This entry is a response to Shmuley Boteach's opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post, “No Holds Barred: Non-Jews as the saviors of Judaism”, which was previously posted on this blog here. To read Shmuley's full article click here.
One of my many concerns with rabbinic Judaism is its exclusive focus on the Jewish people. Perhaps that makes sense as a religion of the Jewish people, but unfortunately God's calling was not to create our exclusive religion. His desire for us as a people was much greater (and fulfilling)- bless the whole world! (see Genesis 12:3) God said through the prophet Isaiah, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6, emphasis mine). God is clearly speaking to an individual, “My Servant”, who I believe is the Messiah, but I also think Israel has a part in being this light. God chose Israel, and from Israel the Messiah, for a very specific purpose- bring salvation to the whole world!
That said, I'd like to turn to Shmuley's article. While he seems to present an open and welcoming stance toward the nations, ultimately it's quite self-focused. He writes, “Having non-Jews become excited about Judaism is the most effective way to address assimilation, because Jews would now be blending into a culture that embraces and honors their tradition.” Shmuley expresses more concern here with preserving this exclusive religion than fulfilling God's purpose for us.
Shmuley presents a “seven-step program” to implement his plan. Here it is:
" 1. Observe Friday night as family night (see www.fridayisfamily.com) by tuning out all electronic interference and focusing on children, friends and community.
2. Eat kosher food (20 percent of Americans already look for kosher symbols for cleanliness and purity) and separate milk from meat as a symbol of the affirmation of life and its negation from all forms of corrosion and death.
3. Celebrate the themes of the Jewish festivals. Passover Seders, emphasizing the human capacity to rise above material enslavement (President Barack Obama already hosts his own annual Seder), transcending a reliance on material comforts by returning to the essentials of nature on Succot, lighting lamps on Hanukka as a symbol of the human capacity to illuminate a dark earth and heal a painful life, and reorienting ourselves to the essential laws of ethics and morality on Shavuot.
4. Studying Judaism’s great texts, from the Torah portion of the week to selections of the Talmud, to the epistles of Maimonides, to kabbalistic and hassidic works.
5. Observing the marriage laws, including the monthly act of sexual separation thereby creating an erotic barrier that enhances lust and pleasure (see my book Kosher Sex).
6. Appreciation of, and respect for, the feminine, including codes of alluring modesty for women, and domesticity and marital commitment for men, all necessary in an age where teens like Miley Cyrus are already pole-dancing and stars like George Clooney can’t commit.
7. A commitment to acts of communal kindness, such as regular visits to hospitals and homes for the elderly and giving 10 percent of one’s income to charity. "
These points could be viewed as Shmuley's version of the 7 Noahide Laws, but they are much more dubious. Shmuley explicitly states that he is not interested in converting non-Jews, yet if you read his list it looks awfully close to conversion!
Separating milk and meat!?! This is supposed to be some great Jewish principle? I don't quite understand how this is a “symbol of the affirmation of life and its negation from all forms of corrosion and death”.
I agree with the idea of spreading Biblical (Jewish) values. Number 7 is a point I can support. If you read the rest of the points, however, you quickly notice that “Biblical” is not an issue all. For example, he cites Madonna, in another part of the article, as an example because she dabbles in a popular form of kabbalah. This is supposed to be a positive example for us? My opinion on kabbalah is material for a separate entry, but I will say that study of kabbalah seems to have near to nothing to done with God or the Tanakh.
Speaking of God, by the way, where does He appear in this seven-step program? He does not even make a cameo appearance!! This “incidental” omission of God is an unfortunate tendency in some (or many) forms of rabbinic Judaism. They may promote Jewish values and keeping kosher, but what about loving God? Why is this not number one on the list?
Shmuley bluntly states, “Judaism has failed”. He mentions high rates of assimilation and the poor image Israel has in the world. I agree with him, there is a problem. Rabbinic Judaism has failed to provide the solution. I'm sorry, Shmuley, but your solution is no better, if not worse. The only solution is to return to GOD, not Jewish values based on traditions of men, and embrace our calling as a light to the nations. We, as Israel, must obey God and His commandments. God has given us a choice: life or death (see Deuteronomy 30). Let us chose the path of life! God has even promised us His Spirit to enable us to follow His decrees (Ezekiel 36:27). Only then can we go to the corners of the earth and teach the nations the greatness of our God!