Monday, May 28, 2007
I have delved briefly into Hasidic Judaism via Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz's book THE THIRTEEN PETALLED ROSE. Commenters have indicated he does not speak for all of Judaism, and that the majority of American Jewish congregations are not interested in the mystical paths of Hasidim. Okay. I decided to look for myself given that Pope Benedict keeps making overtures to reconciliation with the Jews. I think it is worthwhile to know what he is making overtures to.
Wikipedia tells us:
Historically, Judaism has considered belief in the divine revelation and acceptance of the Written and Oral Torah as its fundamental core belief, but Judaism does not have a centralized authority dictating religious dogma. This gave rise to many different formulations as to the specific theological beliefs inherent in the Torah and Talmud. While some rabbis have at times agreed upon a firm formulation, others have disagreed, many criticizing any such attempt as minimizing acceptance of the entire Torah. Notably, in the Talmud some principles of faith (e.g., the Divine origin of the Torah) are considered important enough that rejection of them can put one in the category of "apikoros" (heretic).
That opens the doorway to variety, or what E. Michael Jones once referred to in an article in "Culture Wars" as a Rabbinical debating society.
There appears to be animosity between the various movements. Another Wikipedia article claims that within the Heredi:
Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism[are viewed] as heretical non-Jewish movements. Some Haredi leaders have stated that Reform is philosophically further from authentic Judaism than Christianity and Islam. As such, Haredi authorities have strongly fought attempts by the Reform and Conservative movements to gain official recognition and denominational legitimacy in Israel. Haredi groups and authorities will not work with non-Orthodox religious movements in any way, as they view this as lending legitimacy to those movements. The members of those movements who have been born of a Jewish mother are, however, still regarded as Jews.
However, according to the Wiki article Reform Judaism is much more lenient. It:
currently espouses the notion of religious pluralism; it believes that most Jewish denominations (including Orthodox groups and the Conservative movement) are valid expressions of Judaism. Historically the Reform view of Orthodox Judaism has been highly negative. Reform began as a rejection of Orthodox Judaism, and early battles between Reform and Orthodox groups in Germany for control of communal leadership were fierce. Reform viewed Orthodoxy as overly focused on tradition and literal interpretation of scripture that conflicted with modern science. Relations with the Conservative movement are much more cordial, and Conservative and Reform leaders co-operate on many areas of mutual concern.
That suggests to me a relationship between the Reform movement within Judaism and the Renewal movement within Catholicism. Reform, then, would amount to a progressive movement within Judaism.
Another Wikipedia entry appears to confirm this interpretation:
Contemporary Reform Judaism movements share most of the following principles:
* The autonomy of the individual in interpreting the Torah and Oral Law, as well as in deciding which observances one is thereby prescribed to follow,
* Applicability of textual analysis (including higher criticism), as well as traditional rabbinic modes of study, to the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature,
* Learning Jewish principles of faith through non-religious methods, as well as religious ones,
* Embracing modern culture in customs, dress, and common practices, and
* Complete gender equality in religious study, ritual, and observance.
* Emphasis on tikkun olam ("repairing the world") as the dominant means of service to God.
At the My Jewish Learning website Luois Jacobs gives a brief history of the transplantation of the Reform Movement onto American soil:
Reform spread to America where, at first, the guiding lights were German-born and German-speaking rabbis, prominent among whom was the real organizer of Reform in America, Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900). In 1875, thanks to Wise’s efforts, the Hebrew Union College was established in Cincinnati for the training of Reform rabbis. At the banquet held to celebrate the ordination of the Hebrew Union College’s first graduates, shellfish, forbidden by the dietary laws, was served. This “treyfah [non-kosher] banquet:” as it came to be dubbed, at the ordination of rabbis, no less, caused traditional rabbis and laymen to recoil in horror and led indirectly to the development of Conservative Judaism [in the United States] and the establishment of the Jewish Theological Seminary [in New York] for the training of Conservative rabbis.