I grew up in South Africa in a traditional Jewish community. The Judaism I grew up with was vibrant, amazing and attractive. It was true Judaism not hidden behind a resolve to fit into society, but rather anchored by G-d fearing leaders who understood and still understand that as Jews we are different. As we approach the festival of Passover, I continually think to myself how the exodus from Egypt was the foremost catalyst for the revelation at Mount Sinai, and that without the Exodus we perhaps would not have received the Torah. The exodus from Egypt was made possible because of Divine miracles and was the catalyst for a series of unnatural and divergent events that directly contradict any rational thinking. It is thus ok for us as Jews to accept the fact that we do not need to accept the views of contemporary society. Just because a majority of the world feels that something is right, does not mean that we need to accept it and alter the traditions of our people. Abraham was unique in that he completely rejected the views of contemporary society and accepted the belief in G-d. When the entire world was against his view, he stood up for the truth and the world followed.
Judaism in the contemporary seems to be moving backwards, and rather then leading forward, Jews are assimilating. The Pew Research center survey is telling us a few home truths. It is telling us that unless we embrace Torah Judaism we have absolutely nothing to complain about. It is telling our Jewish leaders to stop fighting for every conservative or liberal social agenda, and start fighting for Torah Judaism. The only way to reverse Pew is for us to start being Jewish. We need to stop protesting in favor of behaviors that directly violate the core moral values of Judaism and start building solid Jewish foundation based on the teachings of our Torah.
It is with this understanding that I have come to the conclusion that I am not an Orthodox Jew. I keep Shabbat, eat kosher, pray with 10 men, and live a life governed by the Torah. I am not an orthodox Jew because I am a Torah observant Jew. Orthodox is not even a Jewish word, it is a Greek word. In fact Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch is quoted as saying “It was not the ‘Orthodox’ Jews who introduced the word ‘orthodoxy’ into Jewish discussion. It was the modern ‘progressive’ Jews who first applied this name to ‘old’, ‘backward’ Jews as a derogatory term. “(Samson Raphael Hirsch, Religion Allied to Progress, in JMW. p. 198)
For the past few years I have been grappling with how to react to those in the American Jewish community who speak in the name of “Modern Orthodox” Judaism. I stood silent when one such rabbi publicly attacked the greatest Torah teachers of our generation. In my opinion it is time for Torah Judaism to reject the utilization of the word “Orthodox” and replace it with the word “Torah.” How about Torah Rabbi – Teacher of Torah. I think it is time for True Torah Judaism to hand the word ‘Orthodox’ back to the modern ‘progressive’ Jews and Greeks who first applied it. It is time for Torah Judaism to embrace marketing and market the truth to the world by placing Torah Judaism ahead of all the isms associated within our contemporary society.