Torah Talk Redux

Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke, it seems I have been subject to an examination.

Rabbi Rabbs, you are an honest man, and your problem is that you live in a world where other men are not.

Rabbi Rabbs, you said that most of your friends were not Jewish. I hope you consider me to be among them. My critique of the Orthodox community was not directed at you. If Orthodox Jews were as accessible and friendly as you are, I would never have written the critique in the first place. In other words, my problem with the Orthodox community is that they don’t act like Rabbi Rabbs. All I really want out of them is for them to be friendlier.

Luke, I don’t recall ever having had such an extensive conversation over a hamburger. It is possible that on the national and international stages Jews always become a focus of attention — about Israel, about the holocaust, etc., etc. However in the eyes of non-Jews this does not extend to ordinary daily life which can include grabbing a quick bite to eat from a fast food joint. The truth is that very few non-Jews even know what kosher is. (I don’t entirely know what kosher is… and I am vastly more knowledgeable than most.) For most of the non-Jewish world, Judaism is characterized by Jerry Seinfeld, Barbra Streisand, Fran Drescher, and other Jews in secular life. I would include Dennis Prager and Michael Medved for us conservatives. So I think Rabbs is correct when he understands that most non-Jews have no expectations one way or another about Jewish life. We now have so many different nationalized groups to worry about that we simply do not have the time or inclination to spend the small amount of free time most of us have worrying about the dimensions of some group other than our own. A Jew eating a hamburger simply does not rise to the level at which one would exercise concern even if they were among the rare breed that had ever heard the word kosher.

Rabbi Rabbs, I think there are deep philosophical and theological implications in your presentation about the nature, activity, and motivations of G-d. It could be that the view you gave us is a fundamental prerequisite in the philosophy of Idealism. Idealism fundamentally states that the universe can ultimately be shown to be a mental phenomenon. The great scientist Sir Arthur Eddington came to a similar conclusion after a lifetime of study and research. It is also interesting that your view feathers in very nicely to the concept of Tzimtzum, a principle of the Lurianic Kabbalah. And I never said there was no philosophical dimension to Judaism, only that you guys never talked about it. Now you have. Luke seems to have a lot of zeal in his insistence that Judaism is about nothing more than following rules. Rabbs, you have demonstrated that Judaism does have a philosophical dimension.

As an aside, you know that the Declaration of Independence says that “we hold these truths to be self-evident” and then goes on to say that we are endowed by a Creator with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The closest I’ve been able to come to an understanding of the nature of this Creator is a Kabbalistic one. As Rabbi David Cooper has discussed, one thing we can say about the Creator is that everything we have and everything that exists flow from this ultimate Creator. I won’t go into my ruminations except to say that the Kabbalistic reference comes closer than other religious presentations when assigning any characteristic to the Natural Law from whic the Declaration comes.

Rabbis Rabbs, when Americans first heard the world multiculturalism, we thought it meant more exhibitions at folk festivals.

Multiculturalism is injuring the United States. In the old days we had a few groups that required their insular neighborhoods. Today a huge number of groups are all hived into their little conclaves. The Irish have long since assimilated. Italians have pretty much assimilated even though you can still find Italian neighborhoods. …on and on through a lot of nationalities. This is what is supposed to occur. The idea is that we are a melting pot. But the conduct of immigrants is turning us into an undesirable salad bowl.

If I understand correctly, there are two main reasons for Jews wanting to retain their neighborhoods. One is to protect Jewish identity from homogenization. The other is protection from some kind of persecution.

I think that the idea of persecution can be dismissed. This is America. Jews hold positions throughout our power structure. Lieberman has even run for president. Prager and Medved are two of our national spokesmen. Jews hold public office; Jews are in our military. Jews are part of the fabric of American life. As a consequence, my view is that the way to increase Jewish security is to increase Jewish participation in ordinary life. This is not Nazi Germany. This is a place where Jews help control the reins of power. The best thing would be for Jews to let people know that they are good guys and be more like Rabbi Rabbs.

In the Christian world, a lot of young Christians find Christianity lacking, and as they get older they start looking elsewhere for spiritual sustenance. And one of the problems is that Christianity has been unsuccessful in delivering the spiritual life that would satisfy these young people. This is one of the reasons that the Catholic Church is returning to the Latin Mass. And the erosion of principle is what is causing a hemorrhage in the Anglican Communion. My question about this feature of religious life was directed at religions in general and not specifically Judaism.

RABBI RABBS EMAILS: Hey Greg,

Thank you for you continued enthusiasm for our Torah Talks, and for your
latest valuable feedback to our show. I especially appreciate that you
answered the questions I personally asked you during this week’s broadcast.
You are a stand-up guy and you didn’t avoid what I had directed your way.

And, of course, thank you for the wonderful compliments, and yes, I consider
you amongst my non-Jewish friends.

You wrote: “If Orthodox Jews were as accessible and friendly as you are, I
would never have written the critique in the first place. In other words, my
problem with the Orthodox community is that they don’t act like Rabbi Rabbs.”

That’s a great quote, and I will use it for my next Facebook status. Thanks!
We share something in common, because my problem with the frum community is
that it doesn’t think more like Rabbi Rabbs, ESPECIALLY in regards to stopping
the cycle of child abuse and resolving to get married and not have kids.

Obviously, you and I don’t agree about assimilation, as I see nothing
undesirable about salad bowls, and I am not sure I agree with the two reasons
you presented as to why Jews want to retain their neighborhoods. My
explanation for us doing that is that we are motivated by simple convenience,
as it is exponentially easier to live an often difficult and demanding frum
lifestyle when living in a big frum neighborhood. Here in LA, we have numerous
yeshivahs, mikvehs, synagogues, Jewish bookstores, Judaism supply stores,
kosher restaurants, kosher food markets, bakeries, and more, all within
walking distance.

That wouldn’t be the case where Luke lived in Sacramento, where even the
simplest things in Judaism become a major challenge and hassle because the
necessities aren’t locally available. A frum Jew might as well live on the
moon if they plan to live in Sacramento, as the challenges of the two
locations won’t seem that dissimilar.

You wrote: “In the Christian world, a lot of young Christians find
Christianity lacking, and as they get older they start looking elsewhere for
spiritual sustenance. And one of the problems is that Christianity has been
unsuccessful in delivering the spiritual life that would satisfy these young
people. This is one of the reasons that the Catholic Church is returning to
the Latin Mass. And the erosion of principle is what is causing a hemorfhage
in the Anglican Communion. My question about this feature of religious life
was directed at religions in general and not specifically Judaism.”

Thanks for clarifying your question. Ok, that’s an interesting topic, and
hopefully we can address it during our next show, because I have a lot to say
about it.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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