Predictably Pathetic

How predictable!  During this time of nine days when Jews should be unified in understanding the implications of the Temple’s destruction, that the Maccabean has to publish a column that totally discredits all that the Beit Hamikdash stood for.

How predictable!  That this blog will pick up the matter and profile the outrageous insult that has once again been hurled at the Perth Jewish people through the very pages of their own newspaper.

If you look closely at the reform liturgy, especially the German prayer books of the early 20th century, you will see that references to Jerusalem, the Temple Service (avodah) and a return to Zion were removed.  Under this movement a German identity could not be transposed with a Zionist identity.  The yearning of our people for the service of the Beit Hamikdash was our desire for 2000 years.   The reformist Jews disowned this heritage, and to this day cannot reconcile their intellectual relationship with Jewish spirituality with the practicalities of halachic observance.

But wait, there’s more!  In order to satisfy their own shortcomings, they need to discredit those who still believe in the concept of the ingathering of exiles and the redemption of the Jewish people.  They have to selectively misrepresent passages of Tanach without the aid of interpretive sources, and then have the chutzpah to present so-called Rabbinic contradictions from the Talmud as proof, even though they reject the virtues of Torah Shebalpeh in the first place.

Sacrifice is a major concept, both physical and metaphoric within Jewish tradition.  As we are attacking issues here, not people, we need to address some of the concepts raised by the article in question.  Anybody who reads the obscene drivel in this weeks Maccabean should take it upon themselves to be informed about what the Temple sacrifice really was, and why it was instituted.  For a start, it was not a simple matter of atonement (homage and securing pardon) as the article suggests.

Rabbi Yaacov Menken says: “If we are going to discuss the korbanos, the sacrifices, we need to dispel misconceptions having to do with primitive practices and some idea of a god that is “hungry” or “thirsty for blood.” None of these, fortunately, resemble what you find in the Torah.

In the Hebrew original, the Torah uses the word “korban” — this is what we translate into “sacrifice” or “offering.” Rabbi Shamshon Rephael Hirsch regrets the absence of a better German translation — a complaint equally applicable to English. A korban, he writes, neither involves giving up something of value as implied by “sacrifice,” nor is it a gift as implied by “offering.”

The root of the word korban is “karov,” a Hebrew word meaning to approach, to come close. A person is “MaKriv” (bringing close) a korban. He doesn’t “sacrifice” it or “offer” it, he brings it close – and this is not just a matter of semantics. “The MaKriv,” says Rabbi Hirsch, “desires that something of himself should come into closer relationship with G-d.”

[Many mistakenly believe that a korban or offering was simply for expiation of sin. In the Torah itself, however, most korbanos are not associated with transgressions, and the exceptions are mostly inadvertent acts. For the vast majority of deliberate violations, the Torah does not describe any offering to be used as part of an atonement process.] ”

Rabbi Jacobson, in this article writes “Why are we so obsessed with sacrifices? Can’t our prayers discuss something more relevant and exciting?

The answer is critical to the understanding of Judaism. This is Judaism’s way of teaching us that in order to celebrate you must be ready to make sacrifices.

A life of ecstasy, Judaism understood, is not born from a life free of any moral and spiritual responsibility, a life filled only with gluttonous indulgence and uninhibited expression of our hedonistic nature. These are short lived celebrations that ultimately cause us more stress and anxiety, since they cannot satiate the profound human need for meaning and transcendence.

From the Torah perspective, a holiday is deeply linked with sacrifices and hard toil, with the art of self-reflection, self-refinement, study and prayer. We celebrate what we give rather than what we take; we rejoice over our commitments, our values, our readiness to sacrifice the best within us to our loved ones and to G-d (2).

This is why every Jewish day of celebration focuses so much on the theme of sacrifices. If you are not ready to sacrifice anything in your life for truth, for love, it is difficult to achieve genuine fulfillment and celebration. If you are unwilling to challenge the animal within you and sublimate it, your happiness will be short-lived.

For yet another important article about the relevance and centrality of sacrifice to Jewish belief see this article by Rabbi Lef:

“Our modern minds have great difficulty with this seeming primitive practice. How are we to relate to blood and sacrifices without dismissing it? After all, it is quite a significant portion of G-d’s Torah, His Instructions for Living. We can’t simply write it off as something that is no longer relevant to us because all of Torah is eternal. What’s behind the emphasis on blood?……”

If the rejection of the importance of sacrifice as deliberated in this weeks Maccabean wasn’t so serious it would be funny.  As it stands, particularly at this crucial time in the Jewish cycle, it is nothing other than pathetic.  The content is too far distanced from mainstream Jewish thought to even be branded as provocative.

The article says it all when it quotes that “Progressive Judaism never considered the Temple on Zion as the focal point for Jewish worship.” Perhaps the best compatible quote to accompany this statement is from Charles Golding who writes “The halachah is what it’s all about. Make no mistake: Reform, progressive, Conservative, Masorti, reconstructionist — these man-made groups operate a pick-’n’-mix style halachah more akin to “Jewish-style” food: it looks and smells like the real thing, but it isn’t. Without the halachah, it is impossible to be Jewish.”

I will spend the 9th day of Av, alongside millions of Jews around the world, contemplating the reasons why the Jewish people endure exile.  I will lament over the words of the prophets, and reaffirm the centrality of the avodat Beit Hamikdash to the fulfilment of Jewish ideals.  Sadly, there will be Jews in Perth who will at the same time be sitting outside with their bagels, reading the Maccabean, and completely missing the meaning of what it means to be Jewish.

Misleading our people about the role of Jewish sacrifice and publicly dismissing Jerusalem as the focal point of Jewish spirituality is being part of the problem,  not the solution.  It is precisely why we as a yet to be united nation of Jews are still in an era of exile.

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