive, and any connection between this and "rights" is pure sleight of hand.

Shalmo said...

I see you once again invoke the birth-rates near the end of your rant. Perhaps you have forgotten my little lecture on how in the last decade only 40% of Jews raised Orthodox stayed Orthodox, which means more Orthodox left Orthodoxy than stayed with it. Don't put too much emphasis on making babies when those babies don't stay with the fold as adults.

Manya Shochet said...

Again, Shalmo, a red herring that advances YOUR agenda but does nothing to alleviate the problems of the would-be convert.

E-Man said...

Did you know 90% of all statistics are made up?

Shalmo said...

Manya my comments were directed to the Master; Garnel himself not to you.

It was a response to what he said in his closing statement on this thread on the lower birth-rates of his enemies. I was rightfully pointing out that the higher denominational switching of Orthodox will counter this. So there is no victory here.

Orthodox bigots like Garnel have been bragging since kingdom come of the demise of Conservative and Reform Jews due to higher inter-marriage, while new stats are showing that they are doing great by re-stocking themselves with Orthodox runaways. This has been discussed arduously already (http://www.threejews.net/2008/09/will-your-grandchildren-be-reform.html)

And E-Man the sources these stats come from are reliable enough. Have you read them? What makes you think they aren't reliable, or are you just making stuff up?

Shalmo said...

One more thing Maya about the converts, the problem in my opinion is that Judaism is too primitive of religion. And its that same bronze age totalitarianism that is causing these problems. Like most ancient Semitic religions, it relies on a court system to determine who is a believer and who isn't.

In the 21st century, a person's religion is determined by......you guessed it, by what he believes. And there is the solution; let people decide what nationality/religion they are by letting them choose what they wish to be. A court has no right to determine whether I or anybody else am a Jew or not. What I believe and identify with is what is in my heart, and at the end of the day that is all that should determine who I am, not some court I don't believe in.

Garnel's crap about his Judaism being not just a religion but a nationality is fine and dandy so long as he sticks it with his own kind. Just don't force that shit down the throats of people who don't agree with it.

Judaism has always been a diverse phenomenon. Contrary to Orthodox propaganda we know that Jews today for the most part are descended from the Pharisee sect. There were also Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, Karaites and many other dating from the original temple cult. And I'm pretty sure they all would have made claims about being the one true religion/nationality coming from Sinai. Orthodox today have no right claiming they are the original Mosaic followers, when we know from history many have laid claim to that title, hence they have no right telling other Jewry how to define who they are.

Manya Shochet said...

"Manya my comments were directed to the Master; Garnel himself not to you."

Shalmo, don't use that tone with me. Ever. I have a 19-gauge needle, and I know how to use it.

"In the 21st century, a person's religion is determined by......you guessed it, by what he believes"

To a certain extenty, yes, religion is determined by what a person believes, or claims to believe. It also depends on his declaration of commitment and maintenance of allegiances. For example, you can believe you're a US Marine, but you won't really be one unless you sign the papers, complete the training, and follow through on the rules. After that, the change in your identity is so complete that there's no such thing as an ex-Marine.

"What I believe and identify with is what is in my heart, and at the end of the day that is all that should determine who I am, not some court I don't believe in."

Sounds kinda CHRISTIAN to me, Shalmo. Whatever you have in your heart is nice, but it has nothing to do with the covenental agreement that has always been Judaism.

"the problem in my opinion is that Judaism is too primitive of religion."

Well, maybe not all things primitives did were wrong. At least the dogmas of matrilinial descent and conversion by pledged tribal allegiance meant that the Jews didn't do too many conversions at the point of a sword.

Right now, we also have our own sovreign state with an element of religious affiliation. Inviting in the non-Jewish Russians was more potentially devisive than bringing in the Vietnamese boat people.

We have an obligation to enable them to take on full, official tribal allegiance, if they so choose. They don't have to, but we must provide them with a realistic opportunity to enlist.

Semper Fi, Yidden!

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Hey Shalmo,

1) If you look a few posts back, I expressed my disagreement with Rav Nachum Lamm's recent statement that heterodoxy was on its way out since we are restocking their depleting numbers.

2) I'm not the Master, I'm the Leader.

3) Heed Manya's warning. Hell hath no fury like that of a nurse royally ticked off.

Shalmo said...

"To a certain extenty, yes, religion is determined by what a person believes, or claims to believe. It also depends on his declaration of commitment and maintenance of allegiances. For example, you can believe you're a US Marine, but you won't really be one unless you sign the papers, complete the training, and follow through on the rules. After that, the change in your identity is so complete that there's no such thing as an ex-Marine."

straw-man that ignores my original argument that Judaism has always been a diverse phenomenon, hence the Orthodox of today have no right telling anyone who they are.

The religion of the Torah and the religion of the Talmud are two very very different religions and you know it. Arguably post-holocaust judaism may even be considered a third.

"Sounds kinda CHRISTIAN to me, Shalmo. Whatever you have in your heart is nice, but it has nothing to do with the covenental agreement that has always been Judaism."

There you go again. Do you honestly believe that before rabbinical Judaism there was anything like courts telling people who was a Jew and who wasn't. Hell no. Read the history books.

"Well, maybe not all things primitives did were wrong. At least the dogmas of matrilinial descent and conversion by pledged tribal allegiance meant that the Jews didn't do too many conversions at the point of a sword."

LOL. That is because Judaism is primitive in another sense. It creates the categories of "us" (Jews) and "them" (Gentiles). Why would ancient Jews wish to convert those who are so beneath them. This has always been the case with tribal religions, check them out in South America for example. They don't seek converts and if you wish to become one you have to go through an elaborate process to be one. There is nothing unique to Judaism here.

"Right now, we also have our own sovreign state with an element of religious affiliation. Inviting in the non-Jewish Russians was more potentially devisive than bringing in the Vietnamese boat people.

We have an obligation to enable them to take on full, official tribal allegiance, if they so choose. They don't have to, but we must provide them with a realistic opportunity to enlist."

And they have a right to take on whatever the million plus forms of Judaism are out there. They don't have to take on YOUR brand of tribalism, nor do you have a right to tell them that your version is the correct and only one, especially not when history shows how wrong you are.

As for that sovereign state, we both know its not gonna last. Israel is likely to be annihilated in our lifetimes. Its a shame, because had the proto-zionists stuck with the original Uganda plan then we would have avoided so much bloodshed.

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

Manya, go big or go home.

Two 14 ga, one in each arm. Just to start.

;-)

Manya Shochet said...

"As for that sovereign state, we both know its not gonna last. Israel is likely to be annihilated in our lifetimes"

Do we, now? Well, "ya'mut nafshi im ha-plishtim" rather than having to hang out with you silly, impotent American Jews.

"They don't have to take on YOUR brand of tribalism, nor do you have a right to tell them that your version is the correct and only one"

Don't be a narrow-minded intolerant twit. You don't even KNOW what my "version of tribalism" is, let alone enough to know if it's "correct" or not.

Shalmo, by wanting to play tennis without a net, by defining a Jusaism with no rules whatsoever, people like you are helping no one, certainly not prospective converts. As I said before, these are real individual human beings, and they are more important than your own psychodramatic script.

And whom do you mean by "the Orthodox of today"? Which ones? Where? I'm sure glad you've annointed yourself "ADMO"R of Everybody", so you can tell us all what's assur amd mutar.

Mordechai Y. Sher--Watch out, in my day, we still learned how to insert the Blackmore Tube.

Gotta go, guys, I need to start fermenting my cream cheese for chag.