Tuesday, August 05, 2008
[Members of the Bundist Self-Defense Group carry the Socialist flag on May Day, Warsaw 1930s YIVO Archives]
I recently wrote about the how the motivation of contemporary Orthodox Jews who leave Orthodoxy seems to be primarily sexual. One interesting question is, how does this differ from Jews who left Orthodoxy a century ago?
First of all, I don’t believe that anyone raised as an Orthodox Jew leaves the religion for sincere ideological reasons. The arguments in favor of Torah are so blatant; I don’t believe that is possible.
I do believe however that the selfish, materialistic motives can and do change with circumstances.
We learn in Pirkei Avos "Rabbi Elazar HaKappar said, jealousy, lust and the [pursuit of] honor remove a person from the world."
In the present day, I believe we are seeing the destruction of spirituality caused by lust. In earlier times, I believe it was more a problem of jealousy and honor - a desire for material wealth and the respect of the gentiles.
Most Jews 100 years ago were poor and discriminated against. There was rampant poverty in Poland, Belarus and the Ukraine, the main centers of Jewish population at that time. Jews in Russia suffered pogroms and Jews were oppressed within the Pale. Jews dreamt of a better, safer more comfortable life. Some came to find work in sweatshops in New York, where they would have to work on the Jewish Sabbath. Others remained in Europe, but joined political parties which they hoped would improve their conditions. Many became Marxists, who fought for a redistribution of wealth. Many joined the socialist Bund. Others, inspired by nationalism in the Balkans, formed the Zionist party.
The result of this massive exodus from Judaism was finally the terrible miracle of the Holocaust.
Let’s hope and pray that today’s defection from Judaism has a happier ending, with a wholehearted return to God and His Torah.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 9:26 AM