web analytics
August 21, 2014 / 25 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Cold Shoulders And Cheeseburgers


Having received a number of comments regarding my Jan. 1 op-ed article “Its Time to Bring Back the Communal Cold Shoulder,” it’s apparent that I need to clarify my position.

I’ve often thought it would be exceedingly difficult to give out report cards for Jews that would accurately evaluate their adherence to the requirements of an observant Jewish life. For if one were to list all the requirements – all the mitzvos – on such a report card, the term “observant Jew” would take on a meaning somewhat different from what one might expect.

I can actually visualize a Jew who with every fiber of his being relates to, and acts upon, the needs of his fellow Jews and society as a whole but who is not shomer Shabbos achieving a better grade than one who attends hashkama minyan and studies Daf Yomi.

A number of years ago I was a delegate to the annual convention of the then-National Jewish Community Relations Council (now United Jewish Communities) in Washington on behalf of Chicago’s Federation. I was paired with a prominent couple from Chicago during our lobbying efforts on the Hill. As we walked around the Capitol building, stopping for a brief lunch, we began talking about Judaism. I was saddened when Mrs. X stated in an ever so matter-of-fact manner that she understood I didn’t consider her much of a Jew as she did not keep kosher or attend Sabbath services.

I was taken aback, as this was coming from an individual whose entire life had been dedicated to the Jewish people. She and her husband, then in their early 70s, were renowned for their outstanding philanthropy. They’d served on the boards and as officers of many national and indeed international Jewish organizations, played an important role in the American Jewish effort supporting the establishment of Israel, enjoyed a first-name relationship with several prime ministers of Israel, and fought on the front lines defending Jewish rights at home and abroad.

I considered those two warm and dear people exemplary Jews. I have no doubt their overall Jewish report card would be one in which they could take a great deal of pride.

For this woman, however, being religious only meant eating kosher, going to shul, etc. She found it hard to accept my response that many a so-called observant Jew would fall far short of her Jewish report card. She told me that at least her married daughter had taken upon herself a religious lifestyle, keeping kosher and observing Shabbos.

We are taught that the Decalogue is divided into two categories – commandments between man and God (ben adam laMakom) and between man and man (ben adam l’chavero). Commentators have noted that in fulfilling the commandments between man and man we fulfill, in a manner of speaking, those between man and God. For how can we truly serve God if we devaluate to the point of violation His preeminent creation – man?

Unfortunately, many of us in the frum community have for some time now devaluated the importance of the commandments between man and man.

To better appreciate that statement, imagine for a moment that I and another person enter a McDonald’s located in or nearby an observant community – both of us with full beards and wearing black hats, long black coats, and tzitzis out for all to see – and that we seat ourselves near the front window to chow down on a Big Mac.

How long would it take for word to spread that Rabbi Lefkowitz was seen eating treif? How long do you expect it would take for Orthodox Jews to turn their backs on me, to give me the “communal cold shoulder” and demand my removal from the pulpit?

And there lies the conundrum. The activities to which I was referring in my Jan. 1 op-ed are illegal and immoral deeds that hurt others (violations of the commandments between man and man), as opposed to, say, consuming a cheeseburger (for all intents and purposes a violation of a commandment between man and God).

Now it becomes clearer, no? Violations of commandments between man and man seem to evoke little moral indignation in the frum community – certainly not nearly as much indignation as would the report of an Orthodox Jew eating a cheeseburger.

Orthodox Jews all too often transgress the most basic of the ben adam l’chavero mitzvos, leading one to wonder what shortcoming exists in the frum world that allows for such behavior to be so routinely perpetrated – and so casually explained away or dismissed by others.

Why are we so quick to express outrage and give the cold shoulder to a frum Jew for devouring a cheeseburger while we react with such relative equanimity to horrific violations of communal and societal standards by those who would never dream of eating a Big Mac?

There is something fundamentally wrong with this picture.

About the Author: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz is the rav of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation in Chicago. During his 43 years in the rabbinate he has led congregations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom and served as an officer, Executive Committee member and chair of the Legislative Committee of the Chicago Rabbinical Council.


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.

No Responses to “Cold Shoulders And Cheeseburgers”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
An IDF patrol along the Gaza border.
Ground Op on Horizon with Emergency Orders to 10,000 IDF Reservists
Latest Indepth Stories
Charles Krauthammer

Wye would be seen to have set the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state

David_Grossman

Blaming Israel for the violence in Gaza, he ends up justifying Hamas’s terrorism.

488px-WielkaSynagoga3_Lodz

In the Thirties it was common for anti-Semites to call on Jews to “go to Palestine!”

Netanyahu-Obama-030212

Obama never hid his contempt for the Israeli government or the majority of Israel’s voters.

“This arbitrary ban is an ugly stain on our democracy, and it also undermines the rule of law.”

We take US “aid” for psychological reasons-if we have an allowance, that means we have a father.

ZIM Piraeus isn’t Israeli-owned or flagged, incidentally, it is Greek operated.

Foolish me, thinking the goals were the destruction of Hamas thereby giving peace a real chance.

The free-spirted lifestyle didn’t hold your interest; the needs of your people did.

And why would the U.S. align itself on these issues with Turkey and Qatar, longtime advocates of Hamas’s interests?

Several years ago the city concluded that the metzitzah b’peh procedure created unacceptable risks for newborns in terms of the transmission of neo-natal herpes through contact with a mohel carrying the herpes virus.

The world wars caused unimaginable anguish for the Jews but God also scripted a great glory for our people.

We were quite disappointed with many of the points the secretary-general offered in response.

Judging by history, every time Hamas rebuilds their infrastructure, they are stronger than before.

His father asked him to read Psalms from the Book of Tehilim every day.

More Articles from Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, died recently. The other day I saw a clip of him singing “Amazing Grace.” The sincerity in his voice was unmistakable. And why not? That hymn is his only saving grace. For Byrd found his faith in the Baptist church, which teaches that all sin can be washed away “in the blood of Christ.” It is divine grace and not good works that rights the wrongs perpetrated against one’s fellow human beings.

Having received a number of comments regarding my Jan. 1 op-ed article “Its Time to Bring Back the Communal Cold Shoulder,” it’s apparent that I need to clarify my position.

In 1890, William Blackstone organized a conference in Chicago of Christians and Jews to respond to the pogroms then occurring in Russia. The group unanimously passed a resolution urging world leaders “to stay the hand of cruelty from these time-honored People which have given them as well as us our Bible, our religion, and our knowledge of God.”

Born a few years prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, I still feel the thrill of its emergence on the stage of nations.

    Latest Poll

    Do you think the FAA ban on US flights to Israel is political?






    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/cold-shoulders-and-cheeseburgers/2010/01/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: