web analytics
June 30, 2015 / 13 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


An Eis La’asos – The Time is Ripe

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the former president of the Union of Reform Judaism, has argued that the reform movement should look to Orthodox Judaism for guidance. Harry Maryles argues that this provides an important kiruv opportunity.

An orthodox Jewish man argues with a reform Jewish woman wearing a prayer shawl at the Kotel.

An orthodox Jewish man argues with a reform Jewish woman wearing a prayer shawl at the Kotel.
Photo Credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90

I certainly have my issues with the Reform Movement. These issues are very serious and in many ways insurmountable. For an Orthodox Jew the idea that Mitzvos are optional is anathema. No matter how strongly one supports doing them – doing them is not an option as Reform Judaism sees them. They are an obligation. This is a major theological difference between us.

This very point is behind the prohibition issued by the great religious figures of the past – including the “Rav”- R’ Joseph B. Soloveitchik. We cannot be seen to in any way endorse such views by participating with them in theological matters. That is because it might be seen as some sort of Elu V’Elu endorsement of their views.

That said, I believe that Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, the former president of the Union of Reform Judaism (1996 – 2012) and I are kindred spirits. He has written an amazing op-ed in Ha’aretz that – with one or two exceptions – I could have written myself. In fact, I think any Orthodox rabbi could have written it.

If there was ever a time to engage with the Reform movement this is it. I believe we can do so in meaningful ways and still live up to the spirit of the prohibition to engage with them in theological matters.

Here is the thing. Thinkers like Rabbi Yoffie realize what Orthodoxy has realized from the very beginning: A Judaism devoid of Mitzvos is no Judaism at all. To achieve this, Rabbi Yaffie clearly looks to Orthodoxy for guidance. Based on past articles written by him, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

Rabbi Yoffie has now become the biggest advocate of Kiruv and Jewish education. Kiruv and education of his own Reform constituents! And he turns to us as the model for that. His ideas of how to preserve Judaism for the future are exactly the same as ours. From that op-ed:

Reform Jews have much to learn from the Orthodox when it comes to ritual mitzvoth…

Let’s educate, educate, educate—in ways that work. We know what works with our kids: Jewish camps and day schools, Jewish pre-schools and youth groups, and of course Israel trips. Let’s focus on the basics and avoid the trendy. The “Hebrew Charter School movement,” which teaches Hebrew language but not Judaism to Jews and non-Jews in schools that get some public funding, is the latest example of pouring millions of Jewish charitable dollars into an educational gimmick that will have zero impact on the Jewish future… Let’s move out of our cocoons and learn from Jewish approaches other than our own.

He even has some ideas about how to fund education. Ideas that I have myself suggested:

Let’s rethink our Jewish world. Our Jewish structures are tired; let’s redo them. And let’s begin with some big ideas from Abraham Foxman of the ADL. Foxman has proposed that we redirect much of the communal purse now raised here for Israel and, in partnership with Israel, send the money back to America for Jewish education. Assume we are talking of $500 million per year; that money means little to Israel but would matter a lot here. Everyone would be a winner: Imagine a joint Israeli-American Jewish campaign to strengthen Diaspora Judaism. Imagine a dramatic rise in scholarships for Jewish camps, youth groups, and day schools.

He also says that Orthodoxy could learn something from Reform Judaism in the sense of Tikun HaOlam. He may have a point. Just because ritual Mitzvos are indispensible to Judaism does not mean we ignore our Tikun HaOlam requirement. All too often we are so self centered that we forget that there are things in the world that need Tikun that do not directly affect us.

He closes with the following comment:

[L]et’s encourage rabbis of all streams to invite a rabbi from a different religious movement to lecture at their congregation and share thoughts that they will not like and may not know. Our community will be stronger for it.

This is where we may have differences of opinion. Because of the prohibition of participating with Reform rabbis on the same stage in matters theological, it would be impossible to invite a Reform rabbi to address a gathering of Orthodox Jews. While we lovingly accept every Reform Jew as full brothers, we do not accept their theology and cannot therefore even be seen as accepting it. That may seem unfair, but sometimes sticking to principles leaves us no choice.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “An Eis La’asos – The Time is Ripe”

  1. The opening staement is inaccurate, I do not suggest that we can or even should lift the ban on engagement with Reform on theological matters nshould be lifted. What I advocated is studying ways to reach out to them in this new climate without violating the ban. For example – accepting invitations to address them on observance. I do not in any way seek to have a theological dialogue with them.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Fortress Rachel (Rachel's Tomb)
Netanyahu Warns World Leaders to Take A Stand on Terrorism in Israel
Latest Blogs Stories
Tzvi Fishman at Cemetery of Mount of Olives

Going to Mt of Olives cemetery was like visiting Jurassic Park in a jeep with dinosaurs rampaging

An Israeli soldier evacuates Jews from their home in  Nevei Dekalim in 2005..

Hanan Porat z”l, teary-eyed said ” We returned to the Gush(Etzion)we shall return to the Gush(Katif)

Jewish Press blogger, Selena Chait

“Mispachology”: Theory you share a common link with someone you’ve never met or been in contact with

President Rivlin at a "shiva" call to family of terror victim Danny Gonen.

It seems that Pres. Rivlin has joined all other so-called Right politicians and now is trending Left

Dear Muslims, Happy Ramadan. It’s clear from the news that your people are having a “bang-up” month

The President was right, every Jew should have a gun. He just asked the wrong person about it.

Everybody knows that during Ramadan Arab Muslim terror attacks increase.

UN says Hamas tried to warn us of rocket attacks? I was here. Not once did those…I want to scream

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} The inevitable finally happened. Rabbi Avi Weiss has dispensed with his prior refusal to call his female ordainees ‘rabbis’.  I challenged him to stop dancing around that title with made up titles  (like Raba and Maharat) and he finally rose to the challenge. His motivation in not […]

How can you transform thinking to action? What are the mountains you need to climb to reach goals?

Let’s make these flotilla activists useful, by sending them to Syria.

It’s clear by all the Arabs that work&shop in Jewish stores they’re very happy to be part of Israel

A musical tribute on the anniversary of Israel’s singer/songwriter laureate Naomi Shemer’s passing.

The difference between the IDF and Hamas is the difference between Good and Evil

Existence requires meaning. Believing all random and without meaning is a horrible fate for mankind

If IDF troops couldn’t quash an Arab riot, a Druze manned jeep often was enough to disperse rioters

More Articles from Harry Maryles
YeshivatMaharatLogo_square

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah} The inevitable finally happened. Rabbi Avi Weiss has dispensed with his prior refusal to call his female ordainees ‘rabbis’.  I challenged him to stop dancing around that title with made up titles  (like Raba and Maharat) and he finally rose to the challenge. His motivation in not […]

hand-76738_640

Existence requires meaning. Believing all random and without meaning is a horrible fate for mankind

People see a healthy parochial school system vs an anemic public school system and draw conclusions

Anyone not fighting this extremism is at best misguided; at worst tacitly approving/aiding extremism

When a young man gets a job he’s broken from the mainstream Chareidi world, complicating his dating

World Jewry, regardless of haskafa, united in solidarity with the parents of the 3 teenagers: Achdus

HaModia’s list of the new government’s ministers omitted the women ministers’ first names: WHY?

Women equalizing with men in all areas of Judaism is anathema to the very idea of male/female roles.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/an-eis-laasos-the-time-is-ripe/2012/09/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: