Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Two for Rabbi Shafran

Rabbi Avi Shafran got it right. He recently wrote 2 columns in Ami – both republished in Cross Currents that deserve our attention and appreciation.

In one article he has eloquently stated our case as Orthodox Jews. It is a position as Jews that all fair minded individuals Jew and Gentile alike would – I think – agree upon.

Rabbi Shafran accurately describes the nefarious and thinly disguised anti Semitic motives of the proponents of the anti circumcision bill on a San Francisco ballot this fall. Their motives were recently exposed in all their anti Semitic glory via a ‘comic book’ that featured caricatures of Jews that would make Hitler proud. This ‘comic book’ rivals some of the worst anti Semitic propaganda in Nazi Germany that makes Jews look like sinister butchers of innocent little children - contrasted to a blond blue eyed Aryan ‘Superman’ who saves the day.

Rabbi Shafran correctly notes that the opposition to this bill from the non Orthodox establishment has been as strong if not stronger than it has been from Orthodox quarters. He noted that a urologist who has taught at both the Hebrew Union College (Reform) and at the University of Judaism (Conservative) has promised that if the bill passed he would to be the first one to drive to San Francisco and break the law by performing the ritual. But I really think the following excerpt says it all:

The broad defense of bris milah is intriguing. Non-Orthodox movements have abandoned many parts of the Jewish religious heritage and deeply changed others. One would expect something less than enthusiasm among non-Orthodox Jews for something as challenging to a contemporary mind as circumcision—the injuring, after all, as the anti-circumcision advocates never tire of shouting—of an innocent baby who is not making the choice of the procedure himself.

To be sure, there may be health benefits and likewise, to be sure, an infant’s nervous system has not likely developed full sensitivity to the pain of a cut. Most eight-day-old baby boys fall asleep shortly after their bris milah. But, all said and done, why would Jews affiliated with movements that have abandoned not only entire areas of halacha but entire verses of the Torah hesitate to jettison a Jewish practice that seems to a simple mind to be “barbaric” (as the early Reform movement in fact labeled it)?

In answer Rabbi Shafran refers to something called the Pintle Yid. That is the tiny spot in every Jew’s heart that can spark a yearning in every Jew to fulfill their destiny as Jews. I agree. That’s why there is hope that with successful outreach and education we can turn the tide against assimilating out of Judaism and into intermarriage.

The second article in Ami addresses another phenomenon. One that I have written about many times. It is why we should all be patriotic Americans. It is about how for the most part the moral majority of Americans think about Israel and the Jewish people. In it Rabbi Shafran quotes Walter Russell Mead, a Bard College professor of foreign affairs and humanities. I believe that his views represent what has been called the moral majority. The comment was apparently made with respect to the unbelievably favorable congressional reception given to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth. Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that [G-d] favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that [G-d] favors and protects America.

“It means more. The existence of Israel means that the [G-d] of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race. For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted.

“Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith. Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ [G-d].”

It’s good to know that in the climate of Israel bashing that has currency in many universities dominted by leftist professors, that there is at least one sane voice who understands what is instinctively known to most Americans.

Thank you Rabbi Shafran for bringing both of these stories into a popular Charedi periodical and on Cross-Currents. These messages are important for all Jews to hear.