Suppose a lecturer in medical school taught that the most effective treatment to cure a disease was to remove the patient’s heart. Obviously, you couldn’t call this person a professor of medicine. Similarly, if a reform “rabbi” teaches that a Jew doesn’t have to follow the commandments of the Torah, obviously he isn’t a real rabbi.
I was going to write about the poisonous decision of the Attorney General of Israel to force the government to pay salaries to imposters who pretend to be rabbis. But why listen to me when you can get the explanation from the world’s first and best blogger of all time – Rabbi Meir Kahane, of blessed memory, may the Almighty avenge his murder.
Of course, his thirty-year column in The Jewish Press wasn’t called a blog back then. Since its establishment, The Jewish Press hasn’t simply reported the news like other newspapers, week after week, The Jewish Press made the news. I wrote about the important role which The Jewish Press played in the initial success of the Volunteers for Israel/Sarel, and in helping free the “Jewish Underground.” With holy boldness, The Jewish Press has led scores of campaigns on behalf of the Jewish People and Israel. But, perhaps more than anything else, The Jewish Press has been a beacon of Torah to millions of Jews, and perhaps the greatest light of all came from the pen of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who spoke the truth and nothing but the truth about Judaism and the Jewish People for 30 years in the pages of the Press.
As Book Week begins, it is only fitting that we dedicate a series of blogs to the incomparable writings and books of Rav Kahane. This essay, “A Letter to a Reform Jew,” which first appeared in The Jewish Press, has been reprinted in an incredible set of seven volumes, Beyond Words, a collection of articles written by one of the greatest Jewish leaders of our time. These books belong in every Jewish library and in every Jewish home. Rabbi Kahane’s insights into Judaism and Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora are as fresh and true for today as they were when he wrote them. In upcoming blogs, we will speak more about the Rabbi and dig through the archives of The Jewish Press to republish some more of his mindblogging writings. First, in answer to the latest issue of the day, “A Letter to a Reform Jew” …
From Rabbi Meir Kahane
My dear Brother/Sister Jew,
This letter is long overdue and for that I apologize. But its lateness is compensated for, I hope, by my love for you and for all those who describe themselves as “Reform Jews,” a love that motivates the letter and that permeates its every word. In short, it would not have been written did I not care for you as my brother/sister. And, most important, it is written as a cry to you to help prevent the greatest of all tragedies: the permanent division of the Jewish people into two camps, separate and forever apart. And so, I beg you to have the patience and courage to read this letter fully, and think it over carefully.
Let me preface my message by saying that I really do not want to refer to you as “Reform.” I really believe that there is no such thing as a “Reform Jew,” (can you really give me a positive definition of this, that goes beyond the anarchy of “a Jew who decides for himself what Jewish laws, customs or idiosyncrasies he will observe?) No, there are no Reform Jews, there are only Reform rabbis and temples; and that is the crux of my words to you.
It is, one might argue, a personal choice that one makes when he decides to abandon the traditions of Judaism (that which you call “Orthodoxy,” another word I abhor). The personal decision of a Jew to cease observing the Sabbath or eating kosher food or adhering to the rituals of the commandments is a source of great sorrow but it is, hopefully, not a national or, certainly, not a permanent tragedy. For on the one hand, this is a personal decision that in no way directly affects other Jews, and, on the other hand, it is a thing that is reversible, that can be changed through personal decision to return to the ways of Torah. In a word, the desecration of the Sabbath this week, by an individual, can, hopefully, be turned into observance next week and the damage repaired. And so, until a certain point in modern Jewish history, the growth of Reform was sad but not necessarily a national tragedy.