These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

The Burden of Submission

Posted on April 15, 2011 by Joel D.

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A great Rabbi once spoke of his relationship with the Jewish people and its Law. Of the People he spoke of love, but of Law he spoke of submission. This I found to be gravely unappetizing. For to speak of submission is to speak of burden, not of loving embrace. To recognize Jewish Law as binding and all encompassing is a challenge that knows no limits, and whose rewards know no bounds, but I am speaking here of one who recognizes the import of the law and still looks on in disgust. For one who is overwhelmed by the Law I would graciously extend a helping hand to walk that person along the same path I struggle with. But for the person who rejects or scoffs at the Law because they fear its potential to diminish or reject their way of live I can not abide. I do not speak of one who steals wantonly, who commits shameless acts of sex, even consensual, outside of the bonds of any recognized union (See, I am still pretty liberal…sort of) or takes recreational drugs which, though perhaps for no good reason, are illegal. No, this person I will not argue with, though I will always help, for this person is making simple immoral judgements and it is not in my power to show them the value of being a good person in the most basic respects. One who sees a life without consequences or regrets is a shameful person, fun they may have, but their value until they choose to change is of none to me. Rather I speak of the person who sees Kashrut, Shabbat and many other subtle acts of Halacha to be interruptions to an otherwise pleasant lifestyle. Ignorance can not be an excuse for ever. Judaism has always and, God willing, will always change. Perhaps the Enlightenment came on too quickly and we had not time to adapt, but the generation of the Destruction of the Temple did fine with rather harsher conditions. There is no excuse for one who is Jewish to reject the law wholesale once they have exhausted the various possibilities of practice (Which I also fully recognize) But those possibilities exist within the text, and having no other reason than discomfort does not exempt one from any single halacha. The Rabbis have, and continue, to create a system by which we can live fulfilling lives, but no one seems to care much for that system anymore. They seek other systems not dependent on Law, or perhaps even God. If you pray to “J”, “P” and “E” I’m sorry to say, but that is pure death worthy idolatry. The system is alive, but just like an unpleasant untrained pet that you would rather leave alone, if you do not feed it, spend time with, recognize its limitations and its nature then it will starve and it will die. So too, by ignoring a halachic life we are starving our tradition, and it is dying. If we submit to the pet, that we must give it the bare minimum to survive, or to let it roam free without concern then it will either become malnourished or so wild we can no longer call it a pet. We must embrace the animal we have been given, as unwieldy and absurd as it can seem. For when we recognize the system is there to hold us up and not tear us down we can truly live by it rather than suffer by it.