Monday, May 29, 2017

A Warped Interpretation

Illustration from JTA
I cannot believe how warped the thinking of this rabbi is. And yet that is exactly what Conservative Rabbi Adina Lewittes has done with a Midrash about the Luchos – the 2 tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were written.  Now I’m sure that Rabbi Lewittes is a fine individual - an intelligent and compassionate human being with good values. But Jewish values they are not if this is how she interprets a Midrash in honor of Shavuos.

The Torah relates that when Moshe came down from Sinai carrying the Ten Commandments and saw the people reveling in their service to a golden calf, he threw down the Luchos (tablets) breaking them into pieces. From JTA, here is Rabbi Lewittes’ quote of a  Midrash that describes that event in a bit more detail: 
“Moses started to turn back, but the Elders saw him and ran after him. Moses held on to one side of the tablets, they held on to the other, but Moses was stronger. … He looked at the tablets and noticed that the writing had disappeared from them. ‘How can I give the Israelites blank tablets?’ he thought, and decided it would be better to break them instead.” (Avot D’Rabbi Natan, Ch. 2) 
Rabbi Lewittes then goes off the rails with the most incredulous interpretation of this Midrash one can imagine. Which is that God erased the writing in those Tablets because they were written in a language that His people no longer speak or understand. She then further suggests (based on her own conjecture with absolutely no connection to what happened or why) that there is no value in Torah study for its own sake.  And in what can only be described as a nod to Christian theology, she notes that observance of a perfect Torah is not achievable by an imperfect people.

In conclusion of this breathtaking leap of logic, she says that the laws written in the new Luchos were changed – disassembled from the original and reassembled so that we can better observe them. Taking this interpretation to an even more absurd extreme she says the following:
Individuals personally curate their own Jewish lives, drawing from an array of cultural, intellectual, social, political, ethnic, spiritual, sexual and gender affiliations within and beyond the Jewish community. Diverse sources of authority and inspiration abound, shaping multifaceted, multivocal Jewish expressions in the global conversation about meaning, connection and faith.
In this setting, what are we prepared to dismantle and reconfigure to help more Jews feel at home in Judaism and the Jewish community, and motivate them to stay and contribute to a shared vision of the future? 
This is pretty shocking even for a Conservative rabbi. One must remember the reason that this movement chose that name ‘Conservative’ for themselves. It was to conserve Judaism. Not change it based on modern ‘realities’. That their rabbis erred in how to achieve that conservation doesn’t mean that they intended to abandon Torah law altogether if the times demanded it. But that  is tantamount to what Rabbi Lewittes suggests based on her warped interpretation of that Midrash. 

What she also fails to mention is that God dictated to Moshe that he rewrite those Ten commandments on the second Luchos - exactly the way He (God) wrote them on the first Luchos. There was no reconfiguration of the law at all. 

If one believes that Judaism can be reconfigured based on the spirit of the times then one can abandon it all if the times demand it. In what way is this different from Reform ideology?

But I guess it should not be surprising that Rabbi Lewittes - someone that now officiates at intermarriages - has this attitude.  And she is not the only Conservative rabbi officiating at intermarriages. Despite the fact that the movement doesn’t approve of it. Yet.

I don’t see the rabbis on their Committee on Jewish Law and Standards opposing it forever.  The times – after all – demand that we do something about the high intermarriage rate. They have already proposed welcoming non Jews that are married to Jews to join their synagogues. I guess their philosophy is, ‘If you can’t lick em – join em’. That may be the easy way out. But it is not the Jewish way out. It is an ‘out’ however. One that takes them further than ever before - out of Judaism.  And it helps to explain – what to me is perhaps the most ridiculous interpretation of a Midrash I have ever seen.