Being Jewish without rabbis and synagogues?

I am not saying that rabbis and synagogues are not needed – what I am saying is that somebody can be truly Jewish following the intellectual spirit of the Torah without learning and performing the Talmud-based rituals.

Let me begin with a passage from “The Talmud Pays Little Attention to What Jews Believe, Yet Asks Them To Have Faith” by Adam Hirsch in

The paper says:

“Much of the Talmud, I’ve discovered in the year and a half since I began reading Daf Yomi, can be understood as a choreography of Jewish life. Just as a dancer must master an intricate series of movements and postures, so the Jew’s daily routine must follow the patterns laid out in the Talmudic tractates: when to pray, what to eat, where and how to move on Shabbat. Usually the follower of a religion is called a “believer,” but the Talmud pays little attention to what Jews believe. What concerns the rabbis is what they do, down to the smallest detail—for instance, which shoe ought to be put on first in the morning.”

I agree with this statement: rabbis in synagogues are teaching the Talmud-based choreography of being Jewish, and that is interesting and useful for those who like to be a submissive part of a larger single-minded tribe.

But what about a great number of Jewish individuals who don’t like to be choreographed, who are of inquiring individual minds, who like to be Jewish not in terms of the entirely choreographed life but rather in terms of making the world a better place for everybody, Jews and non-Jews, along the lines of the Torah-based Jewish mission as the Chosen? I believe those Jewish individuals can be truly Torah-based Jewish in a completely different way – the way of approaching the Torah guidance intellectually, not choreography-wise.

Intellectually, the Torah can be approached in the following way.

The Torah is the first known human document describing the creation of our world and us the humans in this world as well as the Creator Himself. As the Torah asserts, we the Jewish humans found God the Creator and had begun a conversation with Him. By initiating this conversation we had begun the process of discovering (a) how the world we live in was created and (b) what we the humans are supposed to do in this world.

What we are supposed to do in this world is defined in the Torah. The definition starts with a simple statement that the humans are created in the image of God. In accordance with the Torah, the image of God has the following fundamental traits: (a) God is Creator, (b) God is a unique individual, and (c) God is eternal. If it is so, we the humans have to be creators, have to be individuals and have to be eternal. As it is seen from these traits, we the humans were created not to be choreographed but rather to be individual eternal creators.

We the humans created religion and religious institution as a tool for discovery of what to create and how to do creative work. Unfortunately, many religious institutions have replaced the teachings of Torah-based creativity by Talmud-based choreography.

Every human is spiritually armed to search for his/her unique interpretation of being creative including his/her own individual interpretation of the Torah’s guidance. Unfortunately, many religious institutions replaced individualism by collectivism.

We the humans associate our being not just with our physical body but with our yet undefined souls as well. And our souls guide us to create things what are lasting far beyond our physical lives: our families, our communities, our buildings and technologies, our art and science, etc. The animals, even the most advanced and sophisticated of them, don’t do it – they are just surviving. Unfortunately, many religious institutions are concerned with every-day financial survival – not with spiritual eternity.

That’s why many contemporary intellectual Jews are trying to identify themselves as Jewish without being choreographed by rabbis in synagogues.

The Judeo-Christian world believes God handed out the Torah to the Jewish people with “Free Will” that encouraged Jews and non-Jews to tailor God’s life-journey guidance to different life conditions and traditions the humans may live in. And such free-will tailoring gave birth to numerous religious schools of thought competing with each other for discovering the true God’s guidance with all discoverers having their own definition of the “true”.

About two millenniums ago four major Jewish groups were competing for the “most truthful” interpretation of the Torah – Essenes, Sadduces, Pharisees and Zealots, and Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Humanistic Jews continue the competition these days.

Now Jewish intellectual individuals are competing with the others in the search for the “true” interpretation of the Torah-based God’s guidance in creating a better world for everybody. The diversity and complicity of contemporary life requires such individualized search, and the contemporary level of individual knowledge and education makes this search possible. And they are successful in making our world a better place for everybody as it is required by the mission of the Chosen.

Indeed, our world has become a better place due to the creative work of the Nobel Prize winners, and among them the Jewish individuals are in majority as seen in Chapter 6 of

Indeed, our world is becoming a better place due to the creative influence of State of Israel in the world events as could be seen at:

If some rabbis and synagogues are willing and capable to help the Jewish individual intellectuals in search for individual Torah-based guidance in the real, always changing God’s world – not in the world of almost unchangeable ritual choreography – that is great. If it is not the case, many Jews should and would discover how to be truly Jewish by their individual intellectual Torah interpretation without rabbis and synagogues. 

About the Author
Vladimir Minkov graduated from the Naval Engineering Academy in the former Soviet Union, served in the Soviet Navy and there received his Ph.D. At the end of 1970s he immigrated to America where democracy and the Judeo-Christian spirituality of this country made it possible for him to actively defend both his scientific and spiritual ideas. In the USA he has found the place for his scientific public work in the spiritual realm of One God and Torah.