The battle lines are drawn. Some Orthodox Rabbis say that we should try to bring reform Jews closer to Torah. Other Orthodox Rabbis relate to them like lepers out to destroy Judaism. If you want to know where I stand, I love reform Jews. First of all, many of them aren’t Jewish at all, and the Torah teaches us to love all people, even gentiles. Rabbi Kook writes:
“The heart must be filled with love for all: for all of Creation, for all mankind.
“Love must embrace every single individual, regardless of differences in views on religion, or differences of race, or country.
“Hatred may be directed only toward the evil and filth in the world. We must realize that the kernel of life, in its inherent light and holiness, never leaves the Divine Image in which mankind was created, and with which each person and nation is endowed” (Midot Ha’Riyah, Ahavah).
Certainly, if we should have a love for gentiles, we should love gentiles who think they are Jews.
For instance, I have a relative who divorced his Jewish wife and married a non-Jew, who had some kind of reform “conversion” which, of course, didn’t make her a Jew. They had a child, who, of course, wasn’t a Jew, but even though the child never had a Jewish education, his parents told him that he was a Jew. When he grew up, he married a Jewish girl, and they joined a reform congregation. Their children are Jews since the mother is Jewish. He became the president of his congregation, even though he is a gentile. America is loaded with mixed up situations like this.
Beyond the walls of the Orthodox world in America, it is becoming impossible to know who is Jewish and who is pretending, even though he or she believes it for real. Nonetheless, according to Rabbi Kook, even though this relative of mine isn’t Jewish, I should love him all the same. And even though his Jewish wife is a reform Jew, I should love her too. And that love should extend to their Jewish children as well, even though they are reform Jews.
The truth is, I love all Jews.
I love good Jews and I love bad Jews. I love fat Jews and I love skinny Jews. I love reform Jews and deformed Jews, progressive Jews and regressive Jews. I love assimilated Jews and Jews who have married gentiles. I love homosexual Jews and lesbian Jews. I love leftist Jews and Peace Now Jews. I love Jews who call me nasty names and Jews who say I’m a lousy writer. I even love Diaspora Jews. Some people say I’m too hard on them, but that’s because I love them so much.
If you see a blind man about to fall off a cliff, you yell out to warn him, right? What is this similar to? If a person who never heard about heart transplants wandered into the operating room of a hospital and saw a team of doctors removing the heart of a patient, he’d think they were monsters trying to kill him – but the very opposite is the case. The surgeons are trying to save him. It’s the same thing with me. Precisely out of the passionate love I feel for my brothers and sisters in exile, I try to open their eyes.
Since the Three Weeks are approaching when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, this is a good time to stir up the embers of the love we feel for our fellow Jews, even the reform Jews amongst us. Rabbi Kook taught that since the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred, it will be rebuilt by gratuitous love.
In truth, most reform Jews are people who don’t mean any harm. They never learned anything about real Judaism, so they don’t know better. They don’t observe the commandments, not out of spite, but because they don’t believe that the Torah was really given by G-d, or they don’t believe that religion should have laws, or for whatever other reason, how errant it may be.
The problem arises with the “professional” reform Jews who wage a campaign against real Judaism. They go out of their way to wage a war against the Orthodox world and its time-honored traditions. These are the reform Jews that are rightly seen as destroyers. But Rabbi Kook teaches that we should even love them – not for the evil in them, but for the good which exists in all people. He writes:
“Though our love for people must be all-inclusive, embracing the wicked as well, this in no way blunts our hatred for evil itself – on the contrary, it strengthens it. For it is not because of the dimension of evil clinging to a person that we include him in our love, but because of the good in him, which our love tells us is to be found in everyone. Since we separate the dimension of the good in him, in order to love him for it, our hatred for the evil becomes unwavering and absolute.
“It is proper to hate a corrupt person only for his defects, but insofar as he is endowed with a Divine Image, it is proper to love him.”
In other words, we can disagree with a reform Jew and even despise his opinions, but we should love him for his connection to the Jewish Nation. In the same light, the evil actions of a Jewish homosexual or child molester should be loathed as abominations, but the person himself should still be loved for the Divine Image he shares with the rest of mankind, and for his connection to Clal Yisrael (the Community of Israel). If, for instance, a Rabbi or an Israeli politician succumbs to an evil inclination and inner sickness of the soul that drives him to engage in sexual transgression, his evil actions should be despised, but this should not negate our love for the good that surely exists in him as well.
Rabbi Kook explains:
“The pious of the generation, lofty holy men, must disregard any deficiency or flaw in every Jewish soul that is in any way attached to the Rock from which it was hewn. Instead, they must strive to raise up the point of connection to Clal Yisrael that exists in every individual soul to its heights and exalted holiness. Nothing can diminish our unlimited love for the Nation, the source of our life, as it says: ‘He has not seen beheld iniquity in Yaacov, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel’” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah, 24).
So, as the period of the Three Weeks approaches, let’s try to love one another as much as we can, reform and Diaspora Jews included.Tzvi Fishman