Tel Aviv Gay Murders: A Rude Awakening

Just as there can be no substitute for a first hand witnessing of Ground Zero, where New York City’s World Trade Center once stood, walking past the gay and lesbian youth center on Tel Aviv’s Nachmani Street on Sunday evening brought home to me the true horror of what had happened there just the night before.

Amongst the grieving Tel Avivis and burning candles – in memory of Nir Katz, 26, a volunteer at the center, and Liz Trubeshi, just 16 (fifteen others were injured, four seriously) – were signs reading “Die le’homophobia” (Enough homophobia) and “Ahava loh sina” (Love not hate). They said it all.

Israelis comfort each other at the scene of Saturday's killings

Israelis comfort each other at the scene of Saturday night's killings

Outside the (mainly residential) building, I ran into Tzachi, a kiosk acquaintance. The front door of his apartment, he told me, is directly opposite the center, and on hearing the shots – of the lone, masked gunman – he loaded his gun in readiness. But he was too late. On exiting his apartment, Tzachi stumbled across two bodies, lying in pools of blood, in the building’s hallway.

I have been meaning to address the following question on melchett mike for some time now: what is it about homosexuality that so disturbs so many, otherwise reasonable, people? Actually, I will rephrase that: what is it about homosexual males that so disturbs so many, otherwise reasonable, heterosexual (ostensibly) males?

I have a few straight (ostensibly) male friends who recoil in disgust every time that they see other men holding hands or kissing (not uncommon sights in Tel Aviv). Another goes into a frenzy whenever he passes men’s clothes stores which he considers too camp. One doesn’t, I suppose, have to be a brilliant psychotherapist to come up with plausible explanations for such behavior.

But repressed, conflicted and/or closet homosexuals apart, why the hell should it bother anyone where some men like to stick their todgers (or take another’s)?

My religious cousin yesterday trotted out the “it’s unnatural” argument. I informed him that I had recently seen research indicating that over fifty percent of heterosexual couples either regularly indulge in or have experimented with – I don’t recall which (I didn’t take notes, but you get the point) – anal sex.

He retorted that, if everyone in the world was gay, it would signal the end of the human race. But not everyone in the world is gay. And what about single people, those with fertility problems, etc? Should we discriminate against them too?

It is interesting to note that male homophobes are, in general, not remotely disturbed by the sexual proclivities and activities of gay females. Especially not those of attractive ones. Very far from it, in fact.

Religious bigotry in Israel has certainly not helped the homosexual community. And unthinking chiloni (secular) Israelis have already pointed fingers of blame for Saturday’s attack at haredim (the ultra-Orthodox). Needless to say, that is totally wrong. It is far from inconceivable that a chiloni homophobe or just a plain nutter perpetrated the atrocity, or that it was the result of some internal dispute.

Conversely, kneejerk reactions that a haredi was unlikely to have carried it out are similarly unhelpful. Among the curious reasons provided in one particular comment to melchett mike were: “1. A haredi is recognizable with or without a mask. Beard, peyot, clothes, etc.  2. Most haredim neither have automatic rifles nor know how to use them.  3. Motzei shabbat [post-sabbath] seems an “unlikely” time for a haredi to act.  4. Where did he get the intelligence?”

It is as if, English football fan-like, many Israelis have chosen their side and will support it whatever. Such are the chasms in our society.

Anyway, another commenter to melchett mike, who opined that homosexuals are “just ill” and “halachically [according to Jewish law] should be put to death”, is merely modern, not ultra, Orthodox.

What this tragedy has brought home to me are the genuine dangers faced by Israel’s gay community (and others). Perhaps we should all be more careful in our discourse, even in our jesting, which otherwise may unwittingly create an atmosphere in which homophobic behaviour is tolerated. Whilst never having considered myself even remotely homophobic, perhaps I have not been overly sensitive to the gay community’s interests and concerns, recently penning a satirical post – Vot do you mean “gay” . . . like “happy”? (which is followed by the full gamut of commenters’ opinions) – on Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade.

On Saturday night, the purpose of, and need for, such public displays of solidarity and pride suddenly and shockingly became much, much clearer.

I am sure we all wish they hadn’t.

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137 responses to “Tel Aviv Gay Murders: A Rude Awakening

  1. Daniel Marks

    I was behind the “curious reasons provided in one particular comment to melchett mike” to cast doubt on the initial, seemingly definitive, judgment that orthodox Jews were behind the murder. Even there reason was known and this was all within minutes of the crime:

    “Terribly sad. The center is just two minutes’ walk away from my apartment. The ambulances woke me up.
    The dangers of halacha? Or just of some (many?) peoples’ warped interpretations of it (as seen in comments above)?
    When will we learn?”

    I simply, together with the Israeli police and most sane journalists cast doubts that the murder was committed by a haredi Jew, yes for the reasons mentioned above. I would be interested to know if there is anything irrational or factually erroneous about any of them.

    In the same postings I also clearly stated:

    1. I do not see myself to be a haredi Jew in any way shape or form.

    2. I am not sure that I’m right and it might end up being anybody, haredi, hiloni, Jew, Arab, Gay, Straight. We can all imagine reasons why any of these groups, or many other people might have done it, but I’d rather leave that to the police. They’re not all that clever, but they’re the only police we have.

    You do me a disservice to imply that I’ve chosen my side. While others on this blog were dehumanizing gays with snide comments and clever puns I took exception to it. Two months ago I posted:

    “…Incidentally, and I know that those who made all the gay jokes assumed they weren’t offending anyone, I didn’t find any of them funny enough to run that risk.”

    I do not claim to have been a prophet or even a dreamer of dreams but you don’t have to be either to see the dangers of bigotry.

    The catastrophe was just that and all that is left is to mourn our dead, but if we can all learn the peril of injudicious words and accusations then maybe we can give it some kind of meaning.

  2. Daniel, once again your seeming total misunderstanding of what I actually wrote leaves me totally flummoxed (perhaps you just failed to read it properly) . . .

    I posed the questions the following morning, not “within minutes of the crime” as you claim.

    And they were precisely that. Questions. Provocative maybe. But questions nonetheless. Hence the question marks. Unless that’s just what you wanted to do, how do you jump to interpreting them as “seemingly definitive judgment”?

    The “Israeli police and most sane journalists” that you mention warned of the dangers of reaching conclusions before the full facts are known. You, on the other hand, came up with four not merely “irrational”, but – if you will excuse me – totally preposterous ‘reasons’ why a haredi was unlikely to have committed the crime.

    Daniel, you are an intelligent guy. Do you really need me to take them apart one by one?

    That is why I wrote that you seem, like the chilonim on the other side, to have already “chosen [your] side”.

    Other than that, I sympathise with the sentiments in your comment.

  3. Daniel Marks

    It’s strange that one who makes a significant part of his salary, like myself, from teaching reading comprehension is so oft to misunderstand. It was in the context of the Middle East that Henry Kissinger once said, “Difficulties in negotiation do not occur because the parties misunderstand one another – difficulties arise because the parties understand each other all too well.”

    You make an interesting case for claiming that you “posed questions”:

    “The dangers of halacha? Or just of some (many?) peoples’ warped interpretations of it (as seen in comments above)?
    When will we learn?”

    There are four question marks but only one grammatical question, “When will we learn?”

    The paragraph, to the best of my understanding, presupposes that the murders were committed in the name of halachah, leaving the following two questions open:

    1. “The dangers of halacha? Or just of some (many?) peoples’…”
    Were there were “some” or “many” responsible?

    2. “When will we learn?”

    Assuming that the crime was committed by some or many in the name of halachah or a perversion of it, when will they (we) learn to stop (presumably either not to pervert halachah or not to kill innocent people in its name, or both).

    I know it seems like I’m being pedantic, and I apologize if it sounds a little wearisome but as I said earlier, I do believe that choosing our words carefully is the order of the day, today.

    May all our arguments be “Leshem Shamayim” like this one and may the tolerance and respect we all show each other be a fitting tribute to the tragically short lives of Nir and Liz.

  4. Daniel Marks – why has everyone started saying “in any way shape or form” recently, when good old “in any way” would suffice?

    Which celebrity idiot launched this pathetically otiose turn of phrase?

  5. Daniel Marks

    No Dan. I said, “I do not see myself to be a haredi Jew in any way shape or form.”

    Way = The way they understand the world.

    Shape = Very thin when young, often overweight when older (bit like me).

    Form = Which they fill in to be exempt from military service.

  6. Saul Schneider (not the little one in the picture)

    Haredi or non Haredi, I hope that when they are caught they never get to enjoy any form of sexual pleasure, be it straight or gay.

    Maybe Israel could hand them over to Hamas in a prisoner swap?

  7. Mark Goldman

    Mike, you wrote “Religious bigotry in Israel has certainly not helped the homosexual community.”

    I think that’s a significant understatement. It’s astounding that so called leaders of the established orthodox world can spew their hatred against the GLBT community.

    Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch (Ashkenazi) writes “They are Amalekites.” (Jews are commanded to kill all Amalekites)

    Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Of Israel) was featured in a widely-circulated poster (pashkevil) where he writes “This is an abomination; we are all Pinchas.” (Pinchas is a biblical figure revered for an act of holy zeal in the name of God: he ran a spear through Zimri and Cozbi while they were having sex)

    This is a call for murder.

    Daniel, are you prepared to unequivocally condemn these statements by so called “Gedolai Hador”?

  8. Daniel Marks

    Hmm! That’s a tough one, Mark, but probably not for the reason you had in mind.

    My problem is not that they’re “Gedolai Hador”. I have no problem condemning certain Gedolai Hador in general about all kinds of things. I can provide numerous examples, army service, Zionism, the importance of work, the role of women, etc.

    Gedolai Hador have often been wrong, from those who told their followers to stay in Poland before the Holocaust (then in some cases did a runner themselves) to those who supported the Oslo Accords. Condemning them is not my problem – believe me!

    My problem is that, as I’ve explained at nausea, I do not unequivocally disagree with everything they say regarding homosexuality. We’ve already discussed this and I think you understand my opinion – I cannot escape the fact that homosexuality is against the halachah.

    I cannot condone the mixing of milk and meat or the desecration of the Shabbat, nor can I condone homosexuality.

    I try not to be too much of a hypocrite so I’ll openly admit that my sins are many and my virtues few. I’m ashamed of my sins and would never ask anyone to condone them either.

    Back to the GHs, sadly I can’t be as unequivocal as you’d like, so allow me on this one occasion to be a tad equivocal.

    If either of the aforementioned said the statements you attributed to them (I have no reason to belive they didn’t, I just never heard those specific ones myself), and intended by so doing to offend anyone, or encourage others to hurt or harm anybody, then I thoroughly condemn them and what they said.

    Does that work for you Mark?

  9. Daniel Marks

    By the way Mark – just out of curiosity . . .

    Are you prepared to unequivocally condemn Pinhas for killing Zimri and Cozbi? And more importantantly do you condemn G-d for rewarding him for so doing?

  10. Mark Goldman

    Daniel wrote “If either of the aforementioned said the statements you attributed to them… and intended by so doing to offend anyone, or encourage others to hurt or harm anybody, then I thoroughly condemn them and what they said.”

    So, by inference, if they didn’t intend to offend or encourage others to hurt, you don’t condemn?

  11. Daniel Marks

    Yup. If they were stating their opinion, with no intention of harming, hurting or offending others and without so doing, I see no reason to condemn them.

    I think you can disagree with an opinion without condemning it. You, for example stated in an early posting: “Wouldn’t it be fair to say, for this reason as well as a host of other either illogical or prejudicial laws, that the Torah is simply wrong and therefore not attributable to God?”

    That’s the kind of opinion that I categorically disagee with, but would (metaphorically) defend with my life your right to say it.

    I would disagree but neither CONDEMN your view nor you personally.

    By the way are you avoiding my question about Zimri and G-d? If you are, that’s your right too. 🙂

  12. OK, I’ll bite. Unequivocally, both God & Zimri were wrong. If it even happened. It was put there by the human biblical authors to teach a lesson, one which I insist on not teaching. It foolishly promotes religious zealotry. That is a dangerous, slippery slope. You cannot say =my= religious zealotry is right while yours is wrong. If so, you give “them” (whoever “them” are) leave to perform their atrocities in the Name of all “they” hold right & true. It is fallacy & oh so dangerous foolishness. By allowing Pinchas & Zimri et al. to work their destructive evil — which you do by saying they were right — you, at the same time, give power to those who would destroy Israel — =&= those who promote, encourage & commit violent homophobic attrocities.

    You don’t know me — yet. So let me clearly say that as a religious leader, I believe the Torah is wrong in many places. It is our responsibility to fulfill the greatest mitsvah — tikkun olam. We must repair the damage done through the centuries by those who were lead astray by incorrect teachings. If not repair, we must assure that those things will stop. Here & now. Violence, hatred, xenophobia, etc. Then & only then can the messianic era occur. It is up to us to bring it, to cause it. Not by blindly following misguided opinions expressed as halakhah. We must seek the truth & do what is right — for =all= people on our Earth.

  13. Daniel Marks

    Okay gcantory you’ve done it. I’m speechless, without words, I have no words! For the first time in 48 years D Marks knows not what to say.

    A religious leader who believes G-d was wrong. I’m reminded of the episode of coupling when Jane explains that she is a vegetarian but that to her mind vegetarianism means saying “yes” even to meat, and that she’s a meat eating vegetarian.

    There are cases in the Torah when G-d changes his mind, or is persuaded to (Golden Calf etc) there’s the wonderful story in the gemarah when Eliahu seems to be saying that G-d laughed when corrected by a sage, “My sons have defeated me” but this is a whole new dimension! Unbelievable! A religious leader says that G-d just got it wrong.

    I hope it doesn’t appear that I’m mocking you, and maybe this conversation should be conducted over a beer off-blog, but as I said in the beginning – I’m speechless!

  14. Bollocks to “a beer off-blog”, Daniel. Is it my imagination, or do you keep doing that whenever a discussion veers in a direction that you are religiously uncomfortable with?

    It seems to me that quite a few readers of melchett mike (my oldest school friend included!) could do with hearing, and considering, the refreshing, brave opinions of Rabbi/Reverend Cantory.

  15. Dovid Maslin

    Isn’t there a case in the Gemara which took place during the time of the Tanaaim in Yavneh maybe.

    G-d’s opinion was ruled against and R’ Eliezer (was it?) was put in cherem ie excommunicated for trying to enforce G-d’s opinion.

    The argument given against G-d then was ‘Loh bashomayim he’ – the answer’s ‘not in the heavens.’

  16. melchett mike, i think your linking of people who are “disturbed by” or “disapprove” of homosexuality to a cold-blooded and evil murder is disingeneous.
    Not everyone who has issues with homosexuality is a religious bigot or wannabe murderer. Not even close. This whole argument has been hijacked into a left/liberal/secular – right/conservative/religious thing and no one even listens to anyone anymore. Similar to the issue of abortion.

  17. memo, it was not my intention to make any such (direct) “link”, merely to highlight the (indirect) dangers of what I consider to be a most curious phobia. In fact, I think your second paragraph sums up my feelings very neatly – that is what I meant by “English football fan-like, many Israelis have chosen their side and will support it whatever.”

  18. Yes, secular zealots seem suspiciously like religious zealots to me. Actually, secular zealots frighten me more.

  19. Daniel Marks

    You’re right Mike. There are certain conversations that are harder for me to conduct on-blog, mainly because of my anxiety about being misunderstood, taken out of context, etc.

    As to Rev Cantory, I agree with you whole-heartedly, I think he’s just great! Attacking me simultaneously on two different pages, on one claiming that G-d is wrong and on the other that I mock homosexuals. It’s unprecedented and I agree very brave. Who wouldn’t want to have a beer with a bloke like him?

    Oh and full marks to Dovid Maslin for finding the gemara in question. It’s quite a famous one and Eliezer Berkovitz wrote a book called “Not in Heaven” based on it. Well done Dovid, you’re a credit to the Maslins.

  20. Stefan Greenfield

    It’s not clear to me why G-d is part of this discussion. It appears some of you are trying to say that because you believe G-d is wrong (G-d forbid), wake up all you humans who are wrong as well.
    This is an argument or discussion between humans. Despite finding Daniel Marks to be very entrenched in his opinions, he is astute enough to say what he believes and invites you to argue with him and not with HIM (as in G-d). If a person approves or disapproves of homosexuality – take it up with her or him – including if that person is a Godol or Gedola HaDor quoted in or out of context. But why bash the Bible? Daniel Marks is not a Bible basher, so bash him at will, but why bash his Bible?

  21. I’ll tell you “why G-d is part of this discussion”, Stefan . . . because a lot of (too many in my opinion) people – and not just religious Jews – lead their entire lives based on His supposed word (i.e., the Bible) and interpretations of it.

    My old school friend has absolute belief that the Bible is the literal word of G-d, so he also believes that all homosexuals “should be put to death”.

    Daniel Marks may also have absolute belief that the Bible is the literal word of G-d, but is rather more critical in his approach, so he questions whether G-d and the Bible truly require such a radical approach to homosexuality.

    I have zero belief that the Bible is the literal word of G-d – I believe it was written and compiled by humans – so I believe that my old school friend, Daniel Marks, and all people who lead their lives in accordance with the Bible are doing so based on a massive “whopper”.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that they “believe G-d is wrong” – if He exists, He surely can’t be! – but, inter alia, that: i) the Bible shouldn’t be interpreted literally; ii) the Bible is not His word (literal or at all); and/or iii) He doesn’t exist.

    ii) and iii) in particular are extremely good reasons to “bash the Bible” . . . and there are far more.

  22. Mark Goldman

    All great points Mike, except I would replace “religious Jews” with “orthodox Jews”.

  23. Stefan Greenfield

    Here’s what I believe is being missed – G-d given Bible believers from across the spectrum all subscribe to the belief that the verses ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. Their practical application is driven by the Oral Law which complements the written law.
    So help me understand – where is the problem? The fact that Pinchas killed Zimri & Co is in fact written but the practical application of that is a whole new chapter. Even death sentences assigned to certain sins were very (very) rarely applied. And here is not the place for a full discourse on Oral vs Written Law.

    I’m not saying the Torah does not associate homosexuality with death punishment, but the where, when and how leaves a lot of room for Shenkin, LA or wherever individual lifestyle choices WITHOUT being put to death by a Rabbinical court. And by the time that happens a lot a Shabbat descerators and who-nows-what-else sinners should start getting very worried.

    So chill out. An Eye for an Eye was never an Eye for an Eye in Judaism. So what you see in the Bible is the start of interaction with interpretations, extrapolations and traditions developed, evolved and passed on over a significant period of time. What is the talmud if not a Blog dated 200 to 500 CE (or thereabouts)?

    To close, “even” as a believer in the eternity and truth of the Torah; as far as my exposure to generalizations go, homosexuals increase love (and the color pink) in this world, not hate.

  24. Daniel Marks

    I agree with everything that Stefan Greenfield says.

    I did not think that the halachic discussion of the case of Pinhas and Zimri fell within the scope of Mike’s excellent blog but in the past few days the level of its discussion have risen to such heights that I believe that it is safe to do so. I run the risk of being misunderstood, my words twisted etc but “No pain, no gain.”

    In Sanh 82a the gemara discussed the case of Pinhas and Zimri. Among other lessons we learn that had Pinhas (hypothetically) asked a Sanhedrin whether to kill Zimri or not, they would not have allowed him to do so.

    This is no reflection on Pinhas’ greatness but the opposite. It is an acknowledgement of the Talmud that:
    1. Not everyone is at the level of Pinhas and can do such a thing with no hate or ulterior motive.
    2. If you have to ask, you’re definitely not at that level.

    I, in my humble opinion, would suggest that we are all today considered as those who have asked a Sanhedrin and been told, “No”.

    At the beginning of this week I uttered a prayer: “May all our arguments be “Leshem Shamayim” like this one and may the tolerance and respect we all show each other be a fitting tribute to the tragically short lives of Nir and Liz.”

    I believe they have been, this week more than all others.

    Mike, Dan, Saul, Mark, gcantory, Dovid, Stefan, Memo . . . Sheyirbu Kamochem Beyisrael (May there be many more like you in Israel).

  25. How did an apikoress like me end up with discussions about Pinchas and Zimri on his blog? Hashem’s idea of a sick joke?!

  26. Daniel Marks

    A true Jew.

    Even as he declared his apikorsiot and his disbelief in the Torah, he takes care to adhere to its rulings, not to take his Lord’s name in vain – and calls him Hashem.

    כל זמן שהנר דולק אפשר עוד לתקן

    As long as the candle is still alight, it is possible to repair!

  27. Stefan Greenfield

    Daniel,
    Have you ever given thought to the possibility that your comments might be extremely annoying to the readers other than your good self?
    And that not every thing you think needs to be written?

  28. melchett mike, you just did it again, the thing you said you didn’t mean to do.
    You linked “a lot of” religious people with extremist, violent views and then bash them, their entire belief system and God based upon what you think they believe.
    If you criticize religious Jews who pass nasty judgements upon homosexuals, how can you do the same thing to religious Jews and actually look at yourself in the mirror?
    Personally, if I had a friend who believed a certain group of people should be put to death, they would no longer be my friend.
    Perhaps you need to choose your own friends better.
    Stefan, your last comment – beautifully put!

  29. Daniel Marks

    Hi Stefan Greenfield!

    Have I ever given thought to the possibility that my comments might be extremely annoying to the readers other than my good self? –

    When you say “the readers” definite article, I assume you don’t mean all the readers but some of them. While I know I don’t annoy everyone because of feedback, I cannot discount the possibility that some might be annoyed either because of what I’m saying or because of the way I’m saying it.

    I would say to the former that if you don’t agree with me that’s fine. You may choose to explain why, you may choose to say nothing or you may choose neither of the aforementioned, but to gripe a little as you have. They’re all legitimate reactions.

    As to your second question whether I’ve considered the possibility that not everything I think needs to be written, yes I have. For that reason I do not write everything I think, as I believe that Mike will attest to.

    I guess that what you really want to say is that you (Stefan) think that certain things that I’ve said should not have been said. I’m not sure exactly what you’re referring to here but would be happy for you to expand.

    I enjoyed reading your previous posting very much and I’m sure that many others as well as myself would enjoy hearing what you have to say, more than whether you think others should be saying what they’re saying.

    But it’s all good!

    Have a great day.

  30. Stefan Greenfield

    No hard feelings intended. And I take your point that I cannot speak for “the readers” as I have not even been self-appointed to this role.

    However (here it comes…), I feel you crossed the line from expressing your personal opinion to expressing your personal opinion about someone else’s motivations: “he takes care to adhere to its rulings”. Not a question but a decision by the Daniel Marks high court as to the blogger’s motivation.

    This is a tad irritating to this one individual reader.

    Again, no hard feelings intended or taken.

  31. I can’t resist chipping in here as well . . .

    As most readers of melchett mike will no doubt be aware, the blog relationship between Daniel and me has been rather rocky (to say the least!) And, whilst I value Daniel as a commenter to melchett mike, I think he has a tendency to argue the toss (when sometimes he should just let things lie) and to use the blog as his own personal arguesphere (I made that one up!)

    And, as I discovered in a telephone conversation with Daniel yesteday evening, I am not even sure he reads my original – not as in unique . . . but as in the one at the top of the page! – posts . . . which is most irritating of all.

    Perhaps, Daniel, you don’t need to be so reactive, addressing every single post that you believe relates to something you have written. And even if they really do, sometimes saying nothing is the best answer of all.

    PS Love you all the same!

  32. Daniel Marks

    Stefan,

    Now I understand what the gripe was! Okay, first of all you’re 100% right, I have no idea what Mike’s motivations are but actually it was more of a tease than meant to be taken seriously.

    I just thought it was amusing that on the one hand he called himself an apikorus but on the other he called G-d hashem as a true Hasmo frumer would.

    I also agree with Mike’s point that I don’t have to react to everything, but to tell you a secret I kind of enjoy it.

    PS Love returned (wholly heterosexual in nature, slaps on the back, etc)

  33. Michael Goldman

    Well it’s been a long time but I’m back!
    Hi Mark!
    This seems to be the only place we manage to converse.
    I will however take issue with something you wrote.
    You were adamant in changing “Religious Jews” to “Orthodox Jews”.
    I honestly cannot understand why “Reform” added the word “Judaism” to their name.
    Judaism is historically based on the Torah as the word of G-d and the oral law as partially the word of G-d.
    This relatively new religion “Reform ” believes in neither.
    It is a completely different religion whose outlook on the Torah is that if what’s written agrees with their opinion it’s good but if not then it’s mistaken outdated or just plain evil.
    If you’re making a new religion, fair enough, but why don’t you have the self respect to call it a new name instead of causing so much confusion?
    The Christains did it and never looked back!
    Christianity is in fact in some ways closer to Judaism than Reform.
    From my understanding they believe in the Torah but also believe it was supersceded by the New Testament.
    Is this just a marketing ploy?
    If this was a product sold in the supermarket it would be removed from the shelves due to misrepresentation.
    Shabat Shalom.

  34. Daniel Marks

    “The Christains did it and never looked back!”

    Excellent idea!

    Another split in Am Yisrael just what we’re missing.

    The Christian model would be excellent. We could have new crusades, a Spanish Inquisition, expulsions, maybe even culminating in a pogrom or two. The establishment of a brand new Christain church is without doubt the order of the day, especially as we have so few other problems to worry about now.

    Incidentally, historically after the death of Jesus there were two groups, Jewish Christians and Non-Jewish/Pagan Christians.

    The first group stayed within the Jewish community, believed Jesus had been the messiah, adhered to halachah etc (a bit like Chabad today), took part in the Great Revolt and were mostly killed off in it.

    The second group were non-Jews who had never been Jewish, circumcised, etc. The Christians of today are for all intents and purposes not the descendants of Jews who stopped keeping halachah, but of non-Jews who (partially) abandoned their paganism.

    Have a great shabbat!

    DM

  35. Michael Goldman

    Daniel
    Thank you for your prompt reply and for the phone call telling me about it.
    The split is already there.
    Anybody converting to Reform is no more Jewish than the pope.
    Some members of the Reform congregation (my brother included) are Jewish simply because they were born Jewish as are some members of the Christian faith or the Moslem.
    Calling the religion “Jewish” it seems to me really was a marketing ploy aimed at Jews (European and American) who liked the idea of being Jewish but had problems with the obligations.
    If it had been called by another name it is very doubtful that it would ever have taken off as the Jews would have been reluctant to relinquish their Judaism (which they obviously did anyway in all but name).
    A perfect solution was found whereby they could call themselves Jewish, have no obligations, keep some of the ceremonial stuff and get home on Shabat in time for the football, which they could even discuss next week with the “Rabbi”.
    No obligations, no guillt but still “Jewish”.
    Perfectly suited to the Jewish American community.
    If I understand you correctly your main worry is that if they didn’t call themselves “Jewish”, they would “start with the pogroms”.
    As I wrote before it is doubtful if the religion would have had any success had it been called anything else.
    But if it did I can’t really see them “pogromming” as they don’t really have anything to pogrom about, not really believing in anything except golf and kneidalach.
    It is much more a club than a religion.
    By the Mark I’ve been meaning to ask you, do you remove the bits you don’t like from your Torah scrolls?
    Shabat Shalom to One and All.

  36. toooooooovya

    I am at a loss at how anyone can think that wearing the garb of the C17th Polish Court can in any way be relevant to life in the Middle East, or for that matter London or New York in the 21st century.

    And as for those Jews who benefit by the very existence of the State of Israel but in some way do not recognise it, I think they are little short of fifth columnists.

    It is a mark of Israel’s extraordinary and liberal humanity that all such voices are tolerated.

    Patently a very large proportion of Israelis are not orthodox; but strangely enough a certain spirituality derived from the Jewish liberal tradition is very much alive and well.

    The following my well be pertinent and of interest to readers: http://www.apikores.org/

  37. Dovid Maslin

    Orthodox Judaism is incorrect, ludicrous, immoral and absurd?

    It seems to have produced at least one individual who knows about astronomy, geology, paleontology, evolution, genetics, Jewish law, Jewish history, monotheism, polytheism, racism, genocide, homophobia, sexuality, civil liberties and capital punishment.

    It took an article on gay murders to prove a northern trueism, there’s nowt so queer as folk.

  38. Daniel Marks

    Dovid Maslin is evidently extremely clever, or the opposite, because I for one am unable to understand what he is trying to say.

    Could anyone help me out?

  39. What’s that expression about a pot, a kettle, and black?!

    memo, I belatedly address your comment of a couple of days ago . . .

    I don’t think you are reading what I actually write carefully enough, but jumping to conclusions. I only “linked” my old school friend “with extremist, violent views” . . . though, admittedly, I have no doubt (do you?) that “a lot of religious people” who share his extremely literal approach to the Bible share those views too. And where do I “bash them, their entire belief system and God”? I wish people would stop putting words in my mouth!

    You then write: “If you criticize religious Jews who pass nasty judgements upon homosexuals, how can you do the same thing to religious Jews and actually look at yourself in the mirror?” I’ll tell you how, memo – because most homosexuals just want to get on with their lives in peace, and do not interfere with those of others. Many (though not all) religious (or Orthodox if you prefer) Jews, on the other hand . . .

    “Personally, if I had a friend who believed a certain group of people should be put to death, they would no longer be my friend.” What can I tell you, memo . . . I just can’t seem to shake him off (no pun intended). Anyway, from my experience, you can’t “choose better friends” than those you grew up with . . . faults n’all.

  40. Daniel Marks

    No, seriously, I don’t understand. For example:

    “Orthodox Judaism is incorrect, ludicrous, immoral and absurd?” – What does this mean?

    a. It is immoral and absurd to say that Judaism is incorrect.
    b. You think that Orthodox Judaism is incorrect, ludicrous, immoral and absurd but I don’t.
    c. Is Orthodox Judaism incorrect, ludicrous, immoral and absurd?
    d. Is it incorrect, ludicrous, immoral and absurd to say that Judaism is incorrect?

    I’m really not mocking. I don’t understand what he’s reacting to, or what he’s trying to say.

    The paragraph also. Is he boasting about a wise Jew? Or mocking someone who thinks he knows more than he does?

    Seriously, can somebody explain?

  41. Mark Goldman

    Michael,

    I’ll comment briefly on what I believe to be the crux of your argument. I’d feel more comfortable discussing this with you off blog. I hope you understand why, and are ok with that.

    “I honestly cannot understand why “Reform” added the word “Judaism” to their name.”

    Truth be told, Judaism has always been Reform. By that I mean that throughout the ages, our people have responded to the surrounding social and contemporary challenges, and changed-reformed. Some might argue that the true imposter is Orthodox Judaism. A religion that scolds even the mere discussion of anything that challenges the word of the Talmudic (and later) “wise men” -human beings like ourselves who lived over 1500 years ago, let alone the authenticity of the Torah itself – proven by many to be the writtings of various authors from various times.

    With Love,

    Your little (slimmer) brother 🙂

  42. Dovid Maslin

    Daniel Marks, the pages from apikores.org contained a series of arguments against Orthodox Judaism, Science vs the Bible. They were included in the original post.

  43. Michael,

    It might be obvious that I’m w/ your bro, Mark, on this.

    Judaism defined by Talmud only applies to Jews who lived after the Talmud was written. I hope you’d agree that our father, Abe, would be quite puzzled in our teacher, Moe’s ohel, as they both would be in Sol’s Temple. All 3 would probably have a fit listening to Hillel & Shamai. That half-minyan would think they landed on Mars (certainly not Jewpiter) to find themselves in a hassidic shtiebel. And so on, and so on.

    The point being it’s the Conservative/Masorti movement that got it right — at least in this respect — Judaism is ALL about “Tradition AND Change.” So did Kaplan, who taught that Judaism is an evolving civilization. For the sake of you anti-Darwinian torchbearers, evolution is the inevitable change which occurs over the course of time. (Those who deny that are probably soaking @ the bottom of an ancient tar pit.)

    If you define Judaism as adherence to obligations, then I ask you: do you actually observe absolutely every single one of the Taryag mitsvot? I think not.

    Judaism ought not be defined as blindly following a set of ritual instructions. Besides, real men don’t even read instructions.

    Seriously, how, for example, can the haredi justify their throwing of stones on shabbat when doing so requires raising one’s arm above one’s head? That’s 1 of the 36 forms of avodah prohibited on shabbat. (Maybe they throw underhanded — their attachment to morality certainly is.)

    Oh , wait, how can they justify throwing stones (& benches) in the 1st place since doing so is sure to cause harm to their target? Or do they get some special dispensation because they spend the rest of the time w/ their heads firmly planted in their 17th century sun-less places?!

    Do they — or the orthodox — get to say which mitsvot they get to choose, but all non-orthodox — including Reform don’t get that same choice?

    Are they holier or closer to God because they are more concerned w/ antics instead of ethics?

    Ethics are the obligations Reform chooses to focus on — our ethical obligations to our fellow human beings & the earth, herself.

    Moe was a reformer. Sol was a reformer. Hillel was a reformer. They all were in their generations. They were wise enough to shed that which was outmoded for their time & wiser still to add what spoke to the needs of their times.

    Human evolution did not stop after we descended from the apes & Judaism’s evolution did not stop in the 17th century.

    I’m not saying they can’t live there. Gezunterhait. They should live in their own happy bliss & ignorance. But how dare they — or you — insist that I don’t have the right to take my Judaism to a different madreiga?

    BTW, you who insist that homosexuality is wrong because that’s what the authors of the Bible wrote, do you also believe in stoning to death your recalcitrant son? They wrote that, too.

    Oops. Pick & choose. Such a nasty, thorny road.

    How, then, do you explain Davey & Johnny? He fell on his neck & kissed him … “ad david higdil.” Usually translated as “until David exceeded.” It should be ex-seed-ed! Higdil? You mean from gadol? Became enlarged? Check w/ the Extenze folks!

    And why is Tanakh silent on female homosexuality? It’s a no-no for boys to do it, but it’s OK when “Girls Go(ne) Wild?” What, you don’t have at least 1 dvd?

    Excuse me for shining a light under your tsitsis, but NO ONE has the right to decide the validity of anyone else’s Jewishness. You might think you enjoy that luxury, but if it ever existed, it was taken away when Hitler y”sh made the choice for us. He was perfectly happy to murder Reform Jews as he was to murder orthodox Jews. And he wasn’t concerned w/ matrilineal or patrilineal descent, either. Or are you saying, chas v’chalile, that Yad Vashem should erase the names of all non-orthodox Jews?

    We’re all in the same boat. What you’re arguing about is who’s got an ocean view cabin & who’s in steerage.

    eilu v’eilu divrei elohim chayim.

  44. Daniel Marks

    Dovid Maslin, Shavua Tov and thanks for the explanation.

    gcantory, in an early posting you wrote, “You don’t know me — yet. So let me clearly say that as a religious leader….”. Maybe now would be as good a time as any to elaborate.

    What type of religious leader are you? Who do you lead? And where are you leading them?

  45. Michael Goldman

    Mark
    Shavua Tov
    As you prefer to discuss this off blog I will only make the comment that I have yet to see a proof that the Torah is not G-d given.

    gcantory
    To respond to you will take more time so I hope to do so in the near future.

  46. Michael Goldman

    OK gcantory, I obviously didn’t make my point clear enough because in your rather long posting you didn’t come close to answering my point.
    The Jewish religion was and has, at least since the giving of the Torah, been based on the belief that the Torah was given to the Jewish people by G-d.
    A religion that doesn’t believe this is not Jewish.
    It’s that simple.
    If I understand correctly what you wrote, and I’m really not sure I did, any religion can be Jewish as long as the word “Jewish” is added to its name.
    If for example Christianity had called itself “New Judaism” would you have a problem with their Jewishness?
    But what really amazed me about what you wrote is that you seem to think that when deciding who is Jewish , we should in fact look to Hitler (yemach Shmo) for the definition.
    I would like to take this oppotunity to join Mr Marks in asking you to come out of the closet and tell us who you lead.
    In addition if there is anybody out there who is led by gcantory, please shed some light.

  47. Mark Goldman

    With regards to “proof that the Torah was not God given”.

    There’s a plethora of material out there, some of which I referenced in a prior posting. Without going into a long and detailed explanation ( I wonder if this is becoming boring and repetitious for many), most of the sources that I’m familiar with highlight significant differences in writing style, inconsistency in biblical texts, contradictions, and repetitions, and conclude that the Torah is the work of many hands over many centuries.

    Convincing evidence for an objective reader.

  48. So, if I understand gcantory correctly (not a given, admittedly) if we want to know who is Jewish, we should ask Hitler?

  49. Michael

    I am a retired cantor in Southern California. I not only led my congregation, but, as is true of my friend & colleague, our rabbi emeritus, I am looked upon by the general community as a religious leader, not only representing Judaism, but serving as a resource to feed people’s spiritual needs — Jew & non-Jew alike.

    As Mark so rightly points out, a whole host of scholars from around & accepted by the world have explained quite clearly that the torah is the work of human hands.

    Likewise, there are many definitions of what being a Jew means that do not even mention torah. One of the most powerful was written by Edmund Fleg whom you can Google. e.g.: http://orthoprax.blogspot.com/2005/08/why-i-am-jew-by-edmond-fleg.html.

    Read Rabbis Mordecai Kaplan, Milton Steinberg, Leo Baeck, Joshua Loth Liebman, Solomon B. Freehoff, Morris Adler, Jack Reimer & Harold Kushner. Read the poetry of Aaron Zeitlin & Ruth Brin. The list is endless.

    If the test of Jewishness is limited to the belief that the torah was given to “us” by God, then you are not Jews, you are Torah-ists. So were the Karaites.

    Of course we shouldn’t depend on Hitler y”sh to determine who is or isn’t a Jew. The point is that the limited definitions promulgated in this blog are not sufficient & insulting.

    Why, in a world of decline in the Jewish population, are you seeking to further shrink our numbers rather than expand them? Following your narrow view, Judaism would soon slip into oblivion.

    This movementalism must stop. At one point the Lubavitcher rebbe published ads in newspapers that people who didn’t hear the shofar blown in synagogues that met his approval didn’t hear it.

    Narishkeit.

    My guess is you’re not a haredi or even a black hat, so if you ask them, you are not a Jew. Perhaps in their view you might be more Jewish or less objectionable than I, but still, they won’t daven in your shul, & should they find themselves here, I doubt that they would answer amen to any of your b’rakhot.

    I’ve experienced this behavior. It’s parochialism at it’s worst.

    Abraham opened his tent on all sides to welcome the world. How can we do anything less?

  50. Dovid Maslin

    Of course the Torah is the work of human hands. G-d gave the Torah to humans to develop.

  51. Reading this most interesting discussion – not “boring and repetitious” at all, Mark (and I would encourage you to continue it on, rather than off, blog) – I would like to distance both myself and my blog from “the limited definitions promulgated” herein (referred to by gcantory) of “who is or isn’t a Jew” .

    Moreover, I also distance melchett mike from the arrogance of comments such as “Anybody converting to Reform is no more Jewish than the pope . . . get[ting] home on Shabat in time for the football . . . not really believing in anything except golf and kneidalach . . . do you remove the bits you don’t like from your Torah scrolls?”

    I find such disparaging remarks no less than contemptible; and we all know only too well that, if progressive Jews were to make similar ones about the practises of the religious/Orthodox, the latter would be up in arms (whilst haredim would be rioting).

    Whilst everyone is fully entitled to their opinion on melchett mike, so far (though it is only my opinion) it is gcantory who has written with more sense – and certainly more humanity – than anyone else. And he hits the nail on the head when he enquires: “Do they – or the orthodox – get to say which mitsvot they get to choose [and all but the blindest know that they DO], but all non-orthodox – including Reform don’t get that same choice?”

    If I were him, I wouldn’t have lowered myself to respond to impertinent, loaded questions and demands, such as “What type of religious leader are you?” and “come out of the closet and tell us who you lead.”

    Sounds to me like some of gcantory’s blinkered inquisitors could do with a little of both his leadership and his appreciation of the “bigger picture” surrounding our splendid religion.

  52. Michael Goldman

    gcantory,
    Yes I admit it.
    I am a Torah-ist (or I try very hard to be one).
    But Judaism and Torah are historically synonymous.
    Judaism has always been based on the divinty of the Torah.
    Thousands of years after the formation of the religion called “Judaism”, another religion appeared called “Reform Judaism”.
    This religion was not in any way based on the divinity of the Torah.
    It was and is therefore a completely different religion.
    I’m not discussing whether it was a “better” religion or not.
    I’m not even discussing whether the Torah was divine or the work of human hands.
    I’m simply stating that when this new religion was formed it had a completely different set of values and beliefs to “Judaism” and was a therefore totally different religion.
    Putting the word “Judaism” in the new religion’s name was just misleading.

  53. gcantory, do you have any idea what kind of ideologies “Leo Baeck” college’s finest alumni are espousing?

    I have yet to fathom how the self-same people can arrogate the title “Rabbi” to themselves, and with that, seek to whip up public support, inside and OUTSIDE Jewish circles, to CLOSE DOWN the same Jewish schools that whole communities, and leading individuals within them, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike, have laboured decades in time, effort, finances and every other resource to create…… just in case non-Jews find their existence offensive or divisive in some way.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/26/religion.faithschools

  54. Daniel Marks

    Hi all,

    It was I one who asked gcantory, “What type of religious leader are you?” and if the question appeared impertinent I do apologize.

    He had written in another page of this blog, “I worked w/ a Methodist minister who thought nothing of & often said “I’m in lust w/ her.”

    And from the way he was writing it seemed unlikely to me that he was a rabbi. I therefore deduced, wrongly, that maybe he was some kind of Methodist verger or something of the like whose knowledge of Judaism, gemara, halachah etc had been gleaned from interfaith meetings, Wikipedia and so on.

    That is why I was interested to know what kind of religious leader he was. If gcantory took offense that was certainly not my intention.

    Furthermore, I for one should be interested to hear more about what he does believe in, rather than what he doesn’t. What if anything makes Judaism different from other religions? And how he sees the future of Am Yisrael.

    Shavua Tov.

    DM

  55. Daniel Marks

    gcantory, your original statement was:

    “NO ONE has the right to decide the validity of anyone else’s Jewishness. You might think you enjoy that luxury, but if it ever existed, it was taken away when Hitler y”sh made the choice for us…”

    In other words:

    1. Judaism is solely a question of self determination. “NO ONE has the right to decide the validity of anyone else’s Jewishness.” – Anybody, anywhere who says I am a Jew is one and nobody else has the right to say that he/she isn’t.

    2. Historically there might have been a time when this was not the case and being Jewish meant more than self determination – “but if it ever existed”

    3. Since either July 1935 (Nuremberg Laws) or January 1942 (Final Solution) Judaism has been purely a question of self determination. – “it was taken away when Hitler y”sh made the choice for us.”

    Then in a later posting you wrote:

    “Of course we shouldn’t depend on Hitler y”sh to determine who is or isn’t a Jew. The point is that the limited definitions promulgated in this blog are not sufficient & insulting.”

    At this point your fundamental position that Judaism is purely a question of self determination had not changed but your reasoning had and there were two new rationalizations for this stance:

    1. It would be uncouth or discourteous to hold a contrary opinion – “the limited definitions promulgated in this blog are not sufficient & insulting.”

    2. Demographically self determination is the way to go – “Why, in a world of decline in the Jewish population, are you seeking to further shrink our numbers rather than expand them?”

    Now that the Hitler reasoning has, apparently, been refuted by Michael Goldman et al, we are left with an etiquette argument and a demographic argument.

    It’s hard to relate to the etiquette contention, as what is insulting or impolite at one time or place may be considered good manners in a different era or on a different continent. Very broadly speaking, however, most religions, in most places, at most times have had some kind of criterion for membership or affiliation over and above the mere statement of the individual. I have never heard, for example, the Christian churches that demand christening, being charged with being “insulting”. The same goes for membership or affiliation to most other types of voluntary groups.

    Finally, we are left with demography. You say “Why, in a world of decline in the Jewish population, are you seeking to further shrink our numbers rather than expand them?” This argument is, in my opinion, the weightier of the two.

    However, I would respectfully ask what purpose is such an open and vague definition davka (for want of a better word) in the demographic battle. If we are to say that being Jewish means absolutely nothing more than saying, “I consider myself to be Jewish.” then what would hypothetically prevent 20 million Arabs or for that matter Chinese or Indians from saying tomorrow that they are Jewish, changing nothing in their ways of life, but then constituting the majority of Am Yisrael, if they are not required to have any type of common beliefs or aspirations or code of law?

    I’m not saying that all beliefs must be my beliefs or all aspirations have to be mine and I’m certainly not claiming that my interpretation of halacha is the only reasonable one. But it seems to me that being a Jew has to mean more to you than just the prosaic utterance, “I too am a Jew”.

  56. Michael Goldman

    Mike
    My remark “Anybody converting to Reform is no more Jewish than the pope” was simply written to make clear that “Reform” and “Orthodox” are two completely different religions and the fact that they both affix the word “Jewish” to their name in no way makes them any closer.
    My remark “get[ting] home on Shabat in time for the football . . . not really believing in anything except golf and kneidalach” simply shows frustration that after many discussions with Reform I am still at a loss to understand what makes their beliefs innately Jewish.
    My question “Do you remove the bits you don’t like from your Torah scrolls?” was simply that, a question, to which I have since received the answer that all parts are in fact kept in the Torah scrolls.
    I admit that my style of writing (or lack of it as Dan and Nick assure me) is a little cynical and aggresive at times though I feel that “contemptible” is going a little too far.
    My intent was not to insult but rather to make a point and I apologise if anybody was insulted.
    I must however take issue with your statement “…and we all know only too well that, if progressive Jews were to make similar ones about the practises of the religious/Orthodox, the latter would be up in arms (whilst haredim would be rioting).”
    Just go online.
    Its not difficult to find countless remarks much more insulting against both the Orthodox and the Haredei communities, with no visible response.

  57. Come on, Michael . . . “get[ting] home on Shabat in time for the football” and “not really believing in anything except golf and kneidalach” is all that you have gleaned from your “many discussions with Reform”?!

    If so, I suggest you find more intelligent subjects for your research. Contact Rabbi Levi at Kehilat Kol Ha’Neshama in Jerusalem – I am sure he will be pleased to discuss with you further.

    So many folk from ‘our’ background are so busy questioning “Who is a Jew?” that they forget more essential questions, such as “What makes a good Jew?” and “What is Judaism?”

  58. I believe those were the self same questions that I directed at gcantory if phrased differently.

    I feel a tad uncomfortable to be agreeing with Mike about anything, let alone theology, but I too would really like to know in the eyes of our Reformed brethren (and yes I do consider them as our brethren) not only “Who is a Jew?” but “What is a Jew?”

    It’s true that here those of us who define themselves as Orthodox Jews have an advantage as we are committed to certain books, Shulchan Aruch, Mishna Brura, etc, so even when we sin we know quite clearly what our sins our.

    Conservative Jews are fundamentally not different to us as they also see theselves as obligated by halachah. They just think that it has remained too stagnant in recent years rather than continuing to evole as it had in earlier times. I disagree with them and most (not all) of their halachic conclusions but I understand them.

    When it comes to Reform Judaism, I too am at a loss to reach a clear understanding of what (not whom) to them is a Jew. I am further perplexed as whenever I ask the question it seems that they either ignore it or answer a different question or they tell me what Reform Judaism is not. This often takes the form of attacks against haredim etc, which is of course legitimate and often accurate, but hardly answers the question.

    I looked at the website of the Israeli Reform (Progressive) Movement which I found to have about 25 synagogues altogether in Israel.

    http://reform.org.il/Heb/Community/CommunityResults.asp?CountryZoneID=6

    Not all of them function every Shabbat and as far as I can understand none have a minyan during the week. This could compare, for example, to my home town Maale Adumim which has about 45 synagogues and about 60-70 minyanim every day.

    I wonder whether it’s the Reform Movement’s unwillingness to answer tough questons, like the ones Mike poses, that has prevented it from gaining any meaningful foothold in Israeli Society.

    Say what you want about the Sabra but he/she doesn’t like BS.

  59. Michael Goldman

    Mike

    As I wrote the expression was simply to show my frustration at being unable to understand what makes the Reform beliefs innately Jewish.

    We are in fact in the midst of a discussion of “What is Judaism?” and I for one thank you for this opportunity to air my views and hear others.

    I think the Orthdox explanation has been made clear and I for one am quite excitedly waiting for the Reform explanation from gcantory or anyone else.

    Once we agree on what Judaism is perhaps we will be able to understand better “What makes a good Jew”.

    So gcantory the ball is firmly in your court!

  60. Michael Goldman

    Mike
    I did in fact visit the site whose link you so kindly provided.
    In the short amount of time at my disposal what I found about beliefs is the following: “The Kol HaNeshama is a pluralistic, egalitarian and spiritually welcoming community. We believe that progressive Judaism inspires us to forge a modern Jewish identity rooted in tradition and committed to democracy and social justice.”
    Wheras I indeed praise the syntax and symantics of the paragraph, sadly is meaning is well beyond my grasp.

  61. Talking of its literary merits, I think “forge” was an interesting (Freudian) choice of verbs.

  62. Daniel, I consider your disagreeing with me a confirmation of my rationality, so please don’t start agreeing.

    As you are well aware, the “So many folk from ‘our’ background” who I refer to – who have “forget[ten] more essential questions, such as “What makes a good Jew?” and “What is Judaism?”” – are “folk” like yourself, engaged in witchhunts of anyone whose Jewish belief and/or practise differs from your own.

    Does all of this really boil down, for you, to who has more synagogues and “minyanim”? That religious/Orthodox Jews attend shul more regularly (robotically?) than their Reform counterparts is only a very small part of the picture.

    I would be surprised if gcantory bothers to answer you. Your words and tone suggest that you are not really interested in anything that he has to say . . . merely to prove to him and to anyone who will listen that his Judaism, Reform Judaism, is not as authentic or as worthy as yours . . . or, in your own words, “BS”.

    Nice.

  63. Michael Goldman

    Mike

    Do you really think that Daniel engages in witchhunts of anyone whose Jewish belief and/or practise differs from his?

    And if so what does he do when he finds them?

  64. “A campaign directed against a particular group of those holding dissenting or unorthodox views” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

    Yes, I do.

    And what do you think, Michael, about the use of “BS” to describe the Reform Movement? (Or is Daniel perhaps now going to deny that he/it was referring to that?)

    In relation to Kol Ha’Neshama, and in view of what I perceive to be your rather narrow and exclusive understanding of Judaism, I can easily see why the words “pluralistic”, “egalitarian”, “spiritual”, “modern”, “democracy” and “social justice” – as applied to Judaism – might all be “well beyond [your] grasp”.

  65. Michael Goldman

    Sorry Mike but a discussion on your blog, however well read, does not constitute a campaign.

    Yes it it clear from the context that Daniel was referring to being told BS rather than the movement itself.

    My problem with the paragraph was that it sounds very nice but as with every attempt to understand the Reform movement, no specifics are given about their beliefs and it could mean almost anything.

    A typical example of marketing or and probably what Daniel was referring to as BS!

  66. Michael Goldman

    I’m more confused than ever.

    The article states: “We affirm that Torah is the foundation of Jewish life. We cherish the truths revealed in Torah, God’s ongoing revelation to our people and the record of our people’s ongoing relationship with God.”

    If the Torah is the “foundation of Jewish life” and “G-d’s ongoing revelation”, how can one of your leaders believe that it’s “written by the hand of man”.

    Moreover how is the Reform movement able to negate so many of the commandments given by G-d ?

  67. Daniel Marks

    I was at Tel Aviv for the day, IDF museum recommended, and so was unable to partake in the debate as to what Daniel meant.

    When I used the initials BS, I meant waffling. The Webster Dictionary defines it as “foolish insolent talk” .

    It is hard for me to understand how anybody could imagine I described the Reform Movement (or any movement) as “foolish insolent talk”.

    My point was, and I believe I stated it quite clearly, was that if the Reform Movement is to have any chance of gaining a foothold in Israeli society it must define itself in terms of what it is, and not just of what it isn’t.

    I find myself agreeing with Mike for the second time in 24 hours and I too would not be surprised if my questions are “ignored”.

  68. Mike, gcantory, Mark . . .

    Time and time again I am reminded:
    “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, . . .”

    And before you retort that I called you a knave or the readers of this blog fools – I didn’t.

    My attempt to quantify the success or failure of the Reform Movement in Israel by counting their communities/shuls does not mean that the number of minyanim is the only measure of their influence.

    The point, as I’m sure you understood, I was trying to make and let me say it for the third time – (“third time lucky” may be a Torah concept too) is that a movement whose “leaders” (I’m referring to gcantory) avoid answering difficult questions seems to me to be destined in a down to earth, tachlity society like Israel, to remain almost unnoticeable.

    Your efforts, Mike, to help out gcantory with counterattacks are fine but the question still remains unanswered. You can twist my words about shuls (I’m not complaining), “misunderstand” my use of the noun BS (I’m okay with that too) and even accuse me of witch-hunting (a detestable Christian concept) but the question still remains.

    Mark challenged me over the issues of the Sotah and the Yefat Toar. I didn’t refer him to links of Machon Meir but faced it head on and said what I, Daniel Marks, believes.

    I’ll ask you all to give me the same courtesy. I’ll ask it once more and then give up. For the last time, no sending links, no counterattacks, no pretending to be insulted or hurt:

    What does being a Jew mean to a Reform Jew? What does your Jewishness mean to you?

    As a footnote many years ago I used to lecture about Jewish Identity for the Jewish Agency.

    The students (Kibbutz Ulpanim) had to act out three situations:
    1. An antisemitic attack
    2. Your son/daughter wants to intermarry
    3. Your child asks you, “What makes me different from non-Jews? What does it mean to be a Jew?”

    For the antisemitic attack there were usually three reactions: fight, argue or run away.

    For the intermarriage also: agree, excommunicate, try to persuade.

    The third situation was always the hardest. I used to say that in the first two situations you can fight or give in. Here there’s nobody to fight, nobody to hit, nobody to cut off.

    Just a question to answer before it’s too late.

  69. Mark Goldman

    Michael wrote: “If the Torah is the “foundation of Jewish life” and “G-d’s ongoing revelation”, how can one of your leaders believe that it’s “written by the hand of man”. Moreover how is the Reform movement able to negate so many of the commandments in given by G-d?”

    Allow me to expound a little more.

    The Reform movement believes that the Torah reflects God’s word mediated through various scribes at various times. The plural usage of the word “truths” indicates the Reform belief that within the Torah, there maybe many truths, not all of which maybe pertinent in every age.

    “God’s ongoing revelation”

    The Reform movement believes that changing times affect the way we understand the mitzvot and what may seem outdated in one age may be redemptive in another. Using the word revelation reminds us that God has revealed truths to us; what we know, believe, and practice stem not only from our own thinking and experience, but insofar as they echo the truths of Torah, they also come from God.

    Michael, Daniel, I hope that’s helpful and direct enough for you.

    Btw, Daniel, you suggest that it’s “the Reform Movement’s unwillingness to answer tough questions, that has prevented it from gaining any meaningful foothold in Israeli Society.”

    So you don’t think that has anything to do with the political, financial, and social stranglehold of the religious right? GET REAL.

  70. Mark Goldman

    Daniel wrote: “I’ll ask it once more and then give up. For the last time, no sending links, no counterattacks, no pretending to be insulted or hurt: What does being a Jew mean to a Reform Jew, What does your Jewish mean to you?”

    Obviously I can’t speak on behalf of every Reform Jewish person, though I believe I’ve forwarded helpful websites, as well as responded directly to your theological questions regarding the movement of Reform Judaism.

    I’ll be happy to answer the second, more personal and subjective question.

    As the cantor of a large reform synagogue,(www.tkae.org) as well as a VP of my professional cantorial organization (www.accantors.org), I spend almost every waking moment of my life involved in one way or another with something Jewish and Reform.

    Reform Judaism is an incredibly meaningful and important part of my life.

    It allows me to pass on the ethical, moral, and spiritual values reflected in the Torah, and later as well as contemporary writings to enable myself, family, friends, and community to experience a meaningful and purposeful life within the framework and fully integrated with, contemporary society.

    Daniel, this is starting to get tedious and wearing. I believe that I’ve responded honestly and openly to all of your questions.

    I don’t wish to monopolize Mike’s (absolutely brilliant!) blog. Perhaps, we should continue off blog. I’m wondering if anyone besides you, my brother, and gcantory, are even interested in this. If I’m mistaken, speak up. 🙂

  71. Michael Goldman

    Mark
    Thank you for replying.
    I know you are really fed up with all of this.
    Though I’ll be happy to continue off blog I feel that I must answer your to posting for the sake of the millions of readers around the world.
    By the way asking Daniel to do the same is ridiculous as he needs the crowd, even if it’s only a crowd of four.
    Anyway you know I always get the last word.
    Your posting, however for me, leads to more questions than answers.
    How did the many scribes know the word of G-d?
    Did he appear to them? Speak to them?
    The Reform leader gcantory didn’t give the impression that the Torah was the word of G-d.
    He in fact stated that G-d was wrong!!!
    Be honest Mark.
    The Reform movement’s opinion concerning any important issues is actually decided by the modern liberal approach and if the Torah agrees then great but if not then the Torah was obviously referring to another age or as gcantory (who has suspiciously disappeared form these discussions – too hot in the kitchen or on holiday?) states, G-d was wrong.
    As I wrote in an earlier posting it’s simply a way to do whatever is convenient and remain “Jewish”.

  72. Daniel Marks

    I agree with Mark.

    It is difficult to conduct meaningful dialogue on the blog and this two on two (Michael and I who disagree on many questions and you and occasionally gcantory, occasionally Mike helping out) sometimes reminds me of tag wrestling.

    I’m still none the wiser as to what being Jewish means to you, I guess I already knew that you like being a Reform Jew and it is meaningful to you, I wanted to know what Jewish means to you, but that’s for another day.

    One small point. The reason religious Judaism has a near monopoly of Israeli resources is because in elections many people vote for parties that support it – wonder why?

    As regards the contention that they’d be more Reform Jews here if you had more money – seriously?

    Again a journey into my distant past when I worked for Ramah camps (Conservative). I remember Rabbi B.J. telling me at the first meeting, “If you really want to make money go to NIFTY (the Reform). They throw money around like there’s no tomorrow.”

    Your brother and I have at least one mutual friend who’s a Reform rabbi here, my brother-in-law is a conservative/Reform (depends who’s paying) rabbi too. He was here two years ago and I saw the offers he got to work here. I’d wish those salaries on every Israeli rabbi, on myself.

    I’ve been to Bet Shmuel and believe me that lack of financial resources has never been the problem of the Israeli Reform Movement. The real problem is that in the US you have a two day weekend so on Saturday you can go to temple for a few hours and still have plenty of time for other stuff. In Israel we have a one-day Shabbat so it’s either shul or the beach (metaphorically, Mike, I know that not all Hilonim go to the beach).

    When you couple that with what I said earlier about BS answers to real questions, that’s why if you ask the average Israeli what the Israeli Reform/Progressive Movement is they’ll probably think it’s one of our countless political parties.

    A final word then I suggest Michael, Mark anyone who wants to replies, Mike sums up (final word) and we move on.

    Unlike Michael, everything I say about the irrelevance of the Israeli Reform Movement I say out of pain not joy. I do believe that there are many Israelis who cannot handle the incredibly tough demands of being a religious Jew in Israel, but do believe in G-d and would like some way to express this belief, would like to anoint G-d in this world and seek to answer the question “What does the Lord our G-d want of us?” even if it’s not every day and in every facet of their lives.

    I believe that the fact that society here often seems to be saying, “It’s all or nothing” leads more to do nothing than it does to do all. I believe that every problem (between brothers) is solvable when there is love and goodwill. I believe the day will come when all sections of religious (not only Orthodox) Judaism will find their place in the spiritual life of the State of Israel.

  73. 1st, thanks Mike for your kind words of approbation.

    I think Mark has offered a number of answers as to what Reform Judaism is. I would add that an important teaching is that tradition (read torah, halakhah) “has a voice, not a veto.” That’s quite significant.

    If God placed the torah in the hands of humanity (I believe it always was there), it is w/o doubt in our hands now. Humans interpret it. It matters not whether those humans call themselves orthodox, hassidic, haredi, Reform, Conservative/Masorti, Reconstructionist or New Age (that should blow your mind!). We — all Jews — have a hand in it.

    What makes us all Jews is that we look @ the world through Jewish eyes, w/ Jewish values, w/ a yiddisher kop.

    Your answer to a specific question might be different from mine, but they both come form the same sources.

    Take cheeseburgers. I guarantee you the torah does NOT say, “Thou shalt not eat a cheeseburger.” They were unknown in those days. You choose not to eat them because you choose to extend the prohibition against seething a calf in it’s mother’s milk to what goes in your mouth. I ask, in America (excuse me, the Colonies), if your beef comes from Kansas & your cheese comes from Wisconsin (or really happy California cows), exactly whose calf are we seething in whose milk?

    That entire 1/2 verse has naught to do w/ what we eat. It has everything to do w/ how we treat our domesticated animals. That we should have mercy on a mother so that she doesn’t have to experience being the source of her own child’s demise. Even if she’s just a lowly cow.

    It’s a matter of rachmones, not menu.

    I don’t think the torah needs any fences — she’s quite able to stand up for herself.

    What’s kosher? Is meat that comes from a processing plant that pays the right rabbis their fee (bribe) but is cruel to both animal & worker kosher? The outward requirements of halkhah have been met. The requirements of tsedek have not. You might eat that meat, I won’t. I call it treif. What about eco-kosher? Can something really be acceptable to eat if it’s production is harmful to our earth? I think not. Rather than the minutia of the law being met, for me, the mandate — that’s mitsvah — given after the flood has been ignored. Namely, we are charged w/ not destroying the earth. God made a bargain w/ us. The biblical authors had God vow not to destroy the earth ever again, but humanity was also charged w/ the same responsibility @ the same time. We are ignoring that mitsvah.

    If you read the creation stories correctly(!), you will realize that while we are given dominion over the animals, we are not given free reign to abuse them. Guess what — we constantly violate that mitsvah, as well.

    If I’m not wrong, those 2 mistvot are among those counted in the original taryag. So you tell me, who is picking which mitsvot to observe? I venture to say it is the orthodox va’adim which earn their living from the blood of innocents who choose to violate those chukim.

    Judge not lest ye be judged. (Oops, wrong torah.) But emes is emes. Even when inconvenient.

    We may read the same text w/ different outcomes, but whatever each of us decides, it’s basis IS in those words. Not the words of the authors of Christianity (who put words in Jesus’ mouth as assuredly as our biblical authors put words in God’s mouth), nor the words of Qur’an, etc.

    That’s what makes us Jews. Not what separates us, but what joins us. That’s the meaning behind shamor v’zakhor b’dibbur echad. I was taught the traditional answer — that some of our ancestors heard 1 word while others heard the other word as they stood together @ Sinai. Nevertheless, what really happened was that Exodus & Deuteronomy were written — by men (not women) — @ different times. But the other story is a sweet bubbe meise. We both — you & I — claim those words. We just come away w/ a different answer.

    That’s why I quoted eilu v’eilu divrei elohim chayim. Very importantly, our elders used the word chayim for a very good reason. They could have stopped @ the word elohim. These both are the words of God. No, they added chayim = living = changing. Change is life & both change & life come from God. I regret that some of our brethren stopped changing in the 17th century.

    Actually though, they didn’t. Even the most so-called traditional forms of Judaism have had to adapt to changing circumstances.

    BTW what I meant by God being wrong is that the men who invented God made God ordain indefensible positions. Like the total destruction of conquered indigenous populations. What trouble that has caused the world! How many conquering societies have said if it’s OK for God to order it, it must be OK for us to do the same? So we get genocide, ethnic cleansing, imperial colonialism & eminent domain. Sorry, =my= God is not an ish milchamah (shirat hayam, Ex 15 ).

    Mark raised another important issue. Throughout most of the Western world, Reform is thriving. In Israel it (along w/ Masorti) is struggling. That’s almost solely because the Jewish religious right has a stranglehold on governmental funding, making it almost impossible for non-orthodox communities to flourish & even forcing members of those communities to fund yeshivot & rabbinical groups w/ whom they totally disagree. So the average Israeli doesn’t even know it’s possible to be a religious Jew w/o being orthodox. That is a shame.

  74. No, please don’t take this fascinating discussion off-blog . . . melchett mike would be much the poorer for it . . . especially since a new spirit of mutual respect and tolerance seems to have taken over in the last 24 hours or so.

    It would be nice if we had some new voices/opinions too (in addition to, not instead of, the existing ones).

    And those who prefer to discuss the Ashes (cricket) have the option.

  75. I’d like to declare my relative ignorance of the Reform, Conservative, Masorti and similar movements which in my simple mind fall within a category perhaps of non-conformist Judaism.

    I believe that who is a Jew and what makes a good Jew are both pertinent questions to ask.

    A Jew is either descended from a Jewish mother or a maternal Jewish grandmother whose status may be validated by a Beth Din (Jewish house of law) as specified in the Mishnah. Many secular cultures, legislatures, educational authorities and institutions seem to understand and work with this definition.

    What makes a good Jew? I believe by legend Hillel answered that question when asked to recite the Torah while standing on one foot.

    How and when was non-conformist Judaism spawned?

    I believe its European origins where in Germany in response to the Haskalah, Enlightenment. Christendom had tried and failed for centuries to break the Jewish identity through conversions, forced baptisms, inquisitions, crusades, blood libels pogroms, brutal, barbaric torture and cold blooded murder.

    These tactics changed during and after the enlightenment. The German Jew was encouraged to leave the ghetto and join secular society on condition that his/her Jewish identity was downgraded to that of a persuasion.

    One of the key differences between mainstream Judaism and non-conformist Judaism lies within the subject of assimilation. As painful as it is to say, Winston the Smithy in a previous blog subject argued that assimilation is political suicide. Whether that’s the case or not it certainly is the case as regards an individual’s Jewish identity.

    Mainstream Judaism has lots of tough questions and challenges to answer in order to make it a pragmatic, congenial and even a modern faith.

    I believe Judaism’s past stalwarts strove to do this although many of its present day leaders notwithstanding the efforts of organisations like Aish and Chabad/Lubavitch don’t seem to be bothering.

    The Amorah Shmuel a skilled physician, a master of astronomy and the natural sciences had a reputation for being what’s now referred to as modern in his rulings. Shmuel ruled unprecedentedly that the law in the Mishnah stating that a broken bone could not be reset until after Shabbos/The Sabbath was incorrect. He ruled that a broken bone could be reset during Shabbos and the Talmud agreed with his opinion.

    Rambam/Maimonides, a Rabbi, physician and philosopher (whose father used to put him down calling him ‘Butcher’s son’ in reference to his maternal grandfather) was renowned for being a pragmatist.

    Similarly, and comparatively recently, the Vilna Gaon encouraged his students to complement their studies with those of mathematics and astronomy.

    What would these aforementioned stalwarts have made of genetics? Genetic findings are in stark contrast to and in apparent contradiction with the Scriptures. Scriptures state that homosexuality is immoral whilst genetic findings indicate that homosexuality is a natural state and independent of an individual’s morality.

    How have mainstream Jewish leaders responded to this contradiction?

    1. By ruling in favour of the Scriptures.

    2. By kopping out of trying to reconcile the issue perhaps in fear of being branded a heretic and excommunicated.

    Maybe I’m wrong, although I like to think Shmuel, Rambam and the Vilna Gaon would have responded differently.

  76. Daniel Marks

    So glad that we’re back to sex and off theology.

    I believe, Dovid, as I wrote in an early posting that there is a third alternative.

    My position is that in a Jewish state homosexuality should not be legal, but neither should such a law not be in any way enforced. Incidentally, my stance towards the Shabbat and other issues is quite similar.

    Homosexuality should be illegal because I believe that a Jewish State should make a clear statement it adheres to Torah values.

    Unenforced, as anyway we have no sanhedrin or temple to try capital cases. When Elijah returns to prepare us for the coming of the messiah he will explain whether he supports those who wish to change the halachah, whether he wishes to reinforce the law or whether he has a third possibility.

    I believe this is a solution that both religious and secular, gay and straight could live with.

    Finally, there was a Jew who found no work in his Polish village 150 years ago. He was told to sit in a tree with a shofar. His job was to blow it when the mashiach came.

    After a week a friend asked him in shul:

    “How’s your new job Shmulik?”

    “Well” he replied, “the money’s not great but it’s a job for life!”

    Get the hint?

  77. Daniel, I am becoming increasingly concerned by your seeming daily radicalisation. In your comment above, you went from “messiah” to “mashiach” – not even stopping at “moshiach” on the way – within a mere seven lines!

    Perhaps you need to spend some more time in Tel Aviv. I happen to know of a good halfway house in Rechov Melchett.

  78. Daniel Marks

    Ye, I began talking theology. In theology the messiah is discussed.

    The story, on the other hand, took place in Polish village. They were waiting there for the mashiach, not the messiah.

    Since I’ve had the GPS I’ve been to Tel Aviv several times. I even passed Rehov Melchet. I have no ideological objection to crossing the green line and am always able to find food in your city of sin.

    Talking of sins we haven’t heard from Feigenbaum in yonks.

    El – if you’re there state your opinion on the subject of homosexuality and halachah. Only a sage like yourself who enjoyed a daily Hevrutah with one of the gedolei hador can give a definitive answer to our dilemma.

  79. Dovid Maslin

    Daniel, that’s not really a 3rd alternative. It’s basically the first alternative with a proviso that the law can’t be enforced because of Galus.

    Neither is it really a solution that homosexuals can live with. If a homosexual couple go to a Beth Din or Synangogue and ask for their marriage or partnership to be formally approved by Kesuvah, the answer is no. Their preferred alternative in such a case would be to attend a reform/non-conformist synagogue so it’s bye bye Yiddishkeit for the time being due to accident of birth.

  80. Daniel, you might “have no ideological objection to crossing the green line”, but many a Tel Avivi might . . . and to you corrupting us with your Dark Age ideas. 😉

  81. Dovid Maslin

    Another ruling that Shmuel endorsed was Dinoh d’malchusah dinoh. The law of the land/state is the law.

    By that rationale if gay marriage is legal in the UK and maybe Israel the same applies.

  82. Daniel Marks

    Dovid,

    Not because of galut, heaven forbid. Because in Eretz Yisrael today there is no halachic way to establish a sanhedrin anyway.

    You’re right that the Israeli Rabanut would not marry them or recognize their ketubah.

    I suggest a Brit Hazugiut (covenant of partnership?) similar to the one Lieberman wanted for non-Jews.

    A gay couple could:

    1. Have all the civil, tax, mortgage rights, etc that a normal couple has. There’s nothing in halachah against that.

    2. They could have a Reform, Reconstructionist or any other type of ceremony.

    3. Any divorce etc could either go to a civil court or an arbitration/Bet Din kind of thing. Again the rabbis involved would not be civil servants.

    As far as the wedding itself is concerned I’d recommend an outdoor affair, especially if the weather’s nice.

    Have I covered all objections?

  83. Daniel Marks

    “Another ruling that Shmuel endorsed was Dinoh d’malchusah dinoh. The law of the land /state is the law.”

    Goodness gracious Dovid. From your name I was sure you were more of a scholar than that.

    Dina Demalchuta Dina is in a case where the law of the land does not contradict halachah. (See Rambam and every other posek since.)

    Why do you think we celebrate Hannuaka? Because dina demalchuta wasn’t dina.

    Have to work. I’ll check the blog tonight.

  84. My God, he’s got another job! And I thought he was full-time here!

    Daniel, I trust that your “recommend[ing] an outdoor affair” is not a sly reference to the practise of cottaging?!

    Mark, what do you think?

  85. Dovid Maslin

    Pardon my ignorance? Maybe it’s midoh k’negged midoh ie measure for measure. Too many Rabbonim are either ignorant or live in contempt of secular issues. Likewise do plenty of Jews in respect to Halacha.

    How deeply if at all does Halacha discuss the issue of homosexuality. If a bible quote is all there is to go on then there isn’t much. Don’t forget the Bible/Tanach was helenized after Ptolemy II commissioned 72 elders to write The Septuagint. Hence the presence of chapters and versus/Pesukim which unless I’m mistaken again were not put there by G-d or by G-d’s chosen people in their right mind.

    I hope I don’t arrive to my Din Torah for the afterlife and find that some Greek had wrongly influenced Orthodox Judaic law for thousands of years.

  86. Daniel Marks

    Hey Mike, you made me laugh – the resha, not the sepha.

    If we’re back to sex in the lavatory, apparently Mike’s last unrealized goal in life, I can only repeat what I’ve already said.

    I strongly contend that at our time of life making it to the loo and back successfully is achievement enough, and nobody should endeavor to be overambitious.

    In 24 hours we’ve gone from theology to homosexuality. From sex on the blog to sex on the bog.

    Who needs Maslow’s higher order needs anyway?

  87. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Daniel ,
    My 2 cents, people are who they are, what they do in bed is mostly none of my business unless it includes acts which are either illegal or dangerous.
    I have a slight problem with the concept of in your face homosexuality, I wouldnt for instance purposefully kiss a lady friend in front of the rov and I would expect similar respect from gay people.
    I wouldnt presume to make judgement on a matter in which I have no understanding.

  88. Michael Goldman

    I therefore respectfully ask all homosexuals to refrain from kissing El’s lady friends (whoever they may be) in front of Rabanim.

    El I take you make very few judgements.

    Yes much better than theology.

  89. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Goldman why embrace theology when you can embrace a woman?
    But on a more serious note. At what point do we make judgements? If we are true to ourselves, we make them at the point we have enough understanding of the arguments and the counter arguments to make a qualified judgement.
    If the above is not true then all of our judgements are in fact nothing but prejudice.
    Ellis

  90. Michael Goldman

    Daniel,

    At 3:08 pm you were explaining halacha.

    At 4:43 pm you were making lewd comments about Mike’s sexual fantasies.

    Who is the real Daniel Marks?

  91. Daniel Marks

    I thank Ellis for his words of wisdom.

    I agree with both him and Goldman that abstaining from kissing his ladyfriends in front of rabbonim is an extremely thoughtful gesture.

    Halachically, I believe the aforementioned hookers would still, however, be entitled to partial payement whether El kissed them or not.

    DM

  92. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Payment is always due for services rendered, however one should not climb out of the tree to kiss the rabbi while wasting your enployers time.

  93. Yes, in halachah the majority of payment to a laborer is for the task he carries out but his time and even his opportunity cost is recognized to a lesser degree.

    In the case of your “lady friend” let us suppose that you had agreed to pay her $20 in order to kiss her. Then you saw your rabbi and out of concern for his sensitivities you chose to desist from the kiss. Then let us assume that you refused to pay.

    At Bet Din the lady would say, “I agreed to kiss him, the fact he didn’t want to was his decision, I certainly didn’t cause the rav to turn up.”

    You might then retort, “I was paying you to have to suffer my tongue in your mouth, you didn’t suffer, why should I pay?”

    She might then respond, “You paid me to agree the vile action and that I did. That in and of itself should be recognized as work.”

    The rabbanim might then scratch their beards and suggest that you either kiss her now and call it quits or make a partial payment of say $5. This money would cover the awful period of anticipation plus the harm to her good name.

    Does that sound fair?

  94. Ellis Feigenbaum

    daniel I have no idea how it is you know the cost of kissing hookers, but I bow to your greater knowledge in these delicate areas.

  95. I would have to hazard a guess that kissing your delicate areas would cost considerably more.

  96. Ellis Feigenbaum

    daniel if you would like to kiss my delicate areas i suggest you may be in the right forum.

  97. The years have not been a friend to me and my eyes have dimmed.

    Even if I could have once found your delicate areas, today I suspect I would be unable to find Little El without magnification greater than my Superpharm spectacles afford me.

    Who can forget when in the first form Cyril Bloomberg (an Agatha Christie buff) over to exchange his book “By the Pricking of my Thumbs” for a different one and you offered him “By the Thumbing of my …..”

    What memories!!

    They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

  98. Daniel Marks

    GCANTORY’S CHEESBURGER Part 1

    Gcantory raised the question of milk and meat dietary restrictions. As the issue is raised in this weeks parsha, and in order that our readers do not misunderstand what he meant I shall elaborate a little.

    The first point he makes is:
    Take cheeseburgers. I guarantee you the torah does NOT say, “Thou shalt not eat a cheeseburger.” They were unknown in those days.

    This is as Gcantory explains a simple case of applyling an old law to new situation. For example, there may an African country with a law against stealing from 100 years ago and then today a laptop is stolen. The thief might argue that the law doesn’t specifically mention laptops but the chief would answer that stealing is stealing whatever the article involved.

    Similarly, it would be unrealistic to expect the shulchan aruch to mention every manner of food that combines both meat and milk. It’s enough that it tells us not to eat milk and meat and we check out the ingredients ourselves.

    Then Gcantory explains:
    That entire 1/2 verse has naught to do w/ what we eat. It has everything to do w/ how we treat our domesticated animals. That we should have mercy on a mother so that she doesn’t have to experience being the source of her own child’s demise. Even if she’s just a lowly cow.

    Here we reach the difficult area of taamey mitzvot, or man’s attempt to understand the reason for laws that G-d has given us.

    By way of introduction it should be said that there have always been scholars who have sought to understand the reason for our laws while others have opposed this study.

    Those who have sought to do so have always emphasized that the reasons they suggest are often little more than educated guesses. The same scholars often suggest more than one possible reason too. However, they argue that to know G-d is one of our purposes for being and in the same way as Torah, Mishna, Talmud and Halacha (maybe Kabbala) help us to gain some tiny insight into what makes G-d “tick” so might discussing Taamey mitzvot.

    The other school of thought has consistently argued that this area is dangerous and should either not be discussed, or should be learnt only by scholars. They fear that a Jew may, because he thinks he understands the reason for a G-d given law, come to the conclusion that the law no longer applies or could be replaced. They further argue that even in the cases where the Torah itself seems to be explaining the law this is only a partial explanation, written in the language of man.

    For example, a Jew says G-d gave me Maror on Pessach to help me remember the suffering we endured while in slavery. I like maror and don’t find it bitter at all. Instead I shall watch Kirk Douglas movie about slavery.

    The first school of thought acknowledge this danger but say, “We’ll write declaimers over and over again that no practical conclusions should be reached from this study.” The second school of thought say, “Who reads disclaimers anyway?”

    To be Continued

  99. GCANTORY’S CHEESBURGER Part 2

    Now that we understand that the reason we try to explain laws is to understand (as much as we can) G-d, we can as what are the reasons our sages have speculated for the prohibition of eating milk and meat together.

    In most simplistic of manners we could say that while some sages see the main purpose of mitzvot as being tikun olam or the repairing of the world others see them to be a means of purifying Israel.

    The first school of thought say that following our (mataphorical) banishment from the Garden of Eden we try to repair the damage done there.

    They would argue, as Gcantory has, that in the same way as if you have to execute a parent and child it would be unnecessarily cruel for the child to see the parent being killed or the parent the child, so we don’t take the milk that was meant to be the source of the calf’s life and cook him in it. Many of us heard the shocking accounts of Iraq under Saddam Hussein who would first execute a family’s father and breadwinner and then send his family a bill for the cost of the bullets.

    The second school of thought quote Braishit Midrash Rabba where Rav says: “the miztvot were given only in order that human beings might be purified by them. For what does the Holy One care whether a person kills an animal by the throat or by the nape of the neck? Hence their purpose is to refine human beings.”

    They say, similarly to Gcantory, that the calf cares not in what he’s cooked after he dies and anyway it is invariably not from his mother that the milk was taken. They might argue that the original plan was for man to be vegetarian and meat eating was only a concession made by G-d when he saw that we were not yet ready for that level of purity.

    “We were given dominion over the beasts”, they say, “but this too must have its limits. How arrogant a man might become feeling he can do whatever he wants. Therefore, it’s animals but not all animals, not their blood, not certain parts of their body, only by killing them in a certain way and koshering them etc etc. Maybe Lord Acton would have said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” here too and understood these restrictions.

    There are many other explanations which I have not mentioned including kabbalistic ones that I neither pretend to understand nor would have the gall to explain to others.

    The last remaining question is how did the Torah commandment of not cooking a calf in its mother’s milk evolve into the Jewish dietary laws of today? But that we shall leave until next week.

    In the meantime Shabbat Shalom, and whatever you’re eating bon appetite!

  100. “Bon appetite”?!

    Daniel, you are the Settlers’ answer to Del Boy! It’s bon appétit.

    The legacy of Cyril strikes again!

  101. Thanks Mike.

    I’ll take that to mean that you’re in broad agreement with everything else I said.

    I have another editor who corrects my mistakes, but she’s much better-looking than you. 🙂

    DM

  102. Who reads what you write?

    Is her name Marrrleeeeene?

  103. I doubt any orthodox rabbi would sign off on this (well, not publicly at least), but this is the way I see Judaism, and how to constructively attempt to avoid the “which Judaism is correct?” question, by asking a totally different question (we are Jews, aren’t we?):

    1. Judaism is a culture, not a religion (nor a “persuasion”) in the modern, western sense of the word. It has rich traditions, many of which are expressed via what is viewed today as “religious” practice.

    2. Over the millennia our culture has entertained many different schools of thought and religious practice (the Hasmoneans were of the ilk of Zadok HaCohen, God forbid! — At Hasmo this fact was swept cleanly under the carpet. Come to think of it, how did the Rabbis agree to call the school after a bunch of heretics? Ignorance, perhaps? Or was it a post-Holocaust yearning for recasting the “lambs to the slaughter” image into that of a valiant band of rebels taking up arms and beating the Evil Empire?) Modern-day Jews are descendants of the “Rabbinic” strain of Judaism, which incidentally was at loggerheads with the followers of Zadok’s way of doing things, and made a political point, nay a mitzvah, of lighting oil-lamps before sunset on Friday evenings, so that they could benefit from their light on the Sabbath — apparently a big no-no for Zadokians.

    3. Until the second temple period, Rabbinic Jews were a very scholarly but tiny minority. Towards the end of the second temple, they flourished and became mainstream. Following the destruction of the temple, they realized that something had to be done to preserve their culture. They had the forethought to codify their oral beliefs and traditions in writing so that they would not be lost in exile. In retrospect, Rabbinic Judaism seems to have been the strain most adapted/adaptable for continuity and preservation in a prolonged and culturally threatening environment (exile).
    (Isn’t it ironic that many “ultra-Orthodox” Jews don’t agree with Darwin’s theory of natural selection?!)

    4. The trade-off: When the rabbinnical scholars decided upon and recorded the “official standardized version” of our oral traditions, which until then were naturally quite varied and fluid (and they purposely demonstrated this in the Talmud), they effectively froze, or severely limited the scope of, all future evolution. I think this trade-off was actually quite wise, because it has done a very effective job preserving our beliefs, culture and traditions for the last 2000 years or so.

    5. Many individuals, groups and movements are starting to believe that the utility of this self-imposed rigidity is rapidly diminishing with the accelerated changes that the world and the Jewish people are undergoing (industrial revolution, individual freedom, democracy (as opposed to theocracy), the return of the Jews to the land of Israel, the reinstatement of Jewish self-government, the relative lack of oppression of Jews around the world, Facebook, …) Some prefer to re-invent (dare I say re-form) aspects of Judaism to be more compatible with the current beliefs of western society, and others have reacted by re-instituting the Sanhedrin, and using it to change (undo?) things in a slightly different direction (e.g. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz re-instituting the blowing of the Shofar in Jerusalem when Rosh HaShanah falls on the Sabbath – something forbidden by the Talmud). These are just two opposing examples of what is coming: I believe we are on the brink of radical changes in what Judaism means and is to each of us — I think these changes are going to rival the original radical and pragmatic step of writing down the (until then, strictly) oral law, although like the aforementioned revolution, it will probably take a few hundred years to see it.

    So to those commenters above who seem to be sparring on the relative merits of Reform vs. Orthodox vs. Secular, the question is not “who is right?” — there’s no way to reach agreement on that. However, the next few hundred years will determine which new, old or ancient approach is better-suited for cultural survival in our changing world – so IMHO that’s what we need to focus on.

  104. Rabbi Bloom of the local Orthodox Synagogue was playing golf one Sunday when he meets three members of the local Reform Synagogue on the course. They talk and he invites them to come to his shul. Next shabbes they make an appearance, but because they turn up some time after service began, all the main seats are filled. Several other latecomers were already seated on folding chairs.
    Rabbi Bloom calls over the shammes. “Moishe, please get three chairs for my reform friends in the back.”
    Moishe is a bit deaf so he leans closer and says, “I beg your pardon, Rabbi?”
    Rabbi Bloom again says, “Get three chairs for my reform friends in the back.”
    Moishe was puzzled but as there was a lull in the service, he goes to the front of the shul and loudly announces, “The Rabbi says, ‘Give three cheers for my Reform friends in the back!'”

  105. Benny’s dog has died and he goes to see his rabbi. “Rabbi, I wonder whether you could find the time to say a special blessing at my dog’s grave?”
    The rabbi replies, “I’m afraid it isn’t possible, Benny. In fact the rules don’t really make any allowance for animals.”
    Benny says, “But I’m really upset, rabbi.”
    “So maybe you should go to see the Reform rabbi over the road,” says the rabbi.
    As Benny walks away dejectedly, he turns to the rabbi and says, “What a shame. I was willing to donate £1,000 for such a service.”
    At which point the rabbi shouts, “Come back, come back.”
    Benny turns round and says, “I thought you couldn’t help me.”
    “Ah,” says the rabbi, “but you didn’t tell me your dog was Orthodox.”

  106. Michael Goldman

    gcantory,

    Long time hope you’re still around the blog.
    In my quest to understand the Reform ideology, looking at the link my brother sent and reading your postings, I find myself getting more and more confused.

    Please answer the following questions according to Reform ideology and perhaps things will become clearer:
    Is there a G-d who created the universe with intent?
    Did G-d create the universe in six days?
    Did G-d have anything to do with the writing of the Torah and if so in what way?
    Is the Torah truth and there to be obeyed even though your and my understanding of its commandments may be different?

    I would appreciate clear concise answers.

    Thanks.

  107. Michael: I think I know what you’re expecting gcantory to say, but I’d like to take issue with your questions. Forgive me if my assumption is mistaken, but it seems that in your mind there is only one “correct” answer for each question.

    Though I don’t subscribe to such arbitrary and artificial labels (we all do what suits us, but some are more straightforward about it than others, and I know many so-called “traditional” people who have a much more “religous” mindset about God and the traditions/mitzvot they choose to keep), I would be considered orthodox. However, I’m not sure my answers will get me a full membership in your club:

    1. Whatever/whoever created the universe is God.

    2. Six days? Poppycock! Six phases – that’s more like it. There’s no such thing as a day until you have a sun and planets (more specifically, Earth), and that only happened on the 4th “day”. If you believe that it’s all God’s work, I don’t think it makes any difference how many minutes it took, or even if it took place over billions of years.

    3. Moses wrote the five books with divine inspiration. They are as close to the source as we are ever going to get. The rest were written by various prophets, leaders and wise men, with varying degrees of divine inspiration. 2000 years ago the rabbis decided which books to include in the “official version” and which ones to exclude (e.g. ben Sira, which incidentally made it into the Septuagint, Maccabees/Hasmoneans I — can you guess why it was blacklisted? See my earlier comment about their ideology.)

    4. The Torah contains only one truth, which is absolute — there is no such thing as multiple “truths”. However, it is for man to attempt to understand and be guided by this truth. That’s where things come apart, because it gives rise to many divergent conclusions, derived using varying mixes of intellectual rigour, emotion and outside influences.

    Your questions seem aimed at discerning who is a Jew and who is a follower of a Judaism-inspired religion. May I suggest you add another question:
    When you pray, do you pray to God or to the Rebbe?

  108. Michael Goldman

    Itzy,
    Thanks for your response.
    I wonder if I’ll get one form gcantory.
    I accept that there may be many answers and yours show what you believe.
    I really am trying to understand what the Reform view is!
    Everything I have read so far seems to be contradictory.
    I don’t have a Rebbe only a Rav who receives my attention when I have a question gives a shiur.

  109. Michael:

    It wasn’t a question for you — you are obviously not of that ilk, as you did not mention the Rebbe in every sentence.

    Reform — my (empirical) understanding of it is that there is no official standardized Reform belief, apart from the fact that you have license to make it up as you go along and that because we’re human, things don’t have to be consistent. It seems to be more about religious feeling than religious practice.

    Unlike the Orthodox “establishment” I do not at all view Reform as a threat to the continuity of Judaism. Continuity itself seems to be an acute problem for the Reform, prompting them to recognize patrilineal descent in order to keep the membership levels up. I don’t think it’s got the right ingredients to survive and flourish in the long term.

    I don’t think ultra-orthodoxy has the ingredients either, but in current times they certainly don’t have a problem keeping their numbers up. 😉 However, they seem to be oblivious to the Malthus J-curve (thank you Cynthia Toledano – my 3rd form Geography teacher at Hasmo, who ended our hilarious stint with Joe Paley). I see them being preserved as quaint Amish-like communities within a couple of hundred years.

  110. A reform Rabbi was having an argument with an orthodox Rabbi.
    He asked him, “Why don’t you let the men and women of your congregation sit together as they do in my congregation?”
    The orthodox Rabbi replied, “If you want to know the truth, I don’t really mind them sitting together at all. The trouble is, however, that I give sermons and I can’t have them sleeping together.”

  111. Daniel Marks

    Dan Gins,

    Do you know any stories about people who copy jokes, word for word, from the net and paste them in blogs?

  112. Daniel, I remind you (again): I run this blog. In the event that I require assistance with my editorial policy, I’ll be sure to bear you in mind.

    As co-author of a Hasmo Legend, Dan, like you, enjoys special privileges. His includes jokes. Yours was not being banned from melchett mike (permanently) a long time ago.

  113. Goldman. I’m not a Reform Jew myself, but maybe I can give it a go. If I’m wrong gcantory can correct me:

    (1) Is there a G-d who created the universe with intent?

    Yes, probably, to the first bit. No, probably not, to the second.

    (2) Did G-d create the universe in six days?
    Almost certainly not – but maybe.

    (3) Did G-d have anything to do with the writing of the Torah and if so in what way?

    Yes, he probably did have SOMETHING to do with it. In the way that he mainly agrees with the stuff we like doing but didn’t have anything to do with the hard or nasty bits.

    (4) Is the Torah truth and there to be obeyed even though your and my understanding of its commandments may be different?

    Yes, probably the truth. No, there to be either obeyed or disobeyed or ignored.

    I hope that answers your questions, and clears away all your last remaining doubts about the correctness of Reform Judaism.

  114. Here are my answers, as a reformed Jew, to Michael’s questions:
    Is there a G-d who created the universe with intent? NO.
    Did G-d create the universe in six days? NO.
    Did G-d have anything to do with the writing of the Torah and if so in what way? NO.
    Is the Torah truth and there to be obeyed even though your and my understanding of its commandments may be different? NO.

    Am I going to Hell? If so, will it be more like Tel Aviv or the Shtachim (Settlements)?

  115. Michael Goldman

    Thanks Mike.
    One more.
    As a Reformed Jew, do you see Judaism as a religion?

  116. “reformed” with a small “r”, Michael.
    Yes.
    Right, that’s your lot.

  117. Michael Goldman

    A religion without a G-d.
    Like it!

  118. Your conclusion, Michael . . . not mine. Re-read your questions. You have to employ more rigorous logic with philosophy graduates. And I trust you are not assuming that our definitions of “God” are the same . . .

    Anyway, keep trying to snare gcantory. I got over this at university and, quite frankly, find it terribly tedious.

  119. Michael Goldman

    What’s your definition?

  120. Dovid Maslin

    Instead of talking religion (boring), why not get back to the original question.

    The article seemed to associate the crime committed with male homophobia.

    Has a motive for the murders been found yet?

    Chances are that when the perpetrators are found and brought to justice (of sorts) the relatives of the murder victims will be none the wiser as to what drove the killer(s) to do this.

    It’s a pity that in today’s liberal society capital punishment has been outlawed because it’s ‘inhumane’. As if murder isn’t.

    Why should the relatives of murder victims have to pay taxes to house and feed the killers of their loved ones and in time watch them walk free?

  121. It was more a case of the killings prompting me to address the issue of male homophobia, rather than any intent on my part to “associate” it with “the crime committed”.

    And, no, I don’t think the police are any the wiser.

  122. Mark Goldman

    Not sure where gcantory has gone, so as the lone voice of reform judaism on this blog, I’ll do my best to answer my brother’s questions.

    Is there a G-d who created the universe with intent?

    Yes there is a God, and some would say that he created the universe with intent.

    Did G-d create the universe in six days?

    As another answered, probably not six days, but a Godly/supernatural being created the world none the less.

    Did G-d have anything to do with the writing of the Torah and if so in what way?

    Divergent opinions within the Reform movement, from the Torah was written by different men (over a period of time), who were Godly inspired (sometimes they got God’s word right sometimes they didn’t, or perhaps it was God’s word for that time only, not for a later period) to not even inspired by God, but writtings from different men (over a period of time) which were in essence man’s search for God. Perhaps you could even say that since God created humankind, and that according to this theory, the Torah was a mirror of humankind’s search for God, that this search was in fact Godly inspired.

    Is the Torah truth and there to be obeyed even though your and my understanding of its commandments may be different?

    The Torah is not truth, although it contains many stories, lessons, etc which are wonderful examples, on how we should strive to live our lives.

    Another analogy. Imagine pure light (God’s word) that passes through a prism, and emerges as many different colored lights- these represent the Torah, so that the Torah is in fact related to God’s word (truth), but at the same time isn’t God’s word. Just an analogy. I know it’s imperfect.

    Personally, I don’t believe it’s possible to know the word of God. Might as well ask Dexxy and Stu to change a light bulb (no offense Mike!)

    Most if not all of the time, we know instinctively (spark of God? result of good parenting/schooling?) what the right thing to do is in any situation. We feel positive when we go the extra step, and less than good when we miss the mark.

    Not sure if any of this helps. I know that you’re looking for logical and consistent arguments that hold water. However, we’re not dealing with a game of chess, or a mathematical equation.

    Orthodox Judaism is comforting in that it has answers to every question at any moment of life of “should I” or “shouldn’t I”? “What does God demand of me”? Liberal Judaism doesn’t have the same black and white response. We don’t claim to know what God requires of us at each moment. Even the concept of God, I believe is something we’re unable to conceptualize, much less understand “what God demands of us”.

    Michael also asked whether reform Judaism is a different religion from Orthodox Judaism. Perhaps by some definitions of religion it is. From my perspective, we celebrate the same festivals, read many of the same prayers, share a tradition (albeit one that we interpret differently), and we share a common history, as well as a love for eretz yisrael. So, for me, there’s more than binds us, than not.

    I hope this helps, and isn’t a catalyst for more “tag wrestling”.

    With love to my brother.

  123. Dovid Maslin

    Male homophobia is part of the macho male package undoubtedly. The macho male is happy to use the self defence argument in a vain attempt to justify his gay bashing.

    I remember a former colleague ‘coming out’ a while ago, only to be told by his manager something like “Any wrong moves and I’ll drop ya.” Maybe it’s an attention seeking thing. The manager spent much of his spare time in the 70s and 80s following Liverpool FC home and away and liked to brag. Cowardice plays its part too.

    That said, in many cases the homosexual man or the bisexual man is no less macho or violent than the heterosexual man. Anybody who’s done time in prison or worked in a prison will vouch for that.

  124. I guess the big question is what is the connection between Reform Judaism and homosexuality?

    I teach, among other places, at a yeshiva high school. Every year during the month of Elul the yeshiva brings occasional speakers to address the boys on the subject of repentance. Usually we’re talking about chozrim betshuvah, “born again Jews” if you like. They recount, often with hints and metaphors, their wicked pasts, usually the more wicked the better.

    Sometimes I teasingly ask why we don’t bring along some secular Jews who used to be religious to balance it out or complete the picture. The answer is usually: “What have they got to relate? They were weak and wanted to have a good time. There’s no story there.”

    My point is that I don’t see any fundamental difference between the two. Both were living their lives, saw a different style of life that appealed to them more and moved over. Few Jews become religious for ideological or philosophical reasons. That comes later. It’s not for nothing that when we (the religious) want to influence a secular Jew we invite him for Shabbat.

    We’re not planning to learn Rambam with him. We’re hoping that he’ll sit at the Shabbat table, see all the kids happily chatting with their parents, hear the zemirot, eat the gefilte fish (or sushi) and say to himself, “Wow! This is better than what I have.”

    Likewise most former religious seculars didn’t change because of Biblical criticism or Evolution. They saw the “positive sides” of secular life and said, “Wow! This is better than what I have.” There’s even a Hafetz Haim story to illustrate this point but I won’t bore you.

    I believe that it is almost impossible for a homosexual who has come out of the closet to stay orthodox, just as it would be for him were he to eat pork in public. That is the reason why they usually become Reform, secular or whatever. It’s nothing to do with the Goldman brothers’ deliberations about the creation of the world. Mark finds it more convenient for the lifestyle he leads to call himself Reform and Michael finds it more convenient for the lifestyle he leads to call himself Orthodox.

    As for me, because I’m (still) a heterosexual and because I’m too old and tired to perform the kind of sins that Mike dreams of and because I like studying gemara and because I like to hear my children sing zemirot and study gemara too, and eat gefilte fish and sushi, I call myself orthodox.

    What G-d calls me, I dread to think.

  125. Sorry, eating pork in private or public is a lifestyle choice, homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice.

    What about the Hassidim who walk around New York eating treife hot dogs. Do they not remain orthodox either?

  126. Dovid,

    A question that might be better directed to the Omnipresent (that was not a reference to Mike).

    I have no idea about orthodox, but I’m sure they remain fat.

  127. Daniel is indeed (and for once) correct . . . I am, rather, the Omnipotent (at least on melchett mike). 😉

  128. Michael Goldman

    Mark Hi
    Sorry I haven’t managed to reply until now.
    You thought you’d got the last word eh !
    Thanks for your answers.
    Did you notice how similar they are to Daniel’s which were given facetiously.

    The two religions do not share a common history as the Reform Movements history is under 200 years (though you and I, as am proud to say , do).

    I find it hard to understand how any religion can be based on if’s and maybe’s.

    The point isn’t that Orthodox Judaism is comforting , but rather a belief that this is how G-d commands us to behave.

    I’ll tell you what really hurts me.

    Through the generations, countless sacrifices have been made by Jews in order to keep G-d’s word alive.

    Countless Jews have sacrificed their lives and the lives of loved ones in order not to transgress G-d’s commandments.
    If a Jew decides that he doesn’t wish to keep these commandments then that is sad.
    If however a group of people stand up and say :
    “This is Judaism too” when they refer to a completely different set of values , because they have kept a few of the ceremonies and little else , it cheapens every sacrifice made for Judaism.

    The Reform movement has taken thousands of years of history and replaced them with an empty shell of if’s and maybe’s.

    Your Brother

  129. Jonathan Blitz

    I have to admit I haven’t read through all the posts here so if I am repeating something someone else said I apologise.

    When it comes to the whole story of homophobia etc then to be honest I really couldn’t care less. What your sexual preferences are is your business and not mine. BUT, this applies both ways.

    Marching down the streets to declare “Gay Pride” is a clear statement of “We are different”. Don’t then complain when people look back and say “You are different”. You never see me marching down the street saying “I am straight”.

    The same thing applies to the celebrities who come out every so often. To be honest who gives a ****. You want to be gay then be gay. Why should I care?

    To do with the discussion about Reform “Judaism” I like the famous quote: “Reform is an open religion. So open that everything has fallen out.”

    The fact is that the biggest fighters AGAINST Judaism in both the UK and USA are the Reform movement. They are the ones who tried to prevent the eruv in Hendon.

    They are the ones who went to the US Supreme Court to prevent a Chanukia being set up in the centre of New York and to prevent a Jewish-only school for children with special needs.

  130. Six months have passed and the police still don’t have a clue. I wonder how many detectives are still working the case.

  131. Do you think it really matters, Daniel? Israeli police are so wank, they could have the entire force on it!

  132. Since when did “wank” become an adjective?

  133. God, you is ignorant, Marks . . . didn’t you go to school?!

    http://www.yourdictionary.com/examples/wank

  134. I guess thinks have changed. In my name the commonly used adjective would have been “wanky”

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wanky

    http://onlinedictionary.datasegment.com/word/wank

    Either way I am prepared to accept the expertise of Ellis Feigenbaum as an impartial arbitrator and expert in the field, if you are.

    Failing that Moshe Goldman has considerable first-hand experience in this area.

  135. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Conjugate the verb wank?
    something sounds oxymoronic about that sentence dont you thinh?

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