Micha Turtletaub
A Rabbi Who Shoots From the Hip

Post-Rabbinical Judaism

Picture taken from: My sisters, I hear you | Neshama Carlebach | The Blogs

Quite a number of people asked me after my last post – “What do you mean by the term“Post-Rabbinic Judaism.” This post hopefully answers that question.

There are many “Arks” for the Torah.

But the most important one to speak about today is the one fashioned by Rabban Yochanan Ben Zakai and the Men of the Great Assembly. Everything we know about Torah and Judaism was packaged for us to survive Exile by these men, without doubt the greatest assemblage of Torah luminaries the world has ever seen. And they did it so that we could survive as the Jewish People, and so we could fulfil the historical mission the Torah created for us. And they succeeded fantastically, more than any of us could have ever imagined, had we lived in their times.

But we do not live in their times.

In Our Time, we must go back to the Torah as it was before their vital work. We are off the respirator now, out of the iron lung. Is it high time to allow us outside, and in time, to allow us to walk in Torah, even run, without the training wheels of Rabbinic Judaism. To once again experience Sukkot like David HaMelech, to experience Tefilah like our Matriarch Chana.

If we do not return the experience of Judaism back to its roots, to a much freer and spontaneous spirituality, I am afraid what we call “Orthodoxy” will not survive. At least, I hope it does not. Because it is no fun to be an Orthodox Jew. I know. I used to be one.

The term “Orthodox” when referring to Jews was a pejorative term coined by early Reformed Rabbis in order to demean those who clung to the old, outdated, “Orthodox” ways. I do not agree with those Rabbis, and so, even when I was a card-carrying member of an Orthodox community I did not identify myself as “Orthodox.” I identified myself as “Torah Observant.” I am still Torah observant, and follow the Talmud. But not today’s Orthodoxy. Today’s Orthodoxy is far from Torah as it was meant to be practiced, in my opinion. If my opinion is indeed correct, that would mean that being “Orthodox” might actually lead a person away from God rather than towards Him. And I can prove it. And you will agree with me.

The purpose of Torah, according to all opinions, is to grow closer to God, to Hashem.

If one grows even a tiny bit towards Hashem, it is IMPOSSIBLE, simply impossible, not to feel joy. I look at a great Sage, even today, like the spiritual leader I knew when I studied Rabbinics back in the mid-nineties, and he is FULL OF JOY. It is almost impossible not be happy just being near him. There are quite literally many tens of thousands of people who love him, and follow him, and he is one of the greatest Torah scholars, Teaches and Halachic authorities of our generation. He is, I assume, very close to Hashem. And so, he, and those around him, are filled with joy.

And yet – let us now consider the vast majority of Orthodoxy. In your experience, dear reader, do you find that the stricter an individual is in their observance of Halacha, the “more mitzvot” they do, that they are more filled with joy? It does not seem that this is usually the case. In fact I have known many who use Halachic standards as a way to judge themselves and others. This is not the purpose of the Halacha. To judge another by their standard of observance is actually a perversion of Halacha, again, in my less than humble opinion.

So let us end this tirade against “Orthodoxy” by asking an unanswerable question, and then answering said question with a ridiculous oversimplification.

Question: When does a depressed person stop being depressed?

Answer: When they decide to stop being depressed.

And now apply the same to the Jews being in exile.

When will the Jews stop being in exile?

When they realise that more than 70 years ago, the Almighty stretched out His Hand after the Exile almost finally destroyed them, quickly rushed to gather them into the Land from all of the nations to which they had scattered, protected them many times with many miracles among many wars, and gave them all they needed to build a new Homeland, an excellent Homeland, in fulfilment of His Divine Promise to Abraham.

God doesn’t want anyone saying He doesn’t fulfil his promises, just as Rashi comments, numerous times. And of course, when Hashem feels we are ready, we will again have the Beit HaMikdash. And then of course, every Rabbi in the world will agree that our Halachic process will have to be overhauled. For example – no more mandatory “netilat yadim” before bread for non-Kohanim. That Rabbinic mitzvah is only so we don’t “forget” the laws of Tumah and Taharah for when the Temple is rebuilt. But if the Temple is indeed standing, we therefore would no longer require such a rabbinic mitzvah. But it is much more than netilat yadayim that will change. Everything will change.

But we cannot wait for the Jordanians to allow us to build a house of worship in our country before we revamp the unnecessary overcomplicating and wrong emphasis of Halachic practise. The Halachic process needs to be overhauled NOW. It is destroying lives, right and left, in the name of Hashem and Torah. I, for one, am quite certain Hashem Himself doest not desire this.

Personally, I agree with Him. I live in this country and do not want to see it destroyed. There are many threats, but as the current climate of hatred that exists between the secular and the religious is one of the greatest threats, I again address it in this blog, and furthermore – I promise to keep addressing this issue until I run out of ideas or we have peace. If you hate my blog – good on ya. Make peace, I’ll stop writing.

About the Author
I am currently writing a book entitled "My Sword and My Bow," which contains my essential approach towards living a Torah life, and covers topics as wide ranging as why Jews belong to the Land of Israel, how learning breathing techniques can help make prayer meaningful, to gender-related issues, to issues of death, suicide, and the afterlife... to simply how to have a happy life, and what I believe God wants from us. I hope you will enjoy this book. Support for my work can be offered by visiting my Kofi-com page or my Patreon page. Your support is greatly appreciated. I grew up in Los Angeles in the late 70's. I was playing instruments by the age of six, but at the age of 12 began playing bass in a local rock band. Fast forward years later, and the rock and roll scene in Los Angeles had become almost frightening to me. I saw things that convinced me that I no longer wanted to become a "rock star." I began exploring spirituality. A year later, I "returned" to Judaism, and began studying Torah at YULA high school under Rabbi Moshe Meiselman, shlita. After years of advanced Yeshiva study in Toras Moshe and Mir, Jerusalem, I decided to attend American Jewish University in Los Angeles, completing a BA in Literature and an MA in Rabbinic Literature. Upon graduation, I returned to Israel, and completed Semicha under the tutelage of Rav Yitzchok Berkovits, shlita. I worked as a "teaching" Rabbi for almost twenty years, until I made Aliyah in 2013. There are thank God enough Rabbi's in Israel! Most recently I worked as a writer in the Donor Relations department of United Hatzalah in Jerusalem. These days I make my living as a writer and musician, and of course, selling musical instruments at amazing discounts... shipped straight from the US to your home in Israel via my musical concierge service, JetMet Entertainment. Just google it.
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