Notice that the content of Jewish teaching is supposed to be ethical (God’s "demands") but also broadly philosophical ("the relationship of Man to God"). The latter would include working in the world to clarify among other men and women how exactly God relates to man — as creator and source of day-to-day providential care.
As Hirsch explains, Abraham, the first Jew, established his ministry (to adopt a curiously appropriate Christian term) on this basis: "And he planted a tree in Beer-sheba, and there proclaimed the name of God" (Genesis 21:33). Maimonides in his brief narration of these events in his Mishneh Torah depicts Abraham as gathering tens of thousands of converts to a religion of primordial monotheism.
A reader, Richard H., asks: "Though you are not the only one to think that being a ‘kingdom of priests’ is central to God’s calling to Jews, how widespread is the belief today? Is there any particular tradition within contemporary Judaism that is characterized by this position?"
Of course the answer is that the ideal of Jewish priesthood is not talked about in any contemporary Jewish denomination or movement. It’s in the sources — Hirsch’s writing is central to Modern Orthodoxy thinking — but politely ignored. Hence the need for this blog!
Newsweek published its list of the 50 most influential rabbis, and the usually entertainingly acerbic Failed Messiah comments blandly, "Star power trumps community influence." There’s much more that we can say than that.
This list, which will be the talk of the Jewish community for the next week, along with that comment from the normally ferocious blogger, illustrates the whole problem with our Jewish leadership. There are some wonderful individuals on Newsweek‘s rabbi list. But do you see anyone — apart from the idiosyncratic Shmuley Boteach — whose influence has anything to do with the Jewish mission as Jewish tradition, and this blog, defines it? "Influence" upon our own little "community" is well and good, but it’s not why God made Jews. True, the top rabbi on the list, David Saperstein, exerts an influence on the wider world, but in a direction either tangential or diametrically opposed to Judaism.
Saperstein runs the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. In the most recent press release on the RAC’s website, we find Rabbi Saperstein taking a firm stance against tobacco, supporting the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Which of course has zero to do with Judaism. It’s an example of what I call the moralesque — pseudo-moral issues that are a favorite of the Religious Left.