Sunday, February 20, 2011

Elijah Tears Into Reform Judaism

A View of Reform Judaism
This week's Haftara relates how Eliyahu the prophet, before an assembly of all the Jews, rebukes a segment of them. He says, "How much longer will you straddle the fence? If you want to worship Hashem, then do so; And if you want to worship the foreign god, then do that!"

Notice what Eliyahu is saying, for his precise words may be mistaken for speaking colloquially. Eliyahu is telling these people that even idol worship is better than straddling the fence! You'd think he'd attack the idolators, but instead he directs his anger at the reformers.

This is amazing because idolatry and monotheism diametrically oppose each other, so much so that idolatry counters everything Judaism stands for. Why does would Eliyahu unleash his contempt on fence straddlers when idolaters you'd think are far worse?

Maimonides asks this question: How is it, if Hashem despises any other gods before Him, that religions that worship false gods or false prophets are given freedom to do so? Answers Maimonides, because Hashem tolerates them for they at least strive to live by the truth! Yes they follow a path diametrically opposed to the right direction, but at least their mindset is anchored in spiritual integrity; Once these people will (eventually) be shown the truth, on a moment's notice they will turn around and align themselves with the correct faith.

Which is untrue of those who straddle the fence. These people dip into the Jewish pool when its suits them, and walk the idolatrous terrain when it suits them. Such people seek convenience more than they seek truth. For them spirituality plays second fiddle to self-satisfaction (or self-worship). These people delude themselves into thinking they are "good Jews" because, after all, much of what they do is congruous with Jewish observance. As for what they do otherwise, their love of self easily rationalizes away those annoyances. These are people whom logic cannot easily budge. Much like a sick person who doesn't recognize he's ill.

If this weren't bad enough, worse still is another effect these people have. They may influence others who lack insight or knowledge. For straddlers cannot be easily identified as idolaters. A Jew realizes idol worship clashes with Judaism, but he may not detect the hidden agenda of his straddler friend. It is for this reason gentile missionaries primarily prey on targets weak on Judaism - under the guise of a Jewish facade!

Who are these straddlers, these "double-dippers" of today? Every generation has them, it seems. In the past, these were the Sadducees, the Hellenists and the Haskalah. Today they are the "Reformists", whether their schools of thought is "Conservative", "Reform" or "Reconstructionist". These wre the people Eliyahu rebuked, to either quit their brand of Judaism entirely or adopt the genuine thing without compromise. Either accept Hashem or don't - but don't turn Judaism into a half-donkied religion!

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