Vladimir Minkov

Intellectual Judaism: Not obedience and fear, but understanding and appreciation

I assume many in Christianity, and even in Islam, may prefer the relationships with God based not on obedience and fear but rather on understanding and appreciation (Intellectual Christianity or Intellectual Islam) as well, but I am a Jew and therefore I am writing about what I know and live by, and that is Intellectual Judaism.

Intellectual Judaism is not a branch of the religion of Judaism. Intellectual Judaism is not competing with the Torah observant branches of Judaism where the relationships with God are based on the obedience and fear while proclaiming the love. Intellectual Judaism is a way of reasoning that lets a person apply the Torah-guided moral decisions to personal unique – social, political, economic, scientific, business, etc. – life circumstances based on the understanding and appreciation of God’s moral guidance.

To understand why Intellectual Judaism is very important for our spiritual survival we have to go back to the very beginning.

The very beginning is when our world was created – as the Torah/Bible says, in the Six Days with the humans created in the Last Day. What is fundamentally crucial here that the humans were created not like everything else before them – only they were created in “the image and likeness of who created them,” and that is the Supreme Power called God.

What is the image of God? The Torah/Bible describes two fundamental traits if the God’s image – God is the “unique individual” and the “unique creator.”

If it so, each of us is created not as a member of the herd of advanced animals – everybody is created as a unique individual creator. A human is not an improved animal created by the Darwin’s Evolution – a human was “designed” in a completely different way as a unique individual creator. The humans are acting not only to satisfy their physical survival needs in “the image of animals” but to satisfy their spiritual survival in “the image of God.”

The science and philosophy define how the humans differ from the animals mostly the Torah/Bible’s way of course without referring to God.

At the very beginning the humans had begun to act creating the spiritual and material wealth. The creative work is a competitive one with the winners and losers. At the very beginning who are the winners and the losers were decided by the military-style fighting – the physically stronger people with better weapons of those times were the winners, and the losers were killed or enslaved.

God the Creator realized the killings was not what He had in mind creating the humans, and He decided to change it by providing the humans with the mandatory morality rules for everybody that would let the humans peacefully identify the winners and the losers. And those mandatory morality rules were delivered to the humans in the Torah (the Bible) on the Mount Sinai through the Jewish tribe and its spiritual leader Moses.

Those who do not believe in One God and the Torah/Bible may consider the Jewish tribe as one of the human tribes which had decided to take upon itself the task of providing the others with the concept for finding the winners/losers the peaceful way.

As with any fundamental concept, the concept of the Torah/Bible morality for everybody had to be tailored – tailored for various individual life circumstances. The task of the tailoring was performed by those who were best capable to reason, to evaluate, to find out the best way of connecting the unchangeable morality rules of the Torah/Bible to changeable tribal life circumstances.

Nowadays these people are called the intellectuals.

The Jewish intellectuals who were called in the Biblical times the rabbis/sages had tailored the Torah guidance to the life circumstances of the Jewish nation, and the results of this tailoring were codified as the religion of Judaism.

The Jewish and non-Jewish intellectuals called the priests/saints had tailored the Torah guidance to the life circumstances of the non-Jewish nations, and this tailoring was codified as the religion of Christianity.

At the beginning, there were not too many intellectuals who had enough time for reasoning, evaluating and researching (only the rabbis/sages had). The time of the vast majority of humans was consumed by creating the goods needed for mere physical survival – for these people the only way for following the God’s morality guidance was to follow the rabbis/sages interpretations that came down as the unquestionable obedience and the fear of being severely punished for disobedience.

With historic advances of science, technology and economics the more and more people were getting the free time for reasoning, evaluating and researching thus becoming the new intellectuals “created in the image and likeness of God” indeed capable to tailor the Torah/Bible morality guidance to their own unique life circumstances – not through the prism of obedience and fear but rather through the prism of understanding and appreciation.

Unfortunately, the spiritual leaders of Judaism (of all branches of Judaism) had not recognized this intellectual trend that made many Jews uncomfortable with the rituals and prayers in the synagogues that led to decreasing Jewish membership in the synagogues. And that is not good.

However, what is good, the Jews were not disengaged with the Torah-guided moral prescripts of Judaism, and therefore there is the hope that the Jews-Rabbis spiritual connections may be revived.

What to do? – To make our synagogues the home not only for traditional Torah-guided forms of worshipping but the home for Torah-guided reasoning in the search for the Jewish individual ways of making our world a better place everywhere “in the image and likeness of God.” To do all that, the rabbinical education and ordination should be modernized.

The Chief Rabbi of UK Marvis:
It is our responsibility to act is if we are teachers to the world…
Our comments on social media can make or break people.
The Gemara says ’If you teach somebody else’s children Torah it is attributed to you as if you made that person, as if you fashioned that person, created that person – meaning it is as if you are God! … On social media you are publishing something for the world to read, and those who internalize what they have read that message, who take notice of it and then who act upon it – one is responsible for that action. … There is therefore no limit to the extent of the impact we have on others. God forbid, it is possible through our words to break someone, but thankfully we can be just like God, to make someone into the great person that he or she can be.
That is what Intellectual Judaism is doing – helping the people to adjust the Torah guidance to unique individual life circumstances.

The core ideas of Intellectual Judaism could be found in the books at
And are advanced in the blog Intellectual Judaism at

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.
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