כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Friday, February 9, 2018

Rabbi Cardozo's Questionable Affection for Secular Jews

In his latest essay coined The Enduring Preciousness of the Secular Jew, Rabbi Cardozo speaks of the need for "unconditional love and respect for fellow Jews, whatever their background or beliefs".

This is a refreshing voice coming from the orthodox camp, even though we probably should define Rabbi Cardozo as left-wing modern orthodox.
When observing even those who are fully committed to helping fellow Jews find their way back to Judaism, we see an attitude that is foreign to religious life and thought. We cannot escape the impression that some people, without denying their love for their fellow Jews, tend to talk down to secular Jews. This has become the norm. Constant emphasis is placed on the need to fix the secular person’s mistaken lifestyle. No doubt such an attitude is born out of love, but it lays the foundation for infinite trouble. It is built on arrogance.
While religious Jews are seen as the ideal, they turn secular Jews into second-class members of the Jewish people. It is they who need to repent for their mistaken ways. Such an attitude is built on notions of disparity and lack of affinity. The secular Jew will always feel inferior. As such, the point of departure from which one reaches out to bring fellow Jews closer to Judaism is its undoing. The suggestion that “one should throw oneself into a burning furnace rather than insult another person publicly” (Berachot 43b) may very well apply, since it is the community of secular Jews that is being disparaged and treated as inferior. 
I agree. Kiruv people tend to think they are superior to secular Jews because they are so convinced of their secular lifestyle and that should change.

Revisiting unconditional love
I already mentioned unconditional love for children in my previous post Loving an OTD Child.

However, instead of appealing to unconditional brotherly love, Rabbi Cardozo frames it in such a way that, again, it's all about turning secular Jews into observant Jews. He continues:
For people to bring their fellow Jews back to Judaism there is a need to celebrate the mitzvot that secular Jews have been observing all or part of their lives, not to condemn their failure to observe some others. Only on the basis of sharing mitzvot will an authentic way be found to bring Jews back home.
The foundation should be humility, not arrogance. There is little doubt that secular Jews, consciously or unconsciously, keep a large number of commandments. Many of them may not be in the form of rituals, but there is massive evidence pointing to secular Jews’ commitment to keeping interpersonal mitzvot. Beneath the divisiveness of traditional commitment lie underpinnings of religion such as compassion, humility, awe, and even faith. Different are the pledges, but equal are the devotions. It may quite well be that the meeting of minds is lacking between religious and non-religious Jews, but their spirits touch. Who will deny that secular Jews have a sense of mystery, forgiveness, beauty, and gentleness? How many of them do not have inner faith that God cares? And how many will not show great contempt for fraud or double standards? Each of these is the deepest of religious values.
This not only calls for a celebration but may well become an inspiration for religious Jews – not just by honoring secular Jews for keeping these mitzvot, but by renewing these and other good deeds themselves. There is a need to make the non-observant Jews aware of the fact that they are much more religious than they may know. To have them realize that God’s light often shines on their faces just as much if not more than on the faces of religious Jews.
Just as non-religious Jews need to prove that they are worthy of being friends with religious Jews, so too must religious Jews be worthy of the friendship of their secular fellow Jews. It would be a most welcome undertaking if the religious would call on their secular fellow Jews for guidance in mitzvot that demand their own greater commitment.
There is a significant need for calling Jews back to their roots by showing them that they never left. Once religious Jews learn that secular Jews are their equals, not their inferiors, a return to Judaism on equal terms will come about.
It's all about letting them return to the fold. Not about unconditional love and brotherhood.

Now how again should secular Jews not feel inferior?!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Loving an OTD Child

Rabbi Eliyahu Safran published a worthy article yesterday in the Jewish Press on about how Rav Shteinman treated OTD children. I quote the following:
A father approached the gadol hador, known for his wisdom, insight, deep sensitivity, and understanding. The father was fervent in his faith and love for the Jewish people, so much so that he was adamant that if his child did not follow the “right” path he would sooner see him dead.
Would the great rav, recognizing the father’s love of Torah and Hashem, praise the father for this level of piety? No. The gadol saw only a bitter, judgmental man embarrassed and disgusted by his child. The rav made clear that such a father was not expressing sacrifice but was contemplating murder, for his motives were selfish, cruel, and callous.
The gadol hador counseled, “The child must be made to believe that his parents truly love him and that it hurts them to see their beloved child lose out on a life of real happiness.” Such love, the gadol taught, would create the potential for the child to return to the right path.
Now, this already can be called progress. Too many communities consider OTD children an oisvurf (outcast), worthy of shunning. Too many parents find their child disgusting because they see in them the antithesis of their beliefs, evil incarnated! Indeed, some parents would rather see their child die than to have to see their child go off the path. This is a direct result of the parents' warped haredi indoctrination where shidduchim are more important than the child's wellbeing.

That's why many OTD people considered Rav Shteinman as one of the good guys. He was not as firebrand as the others. In many circumstances he ridiculed misguided frumkeit. He was very adamant that schools should accept children to yeshivas. He was also more open to allow haredi males to serve in the army, allowing for the creation of the Nahal haredi ultra-orthodox IDF battalion. Dov Lipman, a haredi moderate, wrote a remarking obituary of Rav Shteinman in the The Jerusalem Post called Secular Israel should also miss Rav Shteinman.

Still, however praise worthy the Rabbi was, I have difficulty with the reason why he believed that the child should be shown love:
Rav Shteinman beseeched us to never close off a chance for return. He taught that love for our children keeps that chance alive.
The goal is not love but the love is a way to love bomb a child into becoming orthodox again. Does this really count as loving your child?

Similar sentiments can be found elsewhere, e.g. with Rabbi Uri Zohar, the legendary Israeli actor who became a baal teshuvah and became influential in the Jewish missionary movement:
“When a child comes home at four in the morning from the disco, give him some cake with a cup of coffee and a note saying, ‘We love you,'” he said.
“This will reassure him that you love him not because he is a tzaddik or because he davens or says brachos, but just because he exists. After he grows up and understands that everything around him is a bluff, he’ll return. Slowly at first, but he’ll be inside, at home, within the community.”
“If we throw a child out of the house chalilah, we deprive him of the chance to return,” he said. “Our job as parents is not to know when he’ll do teshuvah and return to the way of the Avos. Rather, the mitzvah of this generation is to accept with love and mercy those children who will return in the end. For deep within they know the truth. Therefore, in the end, they’ll return to their heavenly Father.”
No. Don't love your child because you hope to turn him into a clone of who you are.

Love your child because you are a parent. And your children depend on your unconditional love.