Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Genuine Religious Jews

Jews inspired by genuine Divine afflatus do not engage overmuch in ceremonies, nor do they speak in clichés, quoting others verbatim by rote.

They are not overly punctilious and scrupulous about ritual purity and they do not carry out formulaic actions obsessively-compulsively.

They do not care a whit about their own salvation and nothing they do is for the sake of ensuring an eternal place of rest and joy for themselves.

They act in, rather than speak of, love.

They do not wax pontifical or esoteric. They concern themselves with the needs of human beings qua human beings.

They do not sacrifice the material levels of our beings for the sake of the "spiritual" levels.

They do not profit from the encouraging and teaching of others to observe ritual.

They do not claim immaculate morality on the part of their teachers; neither do they claim that they their tradition or their teachers are infallible.

They do not set themselves up and judge and jury over humankind.

The only abomination they recognize is injustice and the misuse of power.

They need no social acceptance or group to be part to know what they should do or give them a sense of identity. They are strong enough to stand alone, all alone, if need be.

Their every action, the very purpose of their lives and their entire being is given over to the alleviation of the suffering of humankind.

Injustice is intolerable to them and they fight for justice for all no matter what the personal price they must pay for it.

Gustav Landauer, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Saul Alinsky, Martin Buber and Murray Bookchin were religious Jews. They carried within them the whole of Torah. The received and passed on the torch of the Prophets of Israel. This was true despite the protestations of some of them that they were atheists. It is recorded of Emma Goldman, the self-professed atheist Anarchist, that: "A rabbi who heard her lecture a large conference of clergymen on atheism probably came closer than the public to understanding her antireligious stand. "In spite of al Miss Goldman has said against religion", he announced, "she is the most religious person I know." (RED EMMA SPEAKS, An Emma Goldman Reader, Compiled and Edited by Alex Kates Shulman, Preface to Part Two; Published 1998 by Humanity Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books)

It is certainly be true that some Jews who adhere to the minutiae of Jewish Law may be true Orthodox Jews, but this is true if and only if they do so in addition to devoting their entire lives to the amelioration of the human condition and the alleviation of human suffering. Their performance of the minutiae of Jewish Law is not that which defines them at genuine Orthodox Jews. That is a mere appurtenance. Their devotion to justice is that which defines them as genuine Orthodox Jews.

Those who teach Jewish Law in such a way that it comes in lieu of acting in the world for the betterment of human kind; if it obviates doing so; if it becomes so all-demanding, time-consuming and burdensome that there is no strength or time for fighting injustice; if the observance of Jewish Law imparts the illusion of being absolutely right and just; if it attenuates the desire to right wrongs or puts off the doing so for the Mashiach to take care of; if it brings one to believe that each of us has only to tend to our own imperfections – then we may be entirely sure that what we have is not Judaism at all, but an ersatz, painstakingly deliberately fabricated and purposefully promulgated in order to confound us, to keep our energies invested in that which will avail nothing and deflect us from our duties by nefarious interests.

A great deal of money, ink and blood is being poured in order to keep Jews distracted from our true purpose and our true values. This is as true of the religious segments of our society as it is of the secular segments. The only difference is the methods being employed in order to dissipate our energies.

History has proven that Jews who are devoted to justice en masse are invincible. It is then that HaShem performs miracles for us.

Every effort is being made, in the religious and secular worlds alike, to prevent us from knowing who we truly are, what our purpose in creation is, from mobilizing in unison, reaching a critical mass of power and changing the course of the world. We can do it. We have done so before. If we were not capable of changing the world, so much investment would not be being invested in atomizing us and reducing our strength.

Do not be fooled. Do not be misled. Do not be bought. Do not be enthralled. Do not be enticed. Do not be led astray.

We Jews were put here for the sake of participating in the creation of a just world with every other and for every other sentient being.

Let nothing, but nothing, be it pseudo-religious principles or iPods and other things that go beep in the night steer you away from what you are and what your designated tasks are.

The Hebrew version of this essay is to be found on the following URL: http://tinyurl.com/yfnud6

Doreen Ellen Bell-Dotan, Tzfat, Israel

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