Jewish Religion Will Keep Jews AliveBy Shlomoh the APIKORES
When I was first becoming religious, a chasid said to me that the only thing that kept Jews Jewish was the TORAH and NOTHING ELSE. At first I thought that he must be wrong. There could be other things that would keep Jews Jewish but he challenged me to tell him what. I spoke of Yiddish, music, Israel, anything I could think of but each time I mentioned something he showed me that everything that I mentioned was transitory except the Jewish religion. Some time passed, and then in early 1974 I got a shock.
One SHABBAT my rabbi told the congregation that shortly after the YOM KIPPUR War a survey was taken among American Jews. The question was asked, "When it looked like Israel was going to be defeated or sorely hurt in the YOM KIPPUR War, did it affect you emotionally? Did you agonize over it? Were you worried?"
The answers were amazing. The ONLY Jews to answer "Yes" fell into 2 groups.
Ther first group consisted of non-religious people who were first generation children of Immigrant Jews from Eastern Europe.
The second group consisted of religious Jews of any background.
All other non-reliious Jews, younger than 50, as a group, were not affected. They just didn't care.
I went home feeling awful and I spoke to my sister whose sons were in their 20s. I asked her if her sons felt anything at all for Israel and if they were concerned for its safety. Unequivically she said they were not in the least interested in or concerned about Israel.
I was really angry by now and asked her how she could possibly not bring them up to at least care about the ONLY JEWISH country in the world. She just shrugged and said that it never came up. Never came up? A child of Eastern European immigrants didn't think it was important enough to
raise her children with the conviction that Israel is most important to the Jewish People! Well if you don't go SHUL and constantly talk about Israel and Jerusalem, maybe it NEVER COMES UP!
I said to her, "Your sons are going to marry SHIKSAS." She replied that they would not do that because they knew it was something she did not want them to do. "But why not?", I asked. "If they hardly know what a Jew is, what is going to be lost that is not lost already?" She had no answer. And a few years later, her older son married a Catholic woman. I refused to go to the wedding [which I now regret].
Over the decades I have seen young ignorant Jewish kids become Jews For Jesus. When they are asked why, they say that the missionairies were the first people in their lives that made them proud and happy to be Jewish, and that they never realized how wonderful it is for the Jews to have their own country and Jerusalem.
While nonreligious Jews cry and lament about young Jews becoming Hebrew-Christians, I tell them, you asked for it!
There is a story in the book of Genesis. Joseph's brothers throw him into a pit. The verse reads, "The pit was empty. There was no water in it."
Rashi says, "If the pit was empty, why does the Torah have to add that there was no water in it?"
The answer is: The pit was empty of water - but it was not empty. There were snakes and scorpions in it.
Each Jewish home is a pit. It cannot be empty. If there is no water in it, then snakes and scorpions will find their way in!
The ex-religious Jews I know who are angry at Judaism and see no redeeming virtue in it, and have thrown out the baby with the [bath]water become angry when you tell them that non-religious Jews can kiss their descendents goodbye in terms of being Jewish; they don't want to hear it.
At least I know the truth. I cannot be religious in the classic sense of the word for many reasons; but I know what is needed to keep one's family Jewish. It is the recognition that without the TORAH, Jews are no different from anyone else. Whether a Jew is a literal believer or not, he must help keep the Jewish religion alive so that it can keep Jews alive. So in a way, I am glad that I taught my daughter what being Jewish is all about. It's not music or Yiddish.
It's the historical way that we Jews have expressed our ethnos; by ritual, and by homage to certain beliefs about the past and destiny of the Jewish People.
In the days of the Second Temple, the APIKORSIM [non-believing Jews] used to hang out on the back steps of the synagogue where they would discuss TORAH. Of all the places to hang out, they chose the place which reminded them of who they still were in spite of their distancing themselves from their believing brothers and sisters. One night each year, they opened the back door of the synagogue and snuck in. That was the eve of YOM KIPPUR.
The Jews in the synagogue made believe that they did not see the APIKORSIM sneak in. Then the cantor began the YOM KIPPUR service with the words,
"By the authority of the Judge above and by the authority of the judges below, we declare it permissible to DAVEN with sinners!"
If we can concentrate on those things, and not on the superstitions and mean-spirited modes of social interaction that we see in many synagogues, then AM YISRAEL CHAI, the Jewish People will live!
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