With Tolerance, Respect, and Love for Jews of Other Torah Traditions
Principle 6 – The True Reason for Jewish Suffering Throughout the Ages, and the Failures of Traditional Jewish Leadership
The terrible suffering of the Jewish People over the millenia is a direct result of our having failed to keep the halakhah properly and with the right attitude (see Principle 11) as a nation. (1)Deut. 28:47, Mishnah tr. Avoth 5:7(8) The gentile nations are not ultimately to blame for our terrible suffering. Rather, those nations that afflict us are agents of HaShem that will eventually be punished. (2)Isaiah 10:5-15
The weight of the blame of our suffering falls on the shoulders of traditional Jewish leadership: Rather than assuming the authority to innovate new customs or reinterpret the halakhah, post-Talmudic sages have the responsibility to serve as role models of proper halakhic behavior, to teach and show how the authentic halakhah applies to their generation, and to enforce the Law to the extent of their power, rebuking the people when they stray from it. They also have the responsibility to guide the Jewish People towards the fulfillment of the entire Covenant, which includes `aliyah (emigrating) to the Land of Israel (3)Rabbi Yissakhar Shelomo Teichtel of blessed memory explained that the leaders of the Jewish People are responsible for not making the masses go up to ...continue (4)Rabbi Yehudah Ḥai Alkalai (close, personal friend to my third great-grandfather HaRav Yehudah HaLevi from Dubrovnik) wrote: “Because Israel ...continue and restoring the Sanhedrin.
Failure to guide the Jewish People properly is largely rooted in three problems:
- A failure to educate the common masses of Jews –including laymen, women, and children– in practical halakhah and train them in the art of warfare (see Principle 13). Instead, there is an exaggerated emphasis on spirituality, which is widely perceived as separate from Jewish Law, and on the study of mysticism. Such an the emphasis on theology over practical action is the opposite of the authentic Torah approach. Moreover, viewing the Oral Law through the prism of poorly-defined spiritual concepts and a simplistic interpretation of kabbalistic teachings leads to a distortion and widespread transgression of key points of halakhah.
- A feeling of obligation and mandatory confinement to the majority-accepted custom and halakhic interpretation. In classical yeshiva training –particularly in ultra-orthodox institutions– the critical pursuit of the letter of the law from foundational codes of the Oral Law is discouraged, if not forbidden outright. On the contrary, most of tomorrow’s Torah leaders are being groomed today to pursue the study of Talmud as a highly sacred academic ritual, disconnected from the true halakhah as they see it. That, they maintain, is to be determined from the pool of opinion among the living rabbis, and those who only recently passed from the world. The result is a devolved amalgamation of Jewish custom and practice that frequently contradicts the plain rulings of the ancient bearers of the Oral Law.
- A narrow approach to halakhah that fails to relate to the Torah as a whole. Halakhah that cannot be practiced outside of Israel, or without a Temple, has often been dismissed as not practical in our times and either reinterpreted, or largely ignored. (As mentioned above, acting as if any part of the Torah is no longer actively binding breaches the Covenant.)
Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Deut. 28:47, Mishnah tr. Avoth 5:7(8)|
|3.||↑||Rabbi Yissakhar Shelomo Teichtel of blessed memory explained that the leaders of the Jewish People are responsible for not making the masses go up to the Land of Israel. “This explains the words of our mentor, the Or HaḤayim. He writes that Israel’s leaders throughout the generations will be held responsible for the fact that we are still in exile, because they should have inspired the Children of Israel to love the Land of Israel. [Or HaḤayim, Wayyiqra 25:25]” (from his book Em HaBanim Semeḥah [© Kol Mevasser, 1998. 386 pp.])|
|4.||↑||Rabbi Yehudah Ḥai Alkalai (close, personal friend to my third great-grandfather HaRav Yehudah HaLevi from Dubrovnik) wrote: “Because Israel didn’t rise up to return to our Land, and to the inheritance of our forefathers, the decrees began, the expulsions and slaughters, for the matter is dependent on the repentance of returning to the Land of Israel. (Qol Qorai, Rabbi Yehudah Ḥai Alkalai. The Writings of Rav Alkalai)|