Sunday, 2 March 2014

Thoughts on Jewish Unity & Who is Your Rabbi?

Current events are filled with a variety of opinions and much controversy. It seems it has always been this way (ever since at least that famous episode concerning a difference of opinion between Cain and Abel!) In particular, the Jewish people seem to have had a variety of conflicting opinions within themselves since time immemorial too. Perhaps it began with a difference of opinion between Yosef and his brothers. Perhaps it was at the time when the Jewish people went down into Egypt with the Levites being exempt from work whereas the rest of the Jewish people were engaged in slave labour. Perhaps it all started when Moses stood up to be the leader of the Jewish people, causing the vicious hatred of a family member (Korach) antagonizing a group of other Jews to join in the battle of hatred and animosity. Or maybe it began a little later when Jeraboam broke away from the then current King of all Israel - Rechavam - son of Solomon. With the violence that ensued after all that it was not really just 10 tribes against 2, but as we can recall throughout history, a battle within every possible segment of Jewry.

Times change but it seems like the essence of the disunity continues. In today's times we can find a variety of Jewish flavours even within the category of Jewry known as Orthodoxy. Being a Shadchan means becoming well aware of the the different colours in the spectrum of light which ultimately lead back to the white colour they all came from. One can find what many call the ultra orthodox Charedim. One can find Dati Leumi and then there are those who are also that but refer to themselves as Torani too. Those not partaking of the regular Dati Leumi often prefer a Chardal approach - the "mustard" approach of following a mixture of Charedim, Dati Leumi and Rabbi (Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen) Kook philosophies. There are religious Zionists, and then those who are not religious. Then there are the countless groups of Chassidim each with their own Rebbes. There are the Litvaks and yet another group who follow the Zilberstein approach. It seems that everyone is simply following their Rebbe - their teacher - much like one can imagine Jews did at the times the Gemara was written down. Though there was disagreement - there was / is still a way to follow Jewish law. 

It seems like there is no end to the infinite rays of light that stem from the One G-d. Outside of the religious world within Israel itself too - there live a large population of secular Jews, wanting little to do with the active observance of Jewish law. And within all these people - there just seems to be a world of conflict.

I'm often amused at the reaction of so many who - no matter which category they fit into - object to anyone spending time in learning - at least anything that goes on for more than a short period a week or perhaps a lifetime. It seems that whenever a question of Jewish law arises, many are quick to "ask their rabbis" on how to behave. When it comes to birth, circumcision, barmitzvas, wedding, divorce and ultimately death - a rabbi is consulted to rule in a legal way as to what to do. I wonder to myself how the rabbi appears as if suddenly at that point in time filled with the gigantic knowledge needed in order to rule in Jewish law, when so many are so against Jews devoting their lives to learning Torah. Isn't it after all these very people - those who make Torah study their lives - who will be available when it comes to dealing with the urgent questions so many of us have. They'll be there when we need them - but only if we are prepared to support them to become who they will become.

I think of the karate master who will practise his techniques for years on end spending hours every single day mastering every single movement. Watching a karate master perform a kata - for example - may even make one wonder if he could ever win a fight. His moves are slow and deliberate. But by that time, the fight will be over. Not so however! His practise, his deliberateness, his breathing and his slow movements - are just the beginnings and the essence of it all - the very techniques used to win his fight - when the time comes. But it's not good enough to do once. It must be done over and over, day after day, year after year - for an entire lifetime(!) so that when needed, it comes naturally!

So too is Jewish learning. It may seem like it goes nowhere. It may seem like those studying will never contribute anything to society (G-d forbid!) But one day, when they're needed in actuality (let alone the contribution that they do make on a constant basis!) they will be there. They'll even be there for you.

It doesn't really matter which direction they take. Every Jew has something to contribute. Some may be Red Jews, others Orange. You'll find Yellow Jews, Green ones, Blue, Indigo and Violet. But ultimately their source is all routed in that one White Light.

It's such a pity so many choose to fight. It's such a pity they do not see just how much others do give of themselves throughout life. I guess, it's when you really need them and have already destroyed them, that then - we'll turn around and realise just how much we will have lost.

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