Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jewish Heretics – How Things Change, How Things Remain The Same


[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.

2 comments:

alex said...

"First of all, I don’t believe that anyone raised as an Orthodox Jew leaves the religion for sincere ideological reasons."

I think that ideological reasons are indeed a factor (not "the", but "a"), but not the way you're referring to. I'll explain:

"The arguments in favor of Torah are so blatant..."

That depends on whether the seeker /finds/ those arguments. Unfortunately, there are enough poor explainers (yeah, even Orthodox ones) of the Torah out there, and some using really poor proofs, that the seeker is left with a really bad taste in his mouth. So he runs. He's not running away from Torah per se, but from the people who are supposed to be the experts, but aren't.

Perhaps the group of Jews who leave Orthodoxy less often are those who have no interest in these "proofs of Torah."

jewish philosopher said...

I'm afraid that I would have to beg to differ. If someone was raised in an Orthodox home, I think he would logically try to do some diligent research before he decides to abandon his heritage, not just decide based on one rabbi's unconvincing presentation to become an atheist.