Judaism with out God? God forbid, says South Africa’s chief rabbi


(JTA) — In a latest Jewish Telegraphic Company column, Andrew Silow-Carroll recognized a development in American Jewry, which he described as “fictionalism.” Within the article, he defines it as “pretending to comply with a set of beliefs in an effort to reap the advantages of a set of actions” and cites the philosophy professor Scott Hershovitz, who explains that he fasts on Yom Kippur and observes Passover though he doesn’t imagine in God.

“It’s simply what we Jews do,” Hershovitz explains. “[I]t retains me related to a neighborhood I worth.”

For fictionalists, God is a helpful fiction, and Jewish follow has worth solely in its pragmatic utility. As Hershovitz places it: “When it feels just like the world is falling aside, I search refuge in spiritual rituals — however not as a result of I imagine my prayers might be answered.”

This development requires a well-thought-out, clear response due to the intense issues it presents. 

Firstly, denial of God’s existence or the reality of the Torah’s narrative is totally incompatible with Judaism itself. 

Take, for instance, the Passover seder. In keeping with fictionalism, the Haggadah that folks learn to their youngsters is the equal of a set of the writings of Hans Christian Andersen. “We had been slaves to Pharaoah in Egypt, till the Almighty, the Holy one blessed is He, took us out.” Welcome to Hansel and Gretel: “As soon as upon a time …”

After we learn the in regards to the Exodus once we inform our youngsters that our ancestors had been slaves in Egypt and that God liberated us with miracles that could be a fraud, in accordance with the fictionalist. 

This method drives a dagger by means of the center of Passover and locations Jewish mother and father in an invidious place. When do you inform your youngsters that the story of the Exodus is likely one of the best frauds of historical past, perpetuated by generations of Jewish mother and father and grandparents? Ought to the seder evening start with a disclaimer: none of what you’re about to listen to is true? 

The purpose is, in the event you take away God from Judaism it ceases to be recognizable as such. After we say “could the Omnipresent consolation you” at a funeral , or “God who blessed bride and groom” at a marriage, or “God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh” throughout Kiddush, or “God is one” each morning and night, and on our deathbed these are all simply fictions? If that’s the case, Judaism is meaningless; it turns into a system based mostly on falsehoods. 

Strip away the psychobabble, and these aren’t simply “helpful fictions” or “principled self-deceptions” — they’re, merely, falsehoods. And, who desires to dwell a lie?

This brings us to the second main downside with the fictionalist method to Judaism it’s a formulation for the self-implosion of the Jewish individuals. If Judaism is a fairytale, then we should not be stunned when our youngsters discard it together with the Tooth Fairy after they develop up, dismissing it as simply one other story to make their childhood extra charming. Why ought to they dwell a delusion? Why ought to they pay any extra consideration to their heritage than the “Magic Faraway Tree

A brand new era of Jews is being born right into a world overflowing with actual, compelling and competing methods of considering and dwelling. Fed a Judaism that could be a quaint cultural relic, a fairytale of false claims, they’ve fairly naturally concluded that it may be jettisoned at a whim. That’s the reason we’re hemorrhaging younger Jews, who’re exiting our individuals in droves, elevating questions of who and what might be left. 

The one type of Jewish identification that has confirmed itself able to surviving various generations is one rooted within the full embrace acceptance of the reality of all of the factual claims made by Judaism, together with perception in God and His authorship of the Torah. All through our lengthy historical past no Jewish neighborhood has ever survived with no perception within the foundations of our religion. A fake Judaism received’t lower it. Solely the true factor is worthy of us and our youngsters — and a assure for a shiny Jewish future. 

So the place does this go away us? As a primary step, we have to acknowledge the issue: that the fictionalist method is each incompatible with Judaism, and unsustainable. Because of this we can’t settle for with equanimity the development of fictionalism, and grow to be snug with this as the brand new regular.

We have to formulate an acceptable response. There are a lot of proud Jews with real doubts about their heritage, and real crises of religion. The reply shouldn’t be for us to reject those that harbor these doubts. Neither ought to these doubters hand over hope in religion, or form their doubts into a brand new philosophy which celebrates the falseness of Judaism. The one manner ahead is to have interaction immediately and truthfully and fearlessly with doubt, embracing the wrestle to seek out religion, and make that the purpose. There are a lot of who’ve grappled with these points and have found their religion by means of mental inquiry and rational argument, slightly than discarded it. 

Judaism makes particular reality claims in regards to the world and the character of actuality, and these claims are supported by rational inquiry. We should uncover the compelling proof, and the highly effective philosophical, scientific and historic proofs for the authenticity of the Torah, and its claims in regards to the existence of God, and all He did: the creation of the universe, the Exodus from Egypt and the giving the Torah to the Jewish individuals at Sinai with the mission to look at its mitzvahs ceaselessly. For hundreds of years, up till round 150 years in the past, the overwhelming majority of Jews didn’t dispute these historic truths. 

Rabbis want to deal with issues of religion head on. This has been my expertise each as a synagogue rabbi in addition to from the virtually 18 years that I’ve served because the chief rabbi to the South African Jewish neighborhood. Individuals are looking for reality. We have to articulate with absolute readability that perception in God and the authenticity of the Torah are indispensable to Judaism. We have to current the entire many rational and scientific arguments to uphold these claims. We have to be fearless and unapologetic about the truth that God exists and that He gave the Jewish individuals the Torah at Sinai, and the way these claims are substantiated with compelling arguments and proof. However we have to do that with love and kindness — not anger and aggression.

And we have to train Torah to as many Jews as attainable as usually as attainable. A path to wealthy, genuine religion lies in studying Torah. Our sages (Midrash Eichah, Petichta 2 based mostly on Jeremiah 16:11) inform us that once we really feel distant from God even to the purpose of shedding religion studying Torah, with dedication and depth, presents us a manner again, a way of understanding God and finding our values and identification, and connection to Him. 

And there’s hope. The actual fact that those that have adopted fictionalism are so drawn to the mitzvah experiences of the Torah regardless of not believing reveals how even they discover the system so engaging. It’s outstanding that the Torah’s lifestyle is so compelling thousand of years after it was launched to the world that even individuals who assume it’s based mostly on false claims can’t let go of it. 

The Passover seder because the mannequin of generational switch of values and narrative; Yom Kippur as an immersive, cathartic expertise of non-public progress and accountability; Shabbat with its legal guidelines that create the house to rediscover and reconnect with ourselves and our family members. How did these and all our different mitzvahs survive with us for hundreds of years, and but nonetheless really feel as related as they had been hundreds of years in the past? This inexplicable phenomenon offers us a glimpse of the Divine creator of all of it. And it’s the bridge ready for the fictionalists to make the journey over to a world of religion. 

is the chief rabbi of South Africa and founding father of the worldwide Shabbat Mission, and holds a PhD in human rights and legislation.

The views and opinions expressed on this article are these of the creator and don’t essentially mirror the views of JTA or its mother or father firm, 70 Faces Media.


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