Unfortunately, that is the truth – the spiritual power of rabbis is waning, and that is detrimental to our own spiritual health and to fighting the growing anti-Semitism frequently called anti-Zionism. And that is bad for both Jews and Gentiles since it weakens the spiritual foundation of Judeo-Christian civilization.
That the spiritual power of rabbis has been waning could be seen for example from
In this publication the results of “spiritual” survey of American Jews is described that indicates that while a century ago only 7% of Jewish population considered themselves non-religious these days about one third of the Jews characterize themselves as non-religious. When a person is saying he/she is non-religious that means he/she is not affiliated with a synagogue or any other rabbinical institution and therefore is not guided by rabbis in deciding what is good and what in wrong in his/her personal and communal life.
Why is it so, why the rabbis’ spiritual influence is decreasing? I find an explanation in the life experience of my own family and of families of many religious and non-religious Jews I have discussed this issue with (here in the USA, in Israel and in Russia).
Until the end of 19th century, most Russian Jews lived in closed communities in almost complete isolation from the surrounding non-Jewish world. A rabbi there was a unique and only spiritual leader who instructed people on what is Good and what is Wrong in their lives. Those instructions were not too difficult to develop – the life in isolated Jewish communities was codified in many Halachic documents well studied in rabbinical education.
At the very end of 19th century, many Russian Jews began to immigrate to the USA where they found the flourishing Jewish life outside the isolated Jewish communities – they liked the new life and wanted to remain Jewish in this new life. However the rabbis – I mean the true orthodox rabbis who came from Russia as well – were not prepared to lead the Jews in the new world since the life in this world was not codified Halacha-wise. A new breed of rabbis – the reform rabbis – tried to fill the void but unsuccessfully – they just abandoned many fundamentals of Halacha instead of tailoring them to the need to build a Torah/Bible-based “better world” for the new-life conditions.
And the spiritual void was filled by non-Judeo-Christian leaders such as Atheists, Communists, Nazis, Buddhists, Social-justice fighters, Human-rights defenders, etc. who were defining a “better world” in their own non-Judeo-Christian way.
Below is a part of my conversation with a very knowledgeable and true orthodox Lubavicher rabbi which illustrates the current challenge of rabbinical leadership. That’s a part of the conversation related to how to fight anti-Semitism.
My own life experience and my studies of anti-Semitic talks have brought me to the following conclusions.
I find in the Torah the fundamental difference between the anti-Semites (anti-Jewish people) and the pro-Jewish people. According to the Torah, God created all people in His image and likeness – God created all people equal.
The pro-Jewish people adhere to this Torah concept and are trying to build God’s better world for everybody. The great majority of the Jews are – consciously (who have studied the Torah) or unconsciously (a sort of genetically) – in this group as well as many Christians.
The anti-Jewish people whom we called anti-Semites don’t believe in this God’s concept described in the Torah. They believe that all peoples are unequal, and their own people are better than the others. Therefore, they have to build a better world for their own people at the expense of other peoples. The Nazis were building a better world for the Arian German nation at the expense of Jews (annihilation), of Slavic peoples (slaves), etc. The Communists were building a better world for the non-wealthy people (the proletariat) at the expense of wealthy people (the capitalists). The Muslims are trying to build a better world only for Sharia-obeying people at the expense of all others. Some Christians are trying to restrict the entrance to God’s better world for everybody who doesn’t share their interpretation of the Bible. The Atheists are trying to build a better world for themselves at the expense of religious peoples.
The anti-Semites may despise each other but they are united in their desire to disparage the Jews and other pro-Jewish people who believe that God’s better world should be better for everybody since God created everybody as equals in His own likeness and image. Why the anti-Semites are trying to do this? – Because Torah-based Jewish ideas on building a better world for everybody are mighty Jewish road-blocks preventing all kinds of anti-Semites to build their own anti-God’s “better worlds”.
Among anti-Semites there is a sort of true anti-Semitic believers and there is only one way to restrict their assault on the Jews – by depicting them as an evil and creating legislative acts restraining them. …………. However it appears that the majority of anti-Semites are not the true believers in the evilness of the Jews but rather believers in the false information presented to them – on the Torah and the Jews as the Chosen – by the true anti-Semitic believers. The essence of this false information is that the Jews are building a better world only for themselves at the expense of all other peoples – and nobody (or almost nobody) presents to the would-be anti-Semites the true Torah-based information on what kind of God’s better world the Jews are trying to build for everybody.
I am trying to do something on my own – see for example
However, this fight with anti-Semitism would be much stronger if rabbinical authorities – with the authoritative knowledge of the mission of the Chosen – support it. Unfortunately that is not the case. Why rabbinical authorities hesitate to get involved?
I believe that the simple reason that Halachic authorities are less involved in such endeavours is not out of a disregard for their importance, rather because they are over consumed with internal issues that they are dealing with within the Jewish nation itself. Unfortunately, much effort is required in securing the continuity of the Jewish population and faith, and this seems to be the primary focus of most Rabbinic authorities these days.
I believe that if such a movement is spearheaded by those that have the know-how and determination, they will have the backing of leading Halachic authorities.
[Halachic authorities are trying to secure the continuity of the Jewish population and faith through elaborated Jewish education. However, that is a sort of half-education.]
This education teaches how to be Jewish in isolated Jewish enclaves – in synagogues, communities and families. However the Jewish majority spend most of their life time outside the isolated Jewish enclaves, and therefore they urgently need the second half of education – how to be proudly Jewish in the non-Jewish environment. And the first obstacle here is anti-Semitism: many Jews are afraid to demonstrate their Jewishness among Gentiles.
That’s why I believe the Jewish religious authorities have to get involved in proving that anti-Semitism is a confirmation that the Jews are successfully fulfilling their mission of the Chosen.
Most of the Jews I know are not disinterested in religion in general – they are disinterested in religion which is not helping them to live proudly Jewish wherever they live.
Our conversation continues …