UNITY - WHO'S FOR IT; WHO'S AGAINST IT?
Editor's note: The following is my personal opinion and reaction to recent developments in Israel - specifically to the Supreme Courts ruling concerning the acceptance of Conservative and Reform converts. This is a general statement, not directly related to the specifics of the current issue.
For whom is it forbidden to drive a car on Shabbat? Sounds like a simple question. But many people's answers are wrong. Some say, "Religious Jews". Others say "Orthodox Jews". Inaccurate answers, to a fault. The correct answer is, "Jews". Who is required to separate the sexes for synagogue services? "Orthodox Jews." Wrong answer. Jews, all Jews, are required to daven separately. The same goes for Kashrut and Family Purity and every other aspect of Jewish Law and Life.
There are Jews who follow Halacha and there are those that don't. And they are all Jews. A Jew can choose not to keep Shabbat. People have Free WIll. They can and will do what they choose to do. That's one thing. It is a very different issue when a Jew - or group of Jews - says that a particular mitzva - or mitzvot in general- doesn't apply to him. Because he is a secular Jew. Or not religious. Or not Orthodox. Any of these terms mean People have Free Will to do what they choose. But choosing not to keep mitzvot does not change the rules of Judaism, no matter how much a group wants things to be different, no matter how large the group, no matter what resolutions their committees pass.
A Jew can call himself Reform, but the laws of separation of milk and meat still apply to him. He might eat a cheeseburger and think it's okay for him - but it isn't. He is still in violation of Halacha.
There are Halachic guidelines for conversion of a non-Jew to Judaism. If these standards are met by all converts, then Jewish Unity is preserved (in this area). If there were to be different conversions, including non-halachic ones, then a split is created (or widened) within the Jewish community. If all divorce in this country is halachically correct, then Jewish Unity is preserved. If different divorces were to be recognized in Israel, then the split further widens.
In reference to the different "streams" of Judaism vs. different opinions within the "Torah Camp" (not easy to label things) - the latter differences between strict and lenient opinions and the like, are all firmly based on a belief and commitment to Torah Min HaShamayim, the package deal of the Written Word, the Oral Law, and Tradition, and in the processes of Halachic Psak. The former have broken away from Torah-true ideals, principles, beliefs, and practices, and have chosen to redefine Judaism to suit their practices and preferences. The striving for "equality" and for breaking the "Orthodox monopoly" will not unify the Jewish People, it will solidify the splits that exist and create new ones.
Conservative Judaism claims to be committed to Halacha. Yet they have allied themselves with Reform which rejects the concept of a binding Halacha. A prominent Reform rabbi and spokesman made the following statement (in public): We believe in G-d but do not believe that He ever communicated with people. He did not appear to Avraham Avinu, did not speak to Moshe, nor did He give him or the People the Torah. He does not tell us what to do and what not to do." How is it possible - no matter how strongly they want to fight the Orthodox establishment - that the Conservative Movement can join forces with Reform.
A man who refuses to give a Get to his wife when she wants one, when the courts order him to do so, etc. is abusing Torah, as well as his wife, and must be dealt with the utmost severity. Rabbanim of our time must work ceaselessly to find a halachically acceptable way of preventing this kind of abuse. This should be - and is - the Orthodox approach to a problem. Changing the Torah laws of divorce is not an acceptable solution, now matter how appealing the idea is to people without a commitment to the Chain of Tradition.
Let these words not be considered an attack on Jews of any leaning. It is an attack on the notion that Judaism can be reinvented, redefined to suit the preferences of any group of Jews.
There is tremendous flexibility within the boundaries of Halacha. If the Orthodox establishment has been too rigid in its resistance to exploring this flexibility, then the solution is not recognition of "other streams" but more serious efforts at resolving the problems of modern Jewish Life within the guidelines of Halacha.