by Karen Singer Avrech
This past Shabbat our rabbi delivered the traditional Shabbat T’shuvah drasha, (homily). His essential message was that Modern Orthodoxy is doomed unless the importance of traditional halacha (jurisprudence) is understood and respected. Recent trends have favored “dynamism” and “innovation” to match the times, but have neglected the legalistic principles that have sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years.
Our rabbi explained that revolutionaries since Korach have championed the idea that we are all holy, decrying Moses’s leadership as elitist and unfair. Korach was demanding the egalitarianism of the “Progressive.”
The lesson that Moshe taught Korach is that yes, we are all created in G-d’s image and he has chosen us as his holy people, but there is another, essential aspect of holiness.
This is the holiness of the individual who works on himself, develops his character and utilizes his potential. Some people are more learned, developed and spiritual than others, and it important to acknowledge their authority when Halachic dilemmas arise.
The greatest Modern Orthodox rabbi of our generation, Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik, summarized,”If there is one Kedusha, [holiness] and only one, rooted in the community, and all individuals receive an equal share, then genius cannot be creative.” (The Rav Thinking Aloud Sefer Bamidbar, p. 131).
When I listened to the rabbi’s message I realized how the Jewish concept of individual freedom and its appreciation of personal development resonates with the ideas of our Founding Fathers. They also believed that G-d was the source of our liberty, but also acknowledged the rights of the individual, and the importance of personal growth and freedom.
After the lecture I wrote to our rabbi explaining my thoughts.
I learned basic principles of our Torah doctrine tonight, which I believe, have far reaching repercussions as to how we educate our children and most importantly, how we understand not only the tenets of our faith, but our appreciation of our American heritage.
I have not heard until tonight, the dual nature of our “specialness” articulated so explicitly as you did in your drasha. There might be members of our shul who don’t make the connection between their Progressive ideas relating to income and marriage inequality and the dual nature of our kedusha.
The biggest fallacy that is pervading our culture, our colleges and even our high schools is that everyone is the same, and that equality is the same as opportunity.
Our country was founded on the Judeo-Christian principles that G-d is the one who grants us our liberty, and ipso facto the two types of kedusha, holiness. One is the shared, in our “genes” sui generis holiness, but one is developed individually and is not always equal. Individual rights, and the potential to develop the self are the opposite of what is being preached by the Progressive Left.
Our children are confused and don’t understand this duality. Many have bought into the progressive fallacy that in order to provide liberty, everyone has to be treated the same, whether male or female, ambitious or lazy, or gay or straight. This is the fodder of the Left, our universities, and especially our president, and it is invading our Jewish schools.
I object to the description of these views as “politically correct” for by using that label we are acknowledging that the Left is correct. We have been so brainwashed by the media that we adopt their parlance. I would call these ideas “politically convenient.”
Your speech was aimed at our ability to sustain Modern Orthodoxy but it would also apply to the preservation of the Judeo-Christian principles that have made the United States a land of opportunity and freedom.