Yisrael Rosenberg
Yisrael Rosenberg

The Jewish Nation at a Crossroads

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood …

– Robert Frost, “The Road Less Travelled”

Tisha B’Av, the holiday commemorating the destruction of the Great Temple that stood in ancient times at the summit of Mount Moriah, is behind us.

But it is not without irony that on the very day when tens of thousands of Jews sat on the ground at the foot of Mount Moriah, bewailing the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem – our brethren in Tel Aviv were demonstrating against the Government’s unwillingness to sanction surrogate motherhood services for male homosexual partners.

The local and international media are targeting the adoption of last week’s Jewish Nation-State Law, passed by a majority of the Knesset (parliament). They are busy interviewing a steady stream of Jews who opposed the bill, along with a smattering of Arabs, Druse, Circassians and others who feel left out of the now officially Jewish State.

And furthermore, tomorrow (Thursday) brings the annual March for Gay Pride to the hallowed streets of Jerusalem, the nation’s capital.

What exactly are we dealing with here?

The left-oriented mainstream media tells us of an inalienable human right to parenthood. It talks about an ever-expanding community, consisting of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. Even some groups of pedophiles are reportedly clamoring to be included in the list.

Support for these groups goes hand in hand with the values of pluralistic, progressive Judaism, as promoted by the German- and American-born streams of Judaism: the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements.

So where is the Jewish Community – in America, in Israel, and in the rest of the world – heading in light of the tectonic shifts in consciousness that have spread throughout Western societies? Part of the answer, of course, lies in how we Jews define ourselves as Jews.

Jews – Who Are We?

Having grown up in the bosom of first the Conservative, and then later, the Reform movements, I felt a keen need to understand: what is the difference between these movements and Orthodox Judaism?

I believe that the popular assertion that Orthodox Judaism is just one particular doctrine among presumed equals is inaccurate. Having taken on an Orthodox lifestyle since my late twenties, I have come to understand why the very word Orthodoxy means straight, or true, Judaism. Orthodox Judaism is – yes, I know it is painful for some to hear – AUTHENTIC Judaism.

Orthodox Judaism rests on thousands of years of traditional principles received from our ancestors as to how to understand the will of HaShem, and how best to go about performing that will. It’s not about ourselves. It’s focused on HaShem and what He has explicitly specified in the Torah that He wants His People to do: to be a Holy People in His eyes, through our learning and performing the Mitzvot (commandments) that he commanded us in the Torah.

And therein lies the difference between Orthodox Judaism and all the others. You see: Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism are not really about HaShem. Their focus is on doing what makes their adherents feel good about themselves. If there is a conflict between what Jewish tradition says is HaShem’s will, such as our guarding the Shabbat, and what so-called modern people want to do; the people’s will wins out over HaShem’s – hands down, every time.

Already over a hundred years ago, the non-Orthodox movements made the conscious choice to take their bat and ball and go home. They didn’t want to play by HaShem’s rules anymore. They wanted to make their OWN rules about Judaism so their lives would not conflict with the rules of the Torah as we received them thousands of years ago.

This does not mean that Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism have nothing to offer. Their involvement with the gentiles is critical and valuable for all of the Jewish Nation. When the time comes from the Jews to assume their ancient but new role as the Light of the Nations, understanding who the non-Jews are and what they need will be critical for the success of this enormous and untested enterprise.

At a Crossroads

The Jewish Nation collectively stands at a crossroads. We are being forced to make choices. What does Judaism mean to us in our modern world? Shall we work together to complete our ancient calling, doing the will of HaShem as we received it in the Torah so long ago? Or do we abandon that paradigm for something else?

In short: it comes down to what we said: Do we do HaShem’s will, or do we do what WE want, whatever makes us comfortable?

That is the question facing this generation of the Jewish People: in Israel, and in the Diaspora.

There is an idea that the Jewish Nation is intrinsically holy. HaShem didn’t choose us for a destiny that differs from all other nations for naught. He knows who we are, and where our ultimate loyalties lie. From the genetic and moral material we inherited from our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – we know where our bread is buttered, and we all have a hidden sixth-sense about what ultimately our true destiny is.

The Waiting Revolution

I see a revolution coming. I see the Nation of Israel throwing off the shackles of the assimilationist, God-free direction of our national life. I see the Nation becoming tired of living in exile, divorced from the Torah, whose breasts we have sucked for our real spiritual nourishment for over 3,000 years. I envision Jewish youth becoming sick to death of the crass consumerism, sexual license, drugs, and alcohol that anesthetizes them against feeling the emptiness of their lives; of homosexuality and its proven connection to promiscuity; of single-gender marriages and the heartless messing with the heads of a generation of hapless children.

At some point, either in the near or far future, the Jewish People will puke out the rotten food that we have been gorging ourselves on since the European Enlightenment, which, although good for humanity, at the same time drove a wedge between us and our Father Who is in Heaven. Only when we free ourselves of the -isms that have entrapped us for all these years, diverting us from our true destiny, can we take on our true role of ‘The Light of the Nations’.

It reminds me of a song from my long-gone youth: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, from the album “Tommy”, by the British rock band “The Who”. In the song, a crowd, realizing that they have been hoodwinked into buying into a culture that is false, begins its revolt, starting out with a whisper:

We’re not gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it
We’re not gonna take it

Eventually, as the revolt takes on momentum, the crowd shouts out:

We’re not gonna take it
Never did and never will
We’re not gonna take it
Gonna break it
Gonna shake it
Let’s forget it better still

The crowd is a metaphor for the entire Jewish People. We first became a Nation in the howling windstorms of the Sinai Desert. Then we made it into our Land, later suffering an extended-play Exile, where, towards the end, we nearly swallowed up by the lands of our captivity. Finally, we are making our way back to reclaim our birthright and our destiny, in our home in the Land of Israel. It is time to reinvent ourselves in the image that we were always meant to be.

And once we embark on this journey forward, we will never turn back. And the whole world will be better off for our collective self-actualization.

“On that day, HaShem will be One; and His Name – One” (Zechariah 14:9).

About the Author
Yisrael Rosenberg is a former New Englander who made aliyah 30 years ago. He lives with his wife and four children in Jerusalem.
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