Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

This week, Mesora continued its efforts to search for a grant for our free website and JewishTimes weekly journal. Although a discouraging one, we received a very kind response from one individual representing a funding organization. She was familiar with Mesora and did not feel her organization would favor granting to us. She wrote as follows:

“We are also particularly interested in supporting small organizations that are outside of the mainstream of organized Jewish life, as well as pluralistic organizations that tolerate a broad range of ways of being Jewish. Again, just from perusing your website, it seems to me that your organization might appear too “narrow” to our grant making committee members — that it might be too identifiably Orthodox, and thus that its appeal to the unaffiliated and tolerance for different ways of being Jewish might be suspect in their minds.”

I responded below, and felt my response may be of interest to our readers.
“Dear XXXX,
Thank you for taking the time to write and explain. I appreciate your intent and efforts. I suggest you circulate our latest issue of the JewishTimes with your board (free to download and print) so they may learn of Mesora’s mission: to continually educate Jews of all denominations on the “tenets” of Judaism. We all agree that there is one text of the Torah, and that in this text; there are tenets central to Judaism. Without these tenets, Judaism is no longer Judaism:

God’s role as Creator;
He is Exclusive in His role — there are no others;
He is not of what He created (i.e., He is not physical);
His knowledge is supreme — He knows all;
He is omniscient — He can do all;
He rewards and punishes;
God gave Moses the Torah;
Moses’ Torah is the only Torah — the only God-given religion.

It is these tenets and all that flows from them that Mesora has been teaching, and what is lacking in the work of a majority of Jewish organizations. Judaism is first and foremost defined by its tenets, and spreading these tenets forms the core of Mesora’s mission. The tenets are not subject to debate. They are not an issue of factions. All Jewish denominations agree on them, but do not necessarily teach them.
At times, those unfamiliar with the tenets will find fault with Judaism, such as those who favor homosexuality or abortion. But the Torah clearly prohibits these acts. What is apparent from those favoring unrestrained freedom of sexuality and morality is that a tenet of Judaism is not being taught; i.e., the Torah is God’s word. Had Jews understood that the Torah is entirely God’s word, they would not deviate, nor would they think they have greater knowledge than God, so as to violate open Torah verses. But since this fundamental is not taught, many others will decide not to follow other laws, and so on…until Judaism becomes corrupted and diluted into a system of man’s desires, no longer reflecting God’s original commands.
To support Judaism, we must not cower from man’s disapproval. We must be firmly dedicated in our support for what we know is written in God’s Torah. God knew man’s weak nature, as well as his overzealous nature, and therefore directed man not to add to, or subtract from His Torah. (Deut. 13:1) In this week’s issue of the JewishTimes (May 6th issue), I respond to a Jew who prays to dead Rabbis, thinking they will create miracles, and I explain that this other extreme is also a violation of God’s words, and a deviation from what is real and true. Torah is all about following what our minds see as truth, and avoiding that which is false.
Now, provided God’s Torah laws are not violated, there is ample room for one’s expression of his or her Judaism, and the Torah does in fact tolerate much latitude in religious expression. For example, one may build and beautify his Sukkah with what pleases him the most; he may celebrate the Holidays with his choice of food and song; he may cheer up the sick with his sense of friendship and humor; and Jews may dress for Holidays and Temple as they wish, provided modesty is upheld. The Talmud too is replete with various views on numerous laws. The truth is that tolerance is a much-needed trait. The Rabbis teach that one should be “Maavir al Midosecha”, “Give in on your character”. This means that one should seek harmony with others, and to foster this harmony, one must be willing to allow others freedom of expression, even if it means we endure some frustration in the process. For when we tolerate others, we recognize God’s right to create many personalities, and we also allow others to witness and appreciate our sensitivity towards them. When others see that we recognize their needs and we bend to their desires, this in turn allows greater friendships to bloom. And it is friendship and peace that is the crucial backdrop for a harmonious Jewish society. Of course, the Torah must guide such freedom of expression, and the Torah in this week’s reading (Deut. 19:17) demands that when someone is in violation, that we rebuke his or her deviation. This too is God’s word, and sustains the Torah system, as well as helping a fellow Jew improve.
Thus, there is something called “deviation”, and we learn from God’s written words what are these deviations. To deny something as a deviation means to deny the Torah. To support those who allow deviations means to support that which is not Torah. We see again how crucial it is that the Torah’s tenets are adhered to. If the tenets are not taught, then Torah cannot truly be supported.
This absence of education of the Torah’s tenets contributes greatly to many Jews’ acceptance of alien notions. This acceptance blurs the lines between Judaism and other religions, causing intermarriage and the destruction of Judaism. As a proof to the lack of education of Judaism’s tenets, an average Jew today could not explain why he or she should not intermarry; why other religions are not God’s religions; or why he should not eat non-Kosher. He also could not explain the prominent events in Jewish history: ask an average Jew why God gave the Torah, if Judaism is not the only correct religion, according to him. Ask a Jew if he or she affirms God’s existence, or could prove it. The answers one will receive will unveil just how far Judaism has strayed from its tenets. The only solution is to teach these very fundamentals. Other approaches, which may afford good feelings, do not necessarily protect against intermarriage, unless the primary arguments against intermarriage are taught: these are the fundamentals. Programs that celebrate the holidays and attract large groups of Jews are certainly enjoyable. However, if these attending Jews cannot teach their children the error of other religions, such momentary celebrations fall short. Some of that time could have been used to educate the parents. Had these programs strongly supported regular classes on Judaism’s tenets, the parents would be capable of shielding their children from conversion, intermarriage, securing yet another generation of Jews. But this is not the case, as intermarriage and conversion continue. It is every Jews’ responsibility to address these fatal errors.
This is truly the greatest crime, when the most central of all ideas in Judaism are replaced by beliefs in red strings, when Jews know more about pop stars than about God, and when Jews are seeking to ease their Torah adherence, which results all to often in intermarriage.
God taught us not to add or subtract from His words. It is clear that He desires the Jewish nation to sustain all parts of the Torah, and with even minimal breakdown, every succeeding generation further deviates, and Judaism is eventually lost. This does not apply to Judaism alone, but any religion or system, which is not governed, thereby, it allows man’s weaknesses and overzealous natures to find expression. This alters the original system into something that can no longer be identified as the original. Judaism too is surely being altered into a new religion, “Jewish” only by name.
To sustain Judaism for future generations, we must prioritize our work: we must first teach the tenets and approach every individual with the latitude required to accommodate his and her personality. We must be clear on what Judaism is, and not cower to popular opinion, if this means that Judaism is compromised.
“In every generation there are those who rise up against us to destroy us.” (Haggadah) Sometimes they are gentiles, and sometimes, they are Jews. No one Jewish group is insulated from attack from another. So who is acting in accord with Judaism? It is those who do not deviate from God’s Torah fundamentals. The tenets must be taught, and on them, by definition, there is no room for compromise.”