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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Making Judaism easier in order to save the Jewish people

Rosh Hashanah 21

The latest Pew study has demonstrated that we are hemorrhaging as a people.  We are assimilating in droves.  How do we save our brothers and sisters who are fast disappearing off the Jewish radar?  Maybe the answer is to bend the rules a little and make Judaism more palatable to the disenfranchised.  Allow women to read from the Torah, shorten the service.  Bring music into the synagogue. 

Are we doing everything we possibly could to save the Jewish people?

Concerning his yearning for wisdom, King Solomon writes: “Ecclesiastes wished to yield matters he desired; yea, the words of truth are inscribed upright.”
Samuel explains: “Ecclesiastes wished to yield matters he desired” means that Solomon wanted to adjudicate according to the dictates of his wisdom and skip due process such as the need for witness testimony and the requirement to provide a warning prior to the crime. 

A Heavenly voice issued forth and declared “yea, the words of truth are inscribed upright.” 
The Torah states: “By the testimony of two witnesses or three witnesses the convicted shall be put to death.  He shall not be sentenced by the testimony of one witness.” 

Picture it.  King Solomon is sitting at the bench and he knows that the fellow standing in front of him is a psychopath who has committed multiple murders.  He definitely deserves the death penalty.   But there’s not enough evidence to convict.  Do we let this murderer walk or should Solomon rule according to “the dictates of his wisdom”?

The Talmud is clear: The Torah has provided us with a system of justice that requires two witnesses who must undergo detailed cross-examination.  If they fail to establish beyond a doubt that this person is guilty, then he walks.  It doesn’t matter that Solomon knows the truth.  G-d has spoken.  And ultimately, G-d will take care of the situation.

We can’t save everyone.  The Torah has given us guidelines as to how to reach out to our brothers and sisters, and as Hillel teaches in Ethics of the Fathers states, “bring them close to the Torah.”  Hillel is warning us that the people must be brought close to the Torah and not the other way around.   In our attempt to connect the people to Torah, we mustn’t, Heaven forbid, drag the Torah down in the process. 

G-d doesn’t need His rules to be modified to make it work.  Even if we know ‘better,’ it doesn’t matter.  G-d wants us to follow the Torah, which is “words of truth [that] are inscribed upright.”

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