Seeing the forest through the trees

I’m going to make this short and to the point. Sometimes the word of law does not match the intention behind the law. This is the universal problem in religion; not just in Judaism, in all religions. Watching Les Miserables this is all I could think about. One religious man follows the letter of the law and sees the world in black and white; the other breaks the law to do what he feels is right in his heart and sees the world in grey. Now, both are good people. That is not the argument I am making. What I am asking is it possible to follow the law so closely that you accidentally break a larger one.

There is one long-standing interpretation of the Abraham and Isaac story that states since Abraham followed God so faithfully and blindly without question, without consulting his wife, he ruined his communication with God. It known that this is the last time in the Torah God speaks to Abraham so the explanation goes: when it came to Sodom and Gomorra Abraham argued and bargained, but when it came to his own son he was overly obedient so God never spoke to Abraham again. Yes, the Torah teaches us to respect God, but it also teaches us to question and think for ourselves, even if it means questioning God. Abraham followed a smaller rule, breaking a larger one and as consequence severed his communication with God. Yet Abraham is still a great man.

This is the question I am raising. I know there are small rules that suggest women are don’t have the same privileges as men and that homosexuality is wrong, but one of the ten commandments is Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self. Religion teaches we are all created in God’s image. Are these not larger laws? Should we not question and argue with the smaller ones?

Judaism, as I know it, is about Tikkun Olum, leaving the world better than you found it. Without questioning and fighting how is it possible to improve our world. The world is imperfect, as are laws, because it is our job to love all people and better all people’s lives. Preventing two people from marriage is not love; it is simply following the letter of the law and loosing sight of the concept behind it. It is obedience. It is Abraham forgetting to question.

About the Author
Sarah is passionate about LGBTQ and feminist Jewish movements. She has spent time studying these topics throughout her undergraduate studies. Sarah first went to Israel on Taglit a year ago. Since then she has been interning for Birthright to help Jewish youth explore how they connect to Israel with their individual identities.
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