Tarnished Judaism

Moshe ben-Chaim

As two of our readers write in this week's issue, when we act in accord with Torah principles and laws, we will evoke this response from other nations: "What a wise and understanding people is this great nation". The entire context follows:

"And you shall guard the commands and perform them for they will be your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of other nations. Fo when they hear all these statutes they will say, "What a wise and understanding people is this great nation". For what great nation has God close to them, as the Lord our God whenever we call upon Him. And what great nation possesses statutes and laws so righteous as this Torah that I place before you today?" (Deut. 4:6-8) 

At the end of his life, Moses reminds the nation to carefully adhere to the Torah. In Deut. 4:2 Moses warns us that we must not add or subtract anything in Torah. He goes on (ibid 4:9) to ensure we do not forget "what our eyes saw" referring to Sinai. These two messages of not adding to the Torah – God's perfect system – and not forgetting what we witnessed, is Moses' warning that we follow reason.

Reason teaches that God's instructions are best not tampered with, just like a doctor's prescription. Both produce lethal results when altered. Man is foolish to add or subtract to God's words. Reason also demands we not ignore our senses. Recalling Revelation at Sinai, Moses teaches a Torah fundamental: we must follow only that which we perceive. Idolaters on the other hand follow what they 'imagine', not what they encounter on Earth. So when they pray for food and shelter from lifeless, stone gods...it is no surprise they receive no answer, go hungry and are left to the elements. Any reasonable person today rejects praying to idols. 

Not Judaism

That being said, we are embarrassed by the recent voodoo acts performed by a number of Jews who believed God desired them to encircle a flight path in the sky; that this circle will correspond to a circled area on the ground surrounding an infected portion of Israel, and this will heal those Jews. Clearly, such actions are idolatrous as they are not based on any medical/natural  laws, and do not form any part of Judaism.  True Judaism evokes the marvel and admiration from other nations. Instead, this group of Jews brought shame upon us, and God's name. News depicts us as witch doctors. 

We must therefor be clear to other nations and Jews: these Jews did not practice Judaism with such primitive acts.

But one might ask, "Who today is to say what true Judaism really is?" 

You see, that very question contains the answer. "Who today is to say", is a wrong approach. There is no "who" that determines Judaism today. Herein lies the very problem. The world – Jew and Gentile alike – tend to determine Judaism based on "Jews". However, man didn't create Judaism: God created it. Viewing the acts of Jews will not offer an accurate picture of Judaism. Judaism must be defined solely on God's words found in His Torah. 

Another example why Judaism has a tarnished reputation is due to Kabbalistic mystics offering promises of health, happiness and success...if you simply pay them. But we know of countless cases where people paid these mystics, only to have their hopes dashed, and their cash robbed. Yet, Jews and Gentiles continue to stand in awe of man, an not God. And then there's the myriads who flock to the graves of the righteous, praying to them. 

Year after year. 

They too do not ask themselves way their prayers to dead men go unanswered. Two groups Tefilot.org and WesternWallPrayers.org sell prayers to lonely single Jews, guaranteeing an end to their single-hood...since the prayers were offered at the Wall. God, on the other hand, disagrees with these organizations, as He says "Any place you mention my name I will come to you and bless you". (Exod. 20:21) 

Desperate Jews follow these lies, and then literally pay the price. Again we hear complaints from those robbed, regretting they fell for such baseless promises...promises no human can deliver on. Unfortunately, many clever, greedy Jews prey on the desperation of others. They also display their lack of concern for others, since they don't pray for others unless they receive money for doing so. Shouldn't one Jew pray for another...without pay? 

What is telling, is that this organization offers varying levels of prayers, depending on how much you want to spend...up to $1800! So what do they mean: that some prayers are more effective if you pay more? In that case, they take money from others for admittedly less-effective prayers. This whole business is crooked, makes Judaism out to be a sham, and is not part of Torah. In fact, Jacob told Rachel that she was the one that held her future in her hands. Not him. 

The prayers of others are not more effective than one's own prayers. For it is through prayer that one realizes he or she has not received what was asked. Then, one must ponder the lack of a response, determine if what is sought is in fact good or harmful. That person can then perfect him or herself, and thereby redefine what they seek from God. Once they refine their requests to be aligned with Torah values, God will respond. Prayer is a means to our inner perfection..someone else cannot perfect you. So one should not seek the prayers of others.

Determining True Torah Ideals

As concerned Jews, we are obligated to remove these lies and clean up our soiled image of Judaism. God promises that when we live Torah properly, the truths and underlying ideas will impress all other nations, as cited above. But to impress others, we must first ensure we act in an impressive way, achieved only through increased Torah study, purifying our practice so it matches the commandmentswithout alteration, thereby returning Judaism to its pristine nature, as God gave it. What are God's undiluted words on these issues? 

God taught us in may ways; one being the recorded acts of our patriarchs and matriarchs. When Rachel and Chana desired children, prayer and introspection were the correct responses. Not voodoo practices. Not flying in circles. Our wise matriarchs understood that God only withheld children until one would perfect herself. This explains why Rebecca sought out God's prophets when her pregnancy became overbearing. Sickness and misfortune are results of either our poor choices, where we self-inflict ourselves, or where God punishes us. In both scenarios, the remedy is introspection and change...not performing ridiculous, unrelated actions. Do you not recall Joseph's brothers' response when accused of spying on Egypt? They immediately recalled their acts and detected their still un-atoned sin of selling Joseph. "We are sinners" they all vocalized in unison. No primitive act would improve their fate. Why then did this group of Jews act so primitively, flying a plane in circles around Israel? How shameful this makes Judaism appear in the eyes of the nations. Their acts are not Jewish.

We find our prophets prayed to God, from whatever town they lived. No Western Wall was required. No mystical, crooked, Kabbalistic liars can assist you if you are barren, sick, single, or poor. We just read Lamentations. In it, we read the following (Eicha 3:40), "Let us search our ways and examine, and return to God." Man can not help us – we must approach God directly. King David taught that we rely on God, not man (Psalms 146, 147)

 We must act intelligently in all ways. King David did so and was successful (Sam. I, 18:14): "And it was that David was wise in all his ways, and God was with him." Precisely because King David adhered to intelligent choices, God was with him. This is the very lesson of the two parts in that verse. When we abandon a reasonable approach to life, God will abandon us.

And not only is our faith in God a reasonable lifestyle, but all God's commands follow reason...whether you have arrived at an understanding of them or not. Sabbath observance spreads the truth of a Creator who rested. As we mimic His rest, we call attention to ourselves, and questions from others help teach the world about a Creator who desired His laws be followed, for mankind's good. Prohibitions against idolatry help mature man from his infantile and primitive wishes, growing him into a thinking and reasoning being who rejects a life of fantasies. Idolatrous prohibitions restrict a life of fantasy...forcing man to live in reality, and arrive at the truth of a Source for reality and all its harmonious laws. Ritual slaughter, feeding animals before ourselves, charity, and kindness trains man away from cruelty and egotism. And thus in turn creates the backdrop for a peaceful society where all members might obtain all their needs, in serenity. Kosher and sexual laws tame our base instincts, rendering each person in control of his desires so his mind might lead him, not his impulses. And laws prohibiting Lashon Hara (character assasination) teach man of his need to feel superior, and to obliterate it. We are equals. All Jews. All mankind. We must be equal..we all descend from the first couple.

The bottom line: Judaism is equally a creation as are the cosmos. Both systems reflect the deep wisdom of the same, one and only Creator. In both, we find a satisfaction in that wisdom. As Jews, we are bound to preserve this wisdom by rejecting the primitive actions witnessed this week, and for so many years. Preserving God's impressive wisdom in our actions is for our good, and for all other nations of the world, who God equally desires exist, and benefit. To preserve God's intelligent system, we must teach truths, and reject fallacy. We must follow reason, as taught by Moses.

We read Parshas Shoftim this Shabbos. This is a beckon call to leaders to act as you must. Rabbis, teachers and leaders must not remain silent. When you witness such primitive practices in the name (shame) of Judaism, your silence will be counted as sin, while you allow others to harm themselves, and allow God's name to be tarnished. "Do not fear man" (Deut. 1:17) so speak up, and do so often. Identify those practices and notions in the Jewish community that violate Torah ideals. You have proofs, reason and intelligence on your side, so you will have an easier time eliminating falsehoods, than those wishing to perpetuate nonsense.

We know what Torah is: God's words. But what we hear notions not found in God's words, we know such notions are not at all part Judaism...certainly when such notions violate laws against superstitions, voodoo, and praying to the dead. Do not be impressed with man, what he says or what he does; whether his title is "Rabbi", his position, or his far-reaching reputation. Do not care at all or be even slightly impressed by how many others follow him, or if he wrote books. For many Rabbis have written books, many have large followings...and all have made mistakes. Some greater than others. Care only about what you know determines absolute truth: care about what God has written in His Torah over all else. 

God's Torah contains the punishment of death for certain violations. This is intended to insulate the Torah system from continued deviation. We must ensure that Judaism is preserved for all mankind. We must ensure that Judaism is presented as God intended. This requires us to openly condemn corruption, and corrupt Jews, as Maimonides teaches.