Reform Judaism: The Torah doesn’t say I must like you; it only says I must love you

In his “New Words Inscribed on Old Tablets,” the Reform Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, writes:

“The beauty of Torah stems from the variety of interpretations that can be surmised from its words. God’s wonder and majesty are exemplified within each individual’s commentary, and it would thus be offensive to suggest that only one interpretation of God’s word is valid. The Talmud exemplifies this basic theme, which depicts our basic right to interpret Torah, communicated; namely, that Jewish law is not contained within the heavens, but in the hands of the people ( Bava M’tzia 59b).”

“However, in whose hands does interpretation reside? Similar to the organization of secular society, tradition states that the majority creates and interprets the laws by which the whole must live. Yet with regard to Torah, tradition suggests that God spoke not only to the entire community, but also to each individual standing at the base of the mountain. We were each given the Torah at Sinai, and we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words. But in interpreting Torah for ourselves we must also consider the interpretations of the past.”

What does the Orthodox Jew think of the Reform Jew’s “we are thus each entitled to own and interpret for ourselves each of God’s words?” Here is the Orthodox Jew, Mordechai Housman:

“Essentially, they believe that you get to decide what to believe. The Torah, they claim, is man-made entirely, and has been continually changed and adapted, despite all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Torah and history show that Judaism has never tolerated dissenters to the Torah’s opinion, they have the chutzpah (gall) to claim that Judaism has always been pluralistic, that the Torah supposedly has never demanded “uniformity of belief or practice.” This, of course, is obviously baloney. Take one cursory look at almost any chapter of the entire Tanach (Jewish Bible), and you’ll find recriminations against people who have even slightly deviated from the Torah’s teachings, even if they adhered to everything else.”I suppose the Reform Jew is not just being cheeky (chutzpah) in believing that the two-three million Israelites (a highly unlikely number) who were present at Sinai possibly had three million different opinions on what happened on top of the mountain, which Jews continue to have to this day; not only about Torah but about whatever. The way I see it, the most salient trait of Jewish hermeneutics is the determination that the text remain indeterminate. After all, the words on the page, any six-year old can understand (says the Kabbalist, Rabbi Akiva Tatz). The confidence and the joy of the Reform Jew (every Jew?) resides in the conviction that every Jew reflects a different facet of the jewel of God.

So there is much to be thankful for. Indeed, love is in the air, for previous to his rebuke of his Reform brothers and sisters, Housman started out on a softer footing; “I love all Jews,” he said. But then he goes and spoils it all by saying that the reason why he loves, by implication, Jews who are full of baloney, is because the Torah tells him he has to: “We are required to by the Torah.”

The Torah doesn’t say I must like you; it only says I must love you!

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3 thoughts on “Reform Judaism: The Torah doesn’t say I must like you; it only says I must love you

  1. Well, let’s see…

    When God revealed His thoughts to the human author through the agency of the Spirit via inspiration and revelation, did the human author sufficiently understand the divine meaning? And if so, did the human author properly and fully convey that meaning by the words he chose to write? Or did the meaning of the Divine Author at times go beyond what the human author understood and wrote?

    Are the thoughts of God as revealed in the Scriptures accurately conveyed by the human author’s words or should we seek a “deeper, hidden” meaning?

    • Hi Dan
      your

      – did the human author sufficiently understand the divine meaning? No.
      – And if so, did the human author properly and fully convey that meaning by the words he chose to write? As I said, he didn’t sufficiently understand the divine meaning.

      So he both did not understand and did not convey the full meaning – or close. So, ”the meaning of the Divine Author at times [went] beyond what the human author understood and wrote.”

      Your last question: “Are the thoughts of God as revealed in the Scriptures accurately conveyed by the human author’s words or should we seek a “deeper, hidden” meaning?”

      You are certainly familiar with the adage, the ”Old” testament is revealed in the New, especially in the letters of the Apostles and the great book of Hebrews, because as you know, the Gospel writers show us that the disciples of Jesus often didn’t know whether they – or our Lord Jesus – was coming or going. But all is not lost, because the Apostles’ letters shed a blazing light on the often hazy picture drawn in the Tanach. The book of Hebrews, for example, is a wonderful clarification of key elements. What we have in the NT is the realisation that not only was the Tanach all about Messiah, but as the Talmud says, the whole universe as well – through Him, for Him and to Him. Isn’t that just wonderful?

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