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Dr. Laura: Fair-Weather Jew

As Arnold Schwarzenegger scrambles to convince voters that he is more than a muscle-
man married to a Kennedy, he would do well to emphasize the realism of his Terminator films
over the surrealism of California politics. For implausible as it may seem, humankind has come
under attack by machines, just as depicted in his movies.

I used to believe terrorists were animals and monsters. But even ravenous beasts of the field have an instinct for self-preservation and a capacity for empathy and feeling. Arab terrorist
murderers possess no such instinct. They are entirely bereft of any trace of compassion,
sensitivity, pity, or even shame. In short, there is nothing human about them. They are killing
machines.

That Islam has created such inhuman Terminators is a filthy stain on the fabric of a once-great religion. If I were a Muslim I would weep for a faith, once lauded around the world for its civilizing influences, that has become a synonym for bloodthirstiness.

I revere Judaism because it will never condone the slaughter of innocents, whatever the provocation. Jews may take life only in the defense of life, never in revenge. Since Judaism is the ultimate safeguard of Jewish and Israeli morality, any assault upon its usefulness must be
vigorously rebutted.

Such censure arrived recently, from the least likely of sources. In her August 5 radio broadcast Dr. Laura Schlesinger, one of America’s most listened-to radio hosts and high-profile Orthodox Jews, publicly distanced herself from her adopted faith, claiming that she no longer found Judaism fulfilling.

She informed her 12 million listeners that while she still “considers” herself Jewish, “my
identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, etc., of the entity - that has ended.”

Of her conversion to Orthodox Judaism, Schlesinger said: “I felt that I was putting out a tremendous amount toward that mission, that end, and not feeling a return, not feeling connected, not feeling that inspired.”

But she really turned the knife when she praised Christians at the expense of Jews.

“By and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive. From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99 percent of it, or two of the nastiest letters I
have gotten in a long time. I guess that’s my point ? I don’t get much back. Not much warmth
coming back.”

She added that she was envious of the Christian faith, and hinted at embracing it.

“I have envied all my Christian friends who really, universally, deeply feel loved by G-d. They use the name Jesus when they refer to G-d… that was a mystery, being connected to G-d.
Time and time again” she was moved by listeners who wrote and described that they had “joined a church, felt loved by G-d, and that was my anchor.”

Dr. Laura’s repudiation of her Judaism ranks as some of the shallowest renunciations of personal faith in all human history. It is surely unworthy of America’s self-styled moral advocate.

Here is what shook Elie Wiesel’s faith, as discussed with bone-chilling emotion in Night:
“Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of
smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith
forever. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my G-d and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.”

Had Dr. Laura witnessed such horrors, I could be sympathetic to her abandonment of the G-d of Israel. Had she been Oriah Pass, whose baby daughter, Shalhevet, was shot dead by
a Palestinian sniper in Hebron, whose father was axed in the head by an Arab while walking to
pray, and whose twin sister, Orital, was stabbed outside the Machpela Cave, I could understand her feeling alienated from the Hebrew G-d.

But to give Judaism up for the shameful reason of not feeling sufficiently appreciated by the Jewish community?

Perhaps the good doctor, famous for telling people to stop whining and get on with their moral obligations, needs to be reminded that religion is not a popularity contest. L-rd knows, if failing to be embraced by the Jewish community is a criterion for abandoning Judaism, Moses should never have come down from Mount Sinai, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe should have moved
to his beloved Israel rather than organizing a global Jewish revival from a decrepit neighborhood in Brooklyn.

I have rarely received applause from the Jewish community for my work. But whether they love me or hate me, my people are my people, and my Jewish faith is the soul of my existence.

Could one imagine Mikhail Gorbachev, who garnered less than one percent of the vote when for the last time he ran for president of Russia, announcing that he is becoming an American because he feels more loved in New York than Moscow? And would anyone respect him if he did?

But there is the larger question: Dr. Laura’s implying that Christians have a more intimate
relationship with G-d than Jews. I suppose that, on the one hand, she is right. Christians get to
visualize a human god – flowing blond locks and all – who once walked the earth and can
appear to them in flowing robes at any moment. Likewise, Jesus is so much less complicated
than the Jewish G-d, promising a place in eternity through a simple act of faith rather than the
much more demanding life of righteousness that the G-d of Isaiah decrees.

But for all my admiration of Christianity, I would rather rot in hell than go to a heaven I
hadn’t earned. How special could heaven be if one attained it through belief unmatched by moral courage?

We’re sorry, Dr. Laura, if Judaism didn’t always make you feel spiritual and fulfilled. You see, we Jews conceive of religion as challenging rather than calming, soul-searing rather than soothing. Judaism demands that we fight our illicit passions, end hunger by giving up our hard-earned cash, and refrain from gossip, no matter how good it feels.

To be a Jew is to pray three times a day even when it bores you to death, to starve in cities
where there is no kosher food, and to go into the army to defend your tiny homeland even while American kids your age are partying in Cancun.

And for all that, your reward is to be hated by the other nations of the earth just for wanting to live.

So why do we do it? For the simple opportunity to walk with G-d, as Abraham did; brave
tyranny, like Moses; and sing to G-d with harp and lyre, like David. These are privileges not to be squandered simply because we don’t always feel all giddy inside. Even the most secular Jews have been prepared to be tortured and killed rather than be separated from so glorious a heritage.

Yes, we forlorn Jews have been saddled by a very exacting faith. It is a religion that demands the effacement of our egos and making G-d the center of our Universe, even if we are not always rewarded with a feeling of His benevolent presence and sometimes even feel positively abandoned by Him. It is a religion that promises no guaranteed rewards other than the satisfaction of doing right because it is right.

The late Yeshayahu Leibovitz pointed out that the quintessential symbol of Christianity is
Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of mankind, indicating that G-d serves the purposes of
humans. But Judaism’s quintessential symbol is Abraham prepared to slaughter his son, Isaac, by G-d’s command. Man is created to serve the purposes of G-d, and not the reverse. G-d is not a drug by which we get high.

Fair weather Jews like Dr. Laura and my well-meaning Jewish Buddhist friends often opt out of Judaism because they feel more spiritual in rapture with Christ or chanting a mantra
accompanied by the sweet smell of incense. Judaism’s rewards are far more subtle and don’t
usually appeal to our inner narcissist.

Over the years Dr. Laura has advised thousands of women to divorce only in the case of
the three “A’s” (adultery, abuse, alcoholism). What will they think now that she has essentially
said: If you don’t find your religion very fulfilling, well, then, just dump it and try another?

Met with the ferocious challenge of assimilation on the one hand and dead Jews on buses
on the other, the Jewish people today is in need not of whiners and complainers, but of heroes, bold men and women who can rise to the challenge of renewing Jewish commitment in every age.

Before she turns her back, I would encourage Dr. Laura to reread the words of Moses: “For [G-d's law] is not something empty from you,” with the famous talmudic commentary: “If it is empty, it is from you.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally-syndicated radio host on the Talk America Radio
Network and a best-selling author. His latest book is ‘The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age.’

About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


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