Delegitimization throughout the Orthodox Jewish World of Those Who Think Differently

Want create site? Find Free WordPress Themes and plugins.

In my view, widespread throughout the orthodox Jewish world (modern and ultra-orthodox) is an anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic approach characterized by a lack of mutual respect and lack of tolerance toward those who think differently.  Contemporary non-orthodox movements are committed to democratic values of pluralism, mutual respect and tolerance.  The anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic conception of Judaism that is widespread throughout the orthodox world is characterized by a tendency to not only express disagreement but to delegitimize those who think differently and especially those who are not bound by Maimonides’ “13 Principles of Faith”.  Maimonides’ principles of faith, which are accepted as a binding theological dogma only by the orthodox world (and not by contemporary non-orthodox movements), is the basis of the anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic approach that is so widespread today throughout the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox).  The tendency to delegitimize is not just regarding those outside the orthodox world but also regarding those who think differently within the orthodox world.  Thus, this tendency to delegitimize, and not just express disagreement, leads to fragmentation not only of the Jewish people but also to fragmentation within the orthodox world – in violation, in my opinion, of an express Halachic (legal) teaching of the Talmudic rabbis that it is forbidden to divide the Jewish people into ideological factions or sects.

The Talmudic concept of heresy

 

The codification by Maimonides in the 12th century of his “13 Principles of Faith” as a binding theological dogma is a huge innovation (and distortion) – no such principles are found in the Bible, and the Talmudic rabbis did not codify principles of faith as a binding dogma.  Maimonides, in my view, was well aware that not only was there no precedent in the Jewish tradition for his codifying principles of belief as a binding dogma but also that such a dogma is a violation of a Talmudic legal principle that decisions of law are not to be rendered regarding issues of abstract belief; and Maimonides formulates this Talmudic principle in his work the Commentary to the Mishnah several times including shortly after presenting his “13 Principles of Faith” (Sanhedrin 10, 3) – “every dispute that arises between rabbis that has no practical implications regarding behavior, but is only a matter of belief, there is no room for rendering a Halachic (legal) decision in accordance with one or another”.  According to this Talmudic legal principle, Jewish law does not regulate theological matters that are abstract and divorced from behavior.

Therefore, Maimonides codified a binding dogma in contradistinction to a Talmudic principle that he himself formulated – that decisions of law are not to be rendered regarding issues of abstract belief.  That is, on the one hand, Maimonides codifies a binding theological dogma reflecting an orthodox (correct belief) conception of Judaism; and, on the other hand, he formulates a Talmudic principle reflecting an orthoprax (correct practice) conception of Judaism.  There is then a contradiction in the philosophic thought of Maimonides.  In my view, Maimonides’ true conception regarding Judaism as a thinker is orthoprax as reflected in the Talmudic principle that he formulated; and, he codified a binding dogma creating an orthodox conception of Judaism as a political and religious leader of Jewish communities (and not as a thinker) only for the unlearned Jewish masses who had not studied philosophy.  Furthermore, in my view, Maimonides as a thinker held radical views in relation to Judaism and in relation to the principles of faith that he codified; and in his own philosophic conceptions he was not bound by the principles that he codified (at least according to a literal understanding of the principles) – but, this is a very broad subject and I will not try to justify my view in this regard.  In any case, even if one should not agree with my view that Maimonides’ true conception of Judaism is orthoprax, I point out two things in relation to Maimonides’ codification of a binding dogma.  First, the orthoprax principle that Maimonides formulated that legal decisions are not to be rendered regarding issues of abstract philosophic belief is faithful to the Talmud whether or not it represents his true conception as a thinker (and his codification of a binding dogma is in contradistinction to this Talmudic principle).  Second, through the ages and already from the time that Maimonides lived there has been a great deal of criticism of his codification of a binding dogma.

From a Halachic (legal) point of view, the great thinker in the Jewish tradition to criticize Maimonides’ codification of a binding dogma is Ravad (Rabbi Abraham ben David) who lived at the same time as Maimonides (the 12th century).  Regarding the third principle of Maimonides’ “13 Principles”, the incorporeality of God, Ravad comments on Maimonides’ defining one who believes in the corporeality of God as a heretic (laws of repentance 3, 7):

 

Why has he (Maimonides) called such a person (who believes that God has a physical form) a heretic?  There are many people greater and better than him (Maimonides) who hold such a belief on the basis of what they have seen in verses of Scripture and even more in the words of those aggadot (rabbinic commentaries) which corrupt right opinion.

 

Clearly, Ravad does not believe that God has physical form, and he agrees with Maimonides from a philosophic point of view in stating explicitly that such people who do believe that God has physical form are corrupted in their thinking – as a result of literally understanding Scripture and rabbinic commentaries describing God in anthropomorphic (human) terms.  However, Ravad’s criticism of Maimonides is that such people cannot be defined as heretics on the basis of “wrong” beliefs, and may be considered only as mistaken in their thinking (“Why has he called such a person a heretic?”).

In my view, Ravad is very faithful to the Talmud in his criticism of Maimonides – “why has he called such a person (who believes that God has a physical form) a heretic?”.  In the Talmud, heresy is not a theological but a behavioral concept – according to which even deviant ritual behavior, such as the eating of a non-kosher, forbidden piece of meat, may be regarded as heresy.  Whether the eating of a non-kosher, forbidden piece of meat constitutes heresy or not depends upon the circumstances and intention involved.  If one eats the non-kosher, forbidden piece of meat merely because it is tasty and one cannot control one’s impulses, then the act is in no way considered heresy, but is simply a violation of the dietary laws of the Torah.  Such an act is considered to be an act of wrongdoing (legally), but not heresy.  However, if one eats the non-kosher, forbidden piece of meat as an act of rebellion, provocation or scorn, then the act is considered to be heretical.  Thus, Ravad may be arguing that one who believes God has physical form does so not as a matter of rebellion, provocation or scorn but due to lack of philosophic study and knowledge – and such a person should be viewed then merely as mistaken and not as a heretic.

 

Orthodox delegitimization regarding those within the orthodox world

 

The tendency so widespread throughout the orthodox world to delegitimize, and not just to express disagreement, is not only regarding those who think differently outside the orthodox world but also regarding those within the orthodox world.  I will cite only one example here in this regard.  Rabbi David Berger, who belongs to the modern orthodox world, argues in his book (The Rebbe, the Messiah and the Scandal of Orthodox Indifference) that those Chabad members who believe that the Rebbe of Lubavitch is the messiah (Chabad messianists) should be considered as outside of the fold of legitimate orthodox Judaism – and the practical implications are among other things that Chabad messianists should be excluded from orthodox institutions, and especially excluded as rabbis and teachers from orthodox educational institutions.  Rabbi Berger avoids using the term heresy in relation to Chabad messianists but he does say that he would not object to use of the term (P. 145), and he is clearly speaking about delegitimizing Chabad messianists (in advocating their exclusion from orthodox institutions).  Rabbi Berger is not arguing that the Chabad movement as a whole should be delegitimized; rather, he is arguing that those Chabad messianists who believe that the Rebbe of Lubavitch is the messiah should be delegitimized.

Rabbi Berger argues that the belief that the Rebbe of Lubavitch is the messiah is in contradistinction to the principle of the coming of the messiah as part of Maimonides’ codification of a binding dogma.  Rabbi Berger explains that Chabad messianists have adopted a Christian concept of a second coming in order to rationalize how the Rebbe could be the messiah if he did not bring redemption during his life – and they argue that the Rebbe will return after death to bring complete redemption just as Christians have argued through the ages regarding Jesus.  Rabbi Berger adds that such a belief of Chabad messianists in a second coming is even insulting – as they have adopted a Christian concept of a second coming when so many Jews died through the ages because they refused to accept such a notion in regard to Jesus.  From a philosophic point of view, I agree with the argument of Rabbi Berger that Chabad messianists have adopted a Christian belief in a second coming in contradistinction to the traditional Jewish conception regarding the concept of the coming of the messiah – and I agree with him that Chabad messianists who have adopted such a Christian conception insult without awareness those Jews who died through the ages in refusing to accept such a Christian conception.  But, I point out parenthetically that the concept of a binding dogma as codified by Maimonides, which is the basis of Rabbi Berger delegitimizing Chabad messianists, is a Christian concept no less than the Chabad notion of a second coming of the Rebbe of Lubavitch.

I would ask of Rabbi Berger the same question raised by Ravad of Maimonides – “why has he called such a person a heretic?”.  There are two aspects to this question relating to Chabad.  First, from a philosophic point of view, Chabad messianists at most have a mistaken view.  Second, from a practical point of view, why should Chabad messianists be excluded from orthodox institutions?  On the basis of the Talmud there is a legitimate reason for a lack of tolerance toward a fellow Jew who commits some legal or moral wrongdoing in violation of the Torah (Judaism) as an act of rebellion, provocation or scorn – as such a person is revealing a negative attitude of scorn to Torah (Judaism) justifying the exclusion of that person as untrustworthy from a traditional Jewish framework (such a person cannot be relied upon, for example, regarding dietary laws).  However, on the basis of Maimonides’ conception of theological heresy reflected in his codification of a binding dogma, what is the connection between the allegedly wrong philosophic view of one who denies some philosophic principle and that person being excluded from a traditional Jewish framework?  Chabad messianists believe that the Rebbe of Lubavitch is the messiah not as a matter of rebellion, provocation or scorn but as a matter of conviction – and they have no negative attitude of scorn whatsoever regarding Torah (Judaism).  Why then should we not relate to Chabad messianists with an attitude of respect and tolerance in the face of philosophic disagreement?  Why should they not be allowed to function as rabbis and teachers in orthodox institutions and present their views in an open atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance, in spite of disagreement?

I want to cite several statements of Rabbi Berger in his book, which in my eyes reflect typical orthodox viewpoints that are so widespread today in the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox).  First, Rabbi Berger rejects an orthoprax conception of Judaism according to which Judaism is “an agglomeration of dress, deportment and rituals” (P. 136).  Rabbi Berger’s presentation of an orthoprax conception of Judaism is really a caricature in which he has made an orthoprax conception seem superficial – as if there is nothing more to Judaism than observance of commandments, rituals and customs.  The literal meaning of the term orthoprax is “correct practice”; however, this does not mean that we can reduce traditional Judaism merely to a way of life of observance of commandments, rituals and customs – and, more broadly the term orthoprax means right behavior (especially in a moral sense).  The essence of Judaism in the conception of the two greatest Talmudic rabbis, Hillel and Rabbi Akiva, is not observance of law and ritual but moral character and moral action – and, their conception of Judaism is an orthoprax conception (right behavior) in which they even omit the term God from their formulations (“what is hateful unto you do not do unto others” and “love your neighbor as yourself”).  Furthermore, Hillel and Rabbi Akiva are faithful to the Biblical conception of religion that is orthoprax (right behavior) as reflected in the verse “you shall do that which is right and good in the eyes of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 6, 18) – the essence of religion in the Biblical conception is not faith and not ritual but morality.  Thus, the conceptions of Hillel and Rabbi Akiva are orthoprax conceptions of the essence of Judaism and religion, faithful to the Biblical conception of religion that is orthoprax – in which the essence of religion is conceived to be morality.

Rabbi Berger conceives of Judaism in an orthodox sense that “has a doctrinal element no less important than practice” (P. 135); and he says “I am not prepared to reconcile myself to the position that belief does not matter as long as the individual in question fulfills certain criteria of behavior” (P. 135).  In my view, this position that Rabbi Berger is not prepared to accept is that of the Talmud, while the orthodox conception of Judaism requiring acceptance of a binding doctrine with which Rabbi Berger identifies is that of Maimonides in the medieval period – and not only is such an orthodox conception a distortion of the Talmud, Maimonides himself was, in my opinion, aware that such a conception is a distortion of the Talmud, though I will leave the subject of Maimonides’ personal views aside.  In any case, no matter Maimonides’ views, his codification of a binding dogma and the orthodox conception reflected in such a codification is a distortion of the Talmud, and the Talmudic rabbis formulated no such dogma.

Second, Rabbi Berger argues (P. 34):

 

The highest value in Judaism is not tolerance.  The highest value in Judaism is Judaism.

 

This claim is very problematic in my eyes from a moral point of view in that tolerance as a moral value is implicitly disparaged – and the formulation of the claim is problematic as well.  Although tolerance may not be the highest value in Judaism; nevertheless, tolerance is without question one of the highest values in Judaism.  The formulation of the second part of Rabbi Berger’s claim (“the highest value in Judaism is Judaism”) is also very problematic – Judaism as a religion consists of among other things moral and spiritual values, and thus Judaism itself cannot be a value in Judaism.  In my understanding, Rabbi Berger perhaps means to say one of two things.  He may intend to say that the survival of Judaism as a religion is the highest value in Judaism.  If this is what he means, then even if I were to agree that this is the highest value in Judaism it is not clear at all, and I would argue highly unlikely, that the deviant belief of Chabad messianists is endangering the survival of Judaism as a religion.  The other possibility is, in my view, more likely – that Rabbi Berger conceives of Judaism as a religion in a static sense as if Judaism (or a core element of Judaism) is eternal and unchanging; and the deviant belief of Chabad messianists is a distortion of this eternal and unchanging Judaism.  If this is what Rabbi Berger means, then the highest value in Judaism is actually eternal and unchanging truth, which is compatible with an orthodox (correct belief) conception of Judaism.  The Talmud, though, holds up as an ideal a democratic approach in which peace takes precedence over that of truth in importance – especially regarding debates in the Talmudic period between Beit (the school) of Hillel and Beit (the school) of Shammai.  For Beit Hillel, the highest value was peace between people – and as an expression of their commitment to peace as the highest value they were committed to democratic values of pluralism, mutual respect and tolerance.  The Talmud advocates such a democratic approach as exemplified by Beit Hillel in the source (Eruvin 13b) in which the both views of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai are regarded as reflecting the will of God – “Both these and these are the words of the living God, and the Halacha is according to Beit Hillel”.  The Halacha is established according to Beit Hillel because they are not only tolerant but respectful of the views of Beit Shammai in spite of disagreement, and do not delegitimize the views of Beit Shammai.  For Beit Shammai, the highest value was truth – in the name of truth they were willing to impose their views on others in an anti-democratic way, and they were even willing in the name of truth to use violence (as reflected in a source in which the Jerusalem Talmud compares their use of violence to idolatry).  Rabbi Berger in advocating intolerance of the deviant belief of Chabad messianists is adopting an approach like that of Beit Shammai that the Talmud rejects.

Third, Rabbi Berger states that the deviant belief of Chabad messianists must be rejected “because it fundamentally distorts Judaism” (P. 140).  I want to point out two things regarding this statement.  One thing is, as I have just argued, that Rabbi Berger assumes here a static conception of Judaism (as if Judaism does not evolve and develop).  In my view, just as an orthodox conception and version of Judaism is a later historical development following the Talmudic period (even though a distortion of the orthoprax nature of the Talmud) that became widely accepted; so too Chabad messianism is a later historical development in Judaism (even though a distortion of the traditional concept of messiah) that may or may not become widely accepted.  The second thing is that Rabbi Berger uses the term distort in a different sense than I do.  Rabbi Berger is arguing that the deviant belief of Chabad messianists distorts Judaism not only as an expression of disagreement but with a declared intention to delegitimize them as outside the fold of legitimate orthodox Judaism.  In arguing that Rabbi Berger is adopting an orthodox position that is a distortion of the orthoprax nature of the Talmud and Jewish tradition, I am not intending to delegitimize the position of Rabbi Berger; I am using the term distortion only as a strong word in order to make clear the extent of my disagreement with such a position.

I want to emphasize that I intend my criticism here of Rabbi Berger as issue oriented criticism, and I have utmost respect for Rabbi Berger as a true scholar (and I myself am not a scholar).  However, the main issue here is not one of knowledge but of moral values.  There is a midrashic (rabbinic) teaching “moral decency precedes the Torah (Judaism)”.  I point out that this teaching directly contradicts the view of Rabbi Berger that “the highest value in Judaism is Judaism”.  Moreover, moral decency, which is the essence of Judaism in the conceptions of Hillel and Rabbi Akiva (“what is hateful unto you do not do unto others” and “love your neighbor as yourself”), assumes democratic values of pluralism, mutual respect and tolerance.  In the Synagogue when the Torah (the 5 Books of Moses) is returned to the Ark a verse from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible (Proverbs 3, 17) is recited – “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are of peace”.  Moral decency precedes Torah especially in the sense that in order for the ways of the Torah (Judaism) to be of pleasantness and peace we must interpret the Torah according to such moral and democratic values of pluralism, mutual respect and tolerance.  The anti-democratic approach of Rabbi Berger that is so widespread throughout the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) is an immoral approach in my eyes that leads not to peace and pleasantness between people but to division and strife between people.  I previously cited the Talmudic law that it is forbidden to divide the Jewish people into ideological factions or sects and to cause division within the Jewish people – and the approach of Rabbi Berger in relation to Chabad messianists is not only, in my opinion, in violation of this Talmudic law in causing division within the Jewish people but his approach causes division within the orthodox world as well.

I want to emphasize that in arguing that the approach of Rabbi Berger is immoral I do not intend my criticism as a personal attack upon his character in any way – and the same is true regarding orthodox Jews in general among whom such an anti-democratic approach is so widespread.  The disagreement here is a philosophic issue of how we are to relate to others who think differently than us, and in arguing that the approach of Rabbi Berger that is so widespread throughout the orthodox world is immoral I am speaking not about his moral character and not about the moral character of those many orthodox Jews who identify with such an anti-democratic approach; rather I am speaking about the approach itself from a philosophic point of view that is immoral in my eyes.

There is an additional issue and my criticism here is likewise directed not to Rabbi Berger’s character but to his philosophic approach – reflected in the codification of a binding dogma by Maimonides that is the basis of Rabbi Berger’s delegitimizing Chabad messianists as outside the fold of legitimate Judaism is an attitude of intellectual arrogance.  The Talmudic rabbis considered arrogance to be a form of idolatry and there is a teaching of the Jerusalem Talmud according to which the anti-democratic approach of Beit Shammai is compared to idolatry.  The anti-democratic approach in which those who think differently are delegitimized (based upon the codification of a binding dogma by Maimonides) assumes that those who delegitimize grasp absolute truth to such an extent that they can delegitimize others who think differently – and idolatry is reflected in blurring the very clear dividing line between God as the absolute source of objective truth and human beings whose judgment and perception are subjective and limited (“we do not see things as they are; we see things as we are”).  I indicated that I agree with Rabbi Berger’s arguments regarding Chabad messianists from a philosophic point of view, and in his book Rabbi Berger writes of debates that he had with Chabad messianists concerning interpretation of traditional Jewish sources.  I agree with his interpretations; yet, even though I identify with his arguments and interpretations of the sources, who says that we are right?  From a religious point of view, faith in God as the absolute source of objective truth should bring one to an attitude of intellectual humility in which we recognize that human conceptions of truth are subjective – and such intellectual humility and recognition of human subjectivity concerning truth enables us to respect, or at least tolerate, those who think differently than us even though we are convinced (not certain) of the truth of our own position.

The Talmud in advocating a democratic approach of pluralism, mutual respect, and tolerance as exemplified by Beit Hillel uses the terms easygoing and humble to describe Beit Hillel.  Rabbi Berger’s approach regarding Chabad messianists can in no way be described as easygoing and humble; rather his approach is strict and stern in delegitimizing Chabad messianists and reflects intellectual arrogance in assuming a monopoly on truth.  The Talmud teaches (Shabbat 30b) – “a person should always be humble like Hillel, and not strict like Shammai”.

 

Orthodox delegitimization regarding those outside the orthodox world

 

The anti-democratic tendency not only to express disagreement but to delegitimize those who think differently that is so widespread throughout the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) is especially regarding those outside of the orthodox world.  There is place in a democratic society for a lack of tolerance toward anti-social behavior that is in contradistinction to the laws and norms of the society; and there is place in a democratic society for sanctions or punishment in order to prevent anti-social behavior.  Such a lack of tolerance regarding anti-social behavior does not reflect intellectual arrogance because we are not claiming to grasp absolute truth but only engaging in subjective value judgment in considering anti-social behavior as unacceptable and intolerable to us.  Similarly, in the Jewish tradition, there is a basis in the Talmud to consider behavior in violation of the laws and norms of the Torah (Judaism) arising out of rebellion, provocation or scorn as heresy and intolerable – and this does not reflect intellectual arrogance as we are not necessarily assuming that we grasp absolute truth (as we are relating to behavior rather than philosophic thought).

The Talmudic concept of “an infant that was captured”, which refers to inadvertent sin or wrongdoing due to ignorance about Judaism (as if the Jew who is guilty of sin or wrongdoing had been captured as an infant and raised without Jewish education), is applied on a widespread basis in the orthodox world to non-observant Jews who do not live a traditional lifestyle observant of Jewish law and ritual practice – in order not to define them as heretics.  Although the motivation for applying such a concept to contemporary non-observant Jews is positive (in order not to define them as heretics); nevertheless, in my eyes, such a solution is insulting and condescending in reflecting intellectual arrogance, and it reflects an anti-democratic and anti-pluralistic approach that is widespread throughout the orthodox world – especially regarding those non-observant Jews (even if they are a minority among non-observant Jews) who do not lack in basic Jewish education.  Such a solution does not flow from a commitment to pluralism; rather, the underlying assumption of such a solution is that non-observant Jews are clearly mistaken (as if religion is a cognitive matter of truth and knowledge rather than a matter of lifestyle and value judgment) – and, the unstated but clear implications of such an assumption are, if such non-observant Jews did not lack basic Jewish education, then there would be no room for a non-observant lifestyle in Judaism.

In my view, there is a solution on the basis of the Talmud for not considering contemporary non-observant Jews as heretics that does not reflect such insult, condescension or intellectual arrogance.  We simply need to recognize that there is no basis in the Talmud for delegitimizing as heresy a non-observant way of life (not observant of Jewish law and traditional ritual practice) unless we judge in a negative and unfavorable light that such a non-observant lifestyle arises out of rebellion, provocation or scorn regarding Judaism.  If we judge in a positive and favorable light that a non-observant lifestyle arises out of conviction of the heart, or is simply a comfortable lifestyle for so many non-observant Jews, then there is no basis in the Talmud for considering such a non-observant lifestyle heresy.

One additional matter in this regard – there are non-observant Jews who apparently do display disdain or scorn toward Judaism; and, if so, this would be a basis for defining them as heretics.  However, even in such cases the matter is not so simple.  I would suggest that in the overwhelming majority of those cases, if not all, such non-observant Jews are really not displaying disdain or scorn toward Judaism but toward an orthodox conception of Judaism that they mistakenly perceive as an objective description of Judaism (rather than as one particular subjective conception) – and, they mistakenly think that they are displaying disdain and scorn toward Judaism when actually they are displaying disdain and scorn toward an orthodox conception of Judaism that they find intolerant and alienating.  Moreover, the word used in the Talmud for derision and scorn that is regarded as heresy literally means to cause anger, and is of the same root as the word anger.  Thus, if we judge favorably, such non-observant Jews who seemingly display disdain and scorn toward Judaism are in reality really only expressing anger toward an orthodox conception of Judaism that they find intolerant and alienating – and, then we need not view them as heretics for the sake of the larger goal of the unity of the Jewish people and not causing fragmentation within the Jewish people.

The contemporary Jewish movements – orthodox, conservative, reconstructionist and reform as well as secular Judaism – have all grown out of the Jewish, rabbinic tradition based upon the Talmud.  In the Talmudic and medieval periods there were Jewish sects outside of the Jewish rabbinic tradition – like the Sadducees in the Talmudic period and the Karaites in the medieval period.  The terms Pharisees and Sadducees took on a negative connotation due to Christianity, but both the Pharisees and Sadducees were Jewish sects during the Talmudic period.  The Sadducees were a priestly sect, and most of the ancient, hereditary priesthood in Judaism were Sadducees.  The Sadducees rejected the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah) and attempted to live as much as possible by what was written in the Bible (the Written Torah).  The Sadducees disappeared with the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans – the Temple being the institutional center of the priestly cult.  The Karaites were a medieval sect who like the ancient Sadducees rejected the rabbinic tradition and attempted to live as much as possible by what was written in the Bible.  There were Karaite Jews in large numbers during the medieval period, but they too have largely disappeared (and today there about 500-1000).  The Pharisees were a sect that was in the main led by scribes and teachers.  The Pharisees did not feel bound only by what is written in the Bible but by the Bible as understood according to the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah).  The Talmudic rabbis were ideological descendants of the ancient Pharisees.  Thus, in the Jewish rabbinic tradition we as Jews live not by what is written in the Bible (the Written Torah) but by the Bible as interpreted and understood by the Jewish rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah) – the foundation of which is the Talmud.

There is a widespread viewpoint in the orthodox world according to which contemporary non-orthodox religious movements (secular, reform, reconstructionist and conservative) are seen as being outside of the rabbinic tradition, like the Sadducees in the Talmudic period or the Karaites in the medieval period.  However, the Sadducees and the Karaites both rejected the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah); the contemporary non-orthodox movements do not reject the rabbinic tradition but merely reject an orthodox conception and version of traditional rabbinic Judaism – and the contemporary non-orthodox movements do not consider themselves bound by Maimonides’ “13 Principles of Faith” that so characterize orthodox Judaism.  On a widespread basis today throughout the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) the non-orthodox movements are delegitimized as being outside of the rabbinic tradition in spite of their own self-definition as rabbinic movements that represent non-orthodox approaches to the rabbinic tradition.  The non-orthodox movements today are committed to a democratic and pluralistic approach in relation to traditional Judaism, and they do not delegitimize an orthodox conception and version of Judaism; rather, they do not identify with an orthodox conception and version of Judaism and reject such a conception for themselves.

The orthodox movement emerged as a social movement in the 19th century in Europe together with the reform and conservative movements although the ideological roots of orthodoxy are in the codification of a binding dogma by Maimonides in the medieval period.  Thus, orthodox Judaism (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) represents later historical development in traditional Judaism following the Talmudic period – and, in my eyes represents a distortion of the orthoprax nature of the Talmud.  People think mistakenly that traditional Judaism was always orthodox, and the contemporary non-orthodox movements represent a break with traditional Judaism that was always orthodox – however, the contemporary non-orthodox movements did not break away from traditional Judaism but represent a later historical development, like orthodoxy, within the rabbinic tradition.

The non-orthodox movements (reform, reconstructionist, conservative and secular Judaism) did not cause Jews to abandon traditional rabbinic Judaism.  This is a misconception in that it “puts the cart before the horse” in confusing cause and effect.  The social process of secularization and emancipation (emancipation of traditional Jews from their closed, segregated communities) emerged within the Jewish world in 19th century Europe, and as a result traditional Jews began to abandon traditional rabbinic Judaism in large numbers leading to the rise of the reform movement as a response to (and not cause of) such a process.  The contemporary movements (secular, reform, conservative, orthodox, ultra-orthodox and reconstructionist) are all social and ideological movements that began as a result of, and in response to, the social process of secularization and emancipation from traditional Jewish communities of the medieval period.

The difference between non-orthodox religious movements concerns Halacha (Jewish law).  The reform movement rejects Halacha (law) as no longer binding in our contemporary world.  The conservative movement accepts Halacha (law) as still binding today; but, conservative rabbis and scholars are more liberal in their interpretations of Jewish law than orthodox rabbis and scholars.  The reconstructionist movement, like the reform movement, does not regard the Halacha (law) as binding, but regards Halacha as an important source of moral and spiritual guidance.  There is a fundamental difference, though, between the reform movement (as well as the reconstructionist movement) and Sadducees or Karaites.  The Sadducees and Karaites in attempting to live according to what is written explicitly in Scripture rejected the entire rabbinic tradition – Halacha (law) and Aggadah (moral, spiritual and philosophic teachings).  By contrast, the reform movement does not reject the entire rabbinic tradition but only Halacha (law) as binding upon us in the modern world (and the reconstructionist movement accepts Halacha as a source of moral and spiritual guidance even though not binding).

Moreover, the non-orthodox movements do not attempt to live according to what is written explicitly in Scripture as did the Sadducees and Karaites.  Even though the reform movement rejects Halacha (law) as binding, it does not necessarily reject traditional rabbinic interpretations in the realm of Jewish law as did the Sadducees and Karaites.  For example, the reform movement accepts the traditional rabbinic interpretation of the verse “You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23, 19) prohibiting the cooking and eating of milk and meat together, but regards such a law as no longer binding in our contemporary world.  Incidentally, in its origins the reform movement was anti-ritual; however, this is no longer true today, and there are reform rabbis who are encouraging of the observance of ritual such as dietary laws not as a matter of obedience to law but as a cultural or spiritual matter (expressing Jewish identity and Jewish values, or as an expression of a faith commitment).

Today in the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) there are on a widespread basis orthodox rabbis and leaders who refuse to serve in institutions together with non-orthodox rabbis and leaders.  Even if I were to accept the claim, which I do not, that non-orthodox movements are outside of the rabbinic tradition like Sadducees and Karaites, I point out – although the Sadducees were considered by the Talmudic rabbis to be a heretical sect in relation to the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah), and therefore outside the fold of rabbinic Judaism, the Talmudic rabbis served together with Sadducees in the Sanhedrin (high court).  I want to cite a Talmudic source that relates to the approach of the Talmudic rabbis to the Sadducees (Yoma 1, 5):

 

My master, High Priest, we are the messengers of the Beit Din (court), and you are our messenger and the messenger of the Beit Din (court).  We make you swear, by He Who caused His name to dwell in this House, that you will not change a thing from what we have told you.  He would separate from them and cry, and they would separate from him and cry.

 

The background to this source is that in the early Talmudic period when the Temple was still standing most of the priests who served in the Temple were Sadducees – and rabbis are speaking with the High Priest in this source on the eve of Yom Hakippurim.  On Yom Hakippurim the high point of the Temple service is when the High Priest enters alone into the Holy of Holies, the most sacred part of the Temple, in performing a sacred ceremony.  The problem is that there was disagreement between the Sadducees and the Pharisees (of whom the Talmudic rabbis were followers) regarding how to perform the ceremony in the Holy of Holies – and thus the rabbis here are worried that the High Priest may be a Sadducee and perform the ceremony not as the rabbis have taught him according to the practice of the Pharisees but according to the practice of the Sadducees (and no one can enter the Holy of Holies to check how the High Priest will perform the ceremony).  The rabbis make the High Priest swear that he will perform the ceremony as they have taught him.  What stands out in this source is that even though the Sadducees were considered by the Talmudic rabbis to be a heretical sect in relation to the rabbinic tradition, and outside the fold of rabbinic Judaism, the rabbis do not demand of the High Priest who is suspected of being a Sadducee to change his philosophic conception of Judaism – and, the rabbis in this specific case merely find a technical solution of making the High Priest swear that he will perform the ceremony as they have taught him (significantly, they do not make the High Priest swear that he is a Pharisee and not a Sadducee).  Implied is that if the High Priest is indeed a Sadducee, the rabbis are respectful, or at least tolerant, that the High Priest believes in the ideology of the Sadducees (and will remain a Saducee even after performing the Temple service on Yom Hakippurim), and the rabbis insist in this specific case only regarding behavior that he perform the ceremony of Yom Hakippurim according to the practice of the Pharisees.

It is crucial to emphasize here that the Sadducees were without question legitimate members of the Jewish people according to Jewish law, and the debates between the Sadducees and Pharisees were of an ideological nature.  By contrast, the Samaritans were not regarded by the Talmudic rabbis as legitimate members of the Jewish people, in spite of the claim of the Samaritans that they were descendants of the Israelites of the northern kingdom of Israel during the Biblical period.  According to the Biblical account (Kings 2, 17, 24-41), the Samaritans were not Israelites, and were brought to the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians when it was conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE.  The Assyrians apparently had a cruel policy of forced transfer of populations when they conquered a certain territory.  In the case of the northern Israelite kingdom, the Assyrians transferred the Israelites to some other area and imported the Samaritans to the northern kingdom of Israel.  It is inconceivable then that Samaritans would have served in the ancient Temple of Jerusalem as priests, and certainly not as High Priest; and inconceivable that the Talmudic rabbis would have allowed the Samaritans to serve on the Sanhedrin (high court).  The Samaritans were simply not regarded as legitimate members of the Jewish people from a Halachic (legal) point of view.  However, regarding the Sadducees, there was no question whatsoever in terms of their legal status.  Without doubt they were legitimate members of the Jewish people; and, as I have indicated, most of the priesthood was composed of Sadducees, the High Priest was often a Sadducee and the Sadducees served on the Sanhedrin (high court).

Regarding the contemporary non-orthodox movements, like the Sadducees, there is no question in terms of the legal status of Jews who belong to the non-orthodox movements, and they are without doubt legitimate members of the Jewish people.  I am obviously leaving aside here the controversial decision of the reform movement to change the traditional, Halachic (legal) definition of who is a Jew, to include Jews born of a Jewish father as well as those born of a Jewish mother, and I am speaking here of non-orthodox conceptions of Judaism held by members of the Jewish people according to the traditional, Halachic (legal) definition.  Even if I were to accept the argument that the contemporary non-orthodox movements are to be regarded as outside the fold of traditional, rabbinic Judaism, like the Sadducees (and, I do not accept this argument because the Sadducees indeed rejected the rabbinic tradition whereas non-orthodox movements reject not the rabbinic tradition but an orthodox version of the rabbinic tradition); nonetheless Jews who hold non-orthodox conceptions are, like the Sadducees, legitimate members of the Jewish people.  Therefore, in my view, it is incumbent upon orthodox rabbis and leaders in any case (even if the modern non-orthodox movements are defined as outside the fold of the rabbinic tradition) to work together with Jews who hold non-orthodox conceptions in a spirit of good will, and as an expression of commitment to the fundamental principle that the Jewish people is one people and not to be divided into factions.

I want to clarify that a commitment to pluralism does not mean that there are no boundaries to Judaism or to the rabbinic tradition.  Regarding Judaism, I have cited the example here of the Samaritans who from a legal point of view were regarded by rabbinic Judaism as outside of the fold of legitimate Judaism, and this does not reflect any intellectual arrogance whatsoever – as the issue here is not one of ideological debate but simply a matter of the Samaritans not fitting the accepted rabbinic and Halachic (legal) definition of what constitutes membership in the Jewish people (being born of a Jewish mother or having converted).  Regarding the rabbinic tradition, I have cited the example of the Sadducees who were regarded by rabbinic Judaism as a heretical sect in relation to the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah), and therefore outside the fold of rabbinic Judaism.  I repeat that there was no question regarding the Sadducees (or the Karaites in the medieval period) that they were legitimate members of the Jewish people.  However, in the case of the Sadducees (and Karaites), they were regarded as outside the fold of rabbinic Judaism on the basis of their own self-definition in their rejection of the rabbinic tradition (the Oral Torah).  I repeat and emphasize that contemporary non-orthodox movements do not reject the rabbinic tradition but only an orthodox version of the rabbinic tradition.  I also want to add that Jewish messianists who accept Jesus as the messiah, on condition that they are Jewish according to Halacha (being born of a Jewish mother or having converted), in my view, should be viewed the same as Chabad messianists – at most, we can say on the basis of the Talmud that they are mistaken in their views (in our opinion), and that their views do not represent the mainstream of the Jewish tradition; but, we cannot say that they are heretics as heresy on the basis of the Talmud is deviant behavior (and not deviant belief) that is a matter of scorn.

 

Who is guilty of delegitimization and ideological intolerance?

 

Professor Menachem Kellner, a scholar of medieval Jewish thought, has written a book Must a Jew Believe Anything?, which is intended to be a popular rather than scholarly work.  In spite of my great appreciation and admiration for the work of Professor Kellner, and even though I agree with his main argument that from a philosophic point of view there is nothing that a Jew must believe, I think that his work, Must a Jew Believe Anything?, is problematic especially concerning the issue of pluralism, mutual respect and tolerance (in particular regarding contemporary non-orthodox versions of Judaism).

Concerning the concept of pluralism, Professor Kellner’s definition and conception of pluralism is, in my view, misconceived.  He defines pluralism as “a view which considers the relevant alternatives equally correct, equally acceptable” (P. 110), and clearly views such a conception of pluralism in a negative light.  Such a conception of pluralism is a distortion of pluralism rather than an accurate definition.  The literal meaning of the term pluralism is that there is a plurality, or diversity – a diversity of philosophic viewpoints and approaches regarding thought, and a diversity of customs and behavior patterns regarding behavior.

In recognizing and acknowledging that pluralism (both of thought and practice) is characteristic of the Jewish tradition from a factual, historical point of view, this clearly does not mean that all relevant alternatives are equally correct.  It merely means that such alternatives exist in point of fact.  The recognition of pluralism in a factual, historical sense does not necessarily involve any value judgment whatsoever as to which of the various alternatives are correct.  However, more importantly, regarding pluralism as a moral value and position, the commitment to pluralism as something desirable and to be encouraged also does not necessarily imply that all relevant alternatives are equally correct.  I may be convinced that certain viewpoints or approaches are wrong, and nonetheless advocate a diversity of viewpoints and approaches (including even those that I personally view as wrong) as healthy and necessary, and be committed to mutual respect, or at least tolerance, toward those viewpoints and approaches with which I strongly disagree.

For example, in the realm of empirical science, various alternatives are clearly not seen as equally correct, as theories and viewpoints may be refuted and rejected by showing that they contradict factual and empirical evidence.  Yet, without question, science as a discipline is based upon the need for pluralism (in the sense of a diversity of viewpoints and approaches) in the pursuit of intellectual and scientific truth.  In addition, a commitment to pluralism regarding scientific methodology necessarily expresses itself in mutual respect, or at least tolerance, toward those theories and viewpoints that have been refuted and rejected in order for the scientific enterprise to succeed.  Although scientific theories and viewpoints that have been refuted have been delegitimized in the sense of having been proven wrong, nevertheless such theories and viewpoints have not been delegitimized in the sense of not being part of the scientific enterprise.  Rejected and refuted theories and viewpoints are a necessary component of the development and progress of scientific thought in the pursuit of scientific truth (as scientific truth cannot be obtained without theories and viewpoints that are shown to be false or mistaken).  Moreover, scientific theories may be refuted and thus delegitimized in having been proven wrong; however, the scientist who held such a view is not delegitimized, and the general scientific approach and orientation of the scientist is not necessarily delegitimized.

Furthermore, the Talmud advocates a pluralistic approach in the source (Eruvin 13b) in which the both views of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai are regarded as reflecting the will of God – “Both these and these are the words of the living God, and the Halacha is according to Beit Hillel”.  Beit Hillel disagree with Beit Shammai not less than Beit Shammai disagree with Beit Hillel, and neither Beit Hillel nor Beit Shammai regard the alternative as equally correct.  Yet, the Halacha is established according to Beit Hillel because they are not only tolerant but respectful of the views of Beit Shammai in spite of disagreement, and do not delegitimize the views of Beit Shammai.  Beit Shammai not only express disagreement with the views of Beit Hillel, they were willing to delegitimize the views of Beit Hillel, and impose their views on Beit Hillel in an anti-democratic way, as reflected in the source from the Jerusalem Talmud comparing their use of violence to idolatry.

Professor Kellner argues (p. 1) that orthodox ideology, according to which the Torah is immutable, seems to contradict the notion of pluralism (advocating a diversity of viewpoints and approaches), but at the same time he implies (a view that he later makes explicit) that non-orthodox streams of Judaism are likewise anti-pluralistic (a view that is completely mistaken, in my opinion):

 

The crucial question we face, I think, is not whether we will have Jewish grandchildren, but how many different sorts of mutually exclusive and mutually intolerant Judaisms our grandchildren will face.  Orthodoxy insists that God revealed the (one, uniquely true, immutable) Torah to Moses at Sinai.  This bedrock commitment seems to rule out a pluralist approach (accepting that different valid and legitimate approaches to the Torah may coexist in mutual respect).

 

Professor Kellner’s formulation of the danger of intolerance is misleading here when he wonders “how many different sorts of mutually exclusive and mutually intolerant Judaisms our grandchildren will face” – implying that intolerance is characteristic of all the various versions of Judaism in the contemporary Jewish world.  In my opinion, it is only within the orthodox world that there is widespread intolerance, and a lack of commitment to pluralism and mutual respect, toward other versions of Judaism.  I emphasize that Professor Kellner acknowledges that the “bedrock commitment” of orthodoxy is that the Torah is immutable – as it is clear that this is not a “bedrock commitment” of non-orthodox versions of Judaism who generally hold that the Torah is subject to historical development and change.  Non-orthodox versions of Judaism (in recognizing historical development involving the rise of new ideological conceptions) advocate a pluralistic approach to the Jewish tradition characterized by mutual respect and tolerance toward other versions of Judaism than their own (in spite of ideological disagreement, and in spite of disagreement regarding specific viewpoints or practices).

Furthermore, even though true that there is one (unique) Torah, there is a famous statement in the Jewish tradition that there are “70 faces to the Torah”, implying a commitment to pluralism in which there is room for many different conceptions and interpretations of Torah (Judaism), and indicating that the concept of pluralism does not contradict the concept that the Torah is one and unique – although such a pluralistic statement is usually not extended and applied in the orthodox world to non-orthodox versions of Judaism.  Professor Kellner later does indeed argue (mistakenly, in my view) that non-orthodox movements are not committed to pluralism (P. 111):

 

Spokespersons for Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism often maintain that their movements are pluralist while Orthodoxy is not.  I do not think that is true:  most Conservative and Reform rabbis reject as illegitimate the same-sex marriages celebrated by some Reconstructionist rabbis; most Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist rabbis reject as illegitimate the intermarriages solemnized by some of their colleagues.  Few Conservative rabbis recognize the authenticity and legitimacy of the Reform decision in favor of patrilineal descent; and few, if any, non-Orthodox rabbis accept as legitimate the Orthodox ‘oppression’ of women…

 

All of the examples of non-orthodox intolerance cited here by Professor Kellner not only concern behavior, rather than thought; but, they concern specific practices in the realm of Halacha (law) as well.  The issue under discussion, though, as reflected in the title of Professor Kellner’s book Must a Jew Believe Anything?, is ideological pluralism and intolerance (regarding thought and not behavior).  It is first and foremost (though perhaps not exclusively) on an ideological level (as ideological expressions of the Jewish tradition) that non-orthodox versions of Judaism are delegitimized by orthodox Jews.  Certainly we will find, as Professor Kellner indicates, that non-orthodox Jews reject various specific practices of other movements as illegitimate, either from a Halachic (legal) or moral point of view.  This represents the expression of disagreement concerning behavior and specific practices.  However, non-orthodox Jews generally do not delegitimize other versions of Judaism as illegitimate versions of Judaism on the basis of ideological disagreement.

I will give an analogy from the realm of science to make the matter clear.  Suppose we have three psychologists who each belong to a different stream of psychological thought with differing orientations and approaches – one psychoanalytic, one humanistic and one behavioristic.  Without doubt, there will be disagreement among them not only from an ideological and theoretical point of view, but also concerning practices (such as therapeutic practices).  Moreover, they may view specific viewpoints or practices of other streams as illegitimate in the sense of lacking scientific validity.  But, it will be rare to find, if at all, the delegitimization of other streams as a matter of ideology (and also rare that other psychologists are delegitimized as psychologists).  Each of the ideological streams (psychoanalytic, humanistic and behavioristic) is seen as legitimate in the realm of psychology and behavioral science today – and the psychologists who belong to each stream are seen as legitimate psychologists or behavioral scientists.  What qualifies such psychologists as legitimate is simply their formal training and degrees.  Similarly, I would suggest, in relation to the modern non-orthodox movements, that non-orthodox Jews are legitimate members of the Jewish people (even if the movements are unjustly in my eyes viewed as outside the rabbinic tradition); and what defines their rabbis and leaders as legitimate religious leaders is their formal training.

Thus, in the contemporary Jewish world, though disagreement is expressed by non-orthodox Jews regarding specific viewpoints and practices of others, it will be rare to find the delegitimization of other streams or versions of Judaism among non-orthodox Jews.  By contrast, among orthodox Jews not only is disagreement expressed regarding specific viewpoints and practices of non-orthodox Jews, but also the delegitimization by orthodox Jews of non-orthodox versions of Judaism is widespread in the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox).  Non-orthodox versions of Judaism are widely seen in the orthodox world as outside the fold of the rabbinic tradition.  Such an anti-pluralistic approach is widespread even among orthodox rabbis and scholars (and not only among ordinary orthodox Jews) throughout the orthodox world (modern and ultra-orthodox) who often declare unabashedly that their approach is anti-pluralistic regarding non-orthodox versions of Judaism.  Professor Kellner will be extremely hard pressed to find even one source in which a non-orthodox rabbi or scholar declares that he or she is not committed to pluralism and does not recognize differing streams in Judaism.

Professor Kellner suggests (P. 111-112):

 

Let us move the discussion of Jewish authenticity from the realm of dogma, where Maimonides pushed it, back to the realm of public behavior, where it traditionally belongs…To be more precise, the position I am going to urge here calls for us to expend less effort on determining whether or not our fellow Jews are heretical, and more effort on working with our fellow Jews on matters of mutual concern and working on our fellow Jews to make their behavior accord more with traditional norms…I think that we should let God worry about who the ‘kosher’ (legitimate) Jews are, and who gets into heaven, while we worry about trying to get Jews to become more Jewish here in this world.

 

I cannot emphasize enough the extent to which I identify with Professor Kellner’s statement here (which is orthoprax in spirit) in advocating that we shift the discussion of Jewish authenticity from the realm of dogma and ideology to the realm of public behavior.  My only question is – who is guilty today of focusing on dogma and ideology?  Professor Kellner’s statement is misleading in implying that all the various versions of Judaism in the contemporary Jewish world are guilty of focusing upon dogma and ideology rather than public behavior.  It is only within the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) that Maimonides’ “13 Principles of Faith” have been accepted on a widespread basis as a binding dogma, and on the basis of which other non-orthodox versions of Judaism are delegitimized as a matter of ideology.

Professor Kellner draws a fundamental distinction between two kinds of faith – psychological of the heart (trust in, or loyalty to, God necessarily expressing itself in proper behavior) and philosophical of the rational mind (abstract belief as to the truth of a proposition divorced from behavior).  He acknowledges that Maimonides introduced a new element into traditional Judaism in formulating and codifying his “13 Principles of Faith”, in which Jewish legitimacy is defined in theological terms (P. 9):

 

Maimonides…adopted the second approach (in which faith is conceived in a philosophic sense) and in so doing introduced a new element into Judaism.  Whatever his intent, one of the consequences of Maimonides’ claim that Jews are defined first and foremost by their beliefs is, to my mind, unfortunate.  This is the tendency to define Jewish ‘legitimacy’ in terms of the acceptance of certain abstract theological claims, which in turn involves the application of categories such as heresy and sectarianism to individuals and institutions.  Once applied the charge of heresy carries with it serious halachic implications, notably the ostracism, vilification, and exclusion from the world to come of those deemed to be heretics.  This is a fundamentally exclusivist approach.  It also involves a certain amount of hubris, for those who brand others heretics are in doing so claiming that they themselves are virtuous and upright Jews, and determining for God, as it were, who gets into heaven.

 

I cannot emphasize enough the extent to which I identify with Professor Kellner’s analysis here, and also with his judgment that “the tendency to define Jewish ‘legitimacy’ in terms of the acceptance of certain abstract theological claims” is unfortunate.  Again, though, my question is – who in the contemporary Jewish world has accepted Maimonides’ approach in this regard?  Professor Kellner misleads here also in not pointing out that among non-orthodox Jews and movements Maimonides’ “13 Principles of Faith” are not accepted as a binding dogma, and fellow Jews are not delegitimized as heretics due to improper theological belief – it is only within the orthodox world (modern orthodox and ultra-orthodox) that Maimonides’ theological approach to Jewish legitimacy has been accepted on a widespread basis.

I want to clarify two things regarding Professor Kellner’s statement here.  First, Professor Kellner states that “the tendency to define Jewish ‘legitimacy’ in terms of the acceptance of certain abstract theological claims…involves the application of categories such as heresy…”, which is misleading as the problem is not one of application but of distortion – Maimonides did not apply but distorted the traditional concept of heresy.  The concept of heresy exists among the Talmudic rabbis; but, it is a behavioral rather than theological concept that depends upon intention and circumstances (deviant behavior that is a matter of rebellion, provocation or scorn).  What is missing in Professor Kellner’s statement is that only among orthodox Jews has Maimonides’ distortion of the Talmudic concept of heresy (in transforming it from a behavioral concept to a theological concept) been accepted on a widespread basis in order to delegitimize as theological heretics those who think differently.

Second, regarding Maimonides’ theological approach to Jewish legitimacy, I share Professor Kellner’s view that such an approach “involves a certain amount of hubris, for those who brand others heretics are in doing so claiming that they themselves are virtuous and upright Jews, and determining for God, as it were, who gets into heaven”.  However, here too Professor Kellner misleads as it is orthodox Jews who are guilty of intellectual arrogance in accepting Maimonides’ theological approach to Jewish legitimacy in which those who think differently are defined as theological heretics.  Non-orthodox Jews and movements (conservative, reconstructionist, reform and secular) cannot be accused of such intellectual arrogance, as they simply have not accepted Maimonides’ theological approach to Jewish legitimacy.

Did you find apk for android? You can find new Free Android Games and apps.

Jeffrey Radon

Author of orthopraxjudaism.com

Leave a Reply

Close Menu