One can single out the two groups of Jews in Judaism who worry about the future of the Jewish people.
The first group is the Jews of the traditional interpretation of the Torah. They firmly believe that their understanding of the essence of the Jewish existence is uniquely correct and unshakeable because it is based on the experience of Jewish people through the millennia. Everything that lies beyond the scope of their understanding of the “correct” in any kind of publication causes their immovable or agitated reaction. The result of such a reaction is the following ideas in the press: it is the expression of a heretic, such-and-so a rabbi long ago already refuted it, it contradicts such-and-so a tradition, aha – he is a reformist, he does not believe in the holiness of the oral Torah, he simply is uneducated about Judaism, and so forth.
The second group is the Jews of the intellectual interpretation of the Torah. They firmly believe that their comprehension of the essence of Jewish existence cannot be uniquely correct, because life is complex and changes constantly, because God is even more complex and the comprehension of Him cannot be confined only to one. If they see in some kind of publication something that lies outside the scope of their understanding of “correct,” they are happy for it: they see that the interpretation of the Jewish essence, afforded by the first group, does not make it possible to understand modern life, and they hope that the new things appearing in the interpretation will allow them to embrace modern life better while remaining 100 percent Jewish.
Both groups consider themselves religious and honor the written and oral Torah, but they choose different things from the Torah for daily life.
The first group places the ceremonial and ritual part of the Torah on a pedestal, while the second group devotes much more attention to the intellectual content of the Torah.
Both groups do not deny that the chief thing regarding the Torah is to consider themselves Chosen by God for rendering to Him assistance in the continuation of the process for the creation of the Better World for everyone (Jews and Gentiles), which was begun on the “Sixth Day of Creation.” Both groups think that in its way the instructions are contained in the Torah for the building of the Better World for everyone (Jews and Gentiles), and the task of the Chosen is to bring these instructions to everyone. But the groups are essentially different from each other in the ways of “bringing” all these instructions to everyone.
The first group thinks that if all Jews would live according to some of their own uniform laws of behavior, which are fully distinguished from the rules of behavior of Gentiles, then, having looked at these rules from an outsider’s perspective, the Gentiles would come to love them and begin to obey them.
The second group itself thinks that it is not enough. This group thinks that in order to bring the Torah’s covenants to the Gentiles, one must be among them and experience their hopes and desires. And for this it is necessary to live in two spiritual worlds so to speak – in the Jewish world, where each strengthens his own understanding of Jewish essence and in the Gentile world, where each attempts to apply his own understanding of Judaism in the creative work for the advancement of the Better World.
I personally class myself in the second group, and I treat the understanding of our Torah and the essence of the Jews by the first group with respect. Unfortunately, I rarely encounter the very same understanding from their side. I explain it by the changes that have occurred in understanding the role of rabbis.
In the “good old” days the rabbis were teachers by divine vocation – it was their task to teach the Jews to think independently and to find God and His instructions in complex life situations themselves. And this kept the Jews as Jews in their centuries of banishment when they were torn from their homeland. The Jews were supposed to think as individuals, because they had been scattered, and they had been prepared for it. And they brought the Torah, written and oral, and tried to tie its instructions to the real conditions of their new life, which totally differed from the conditions of life in the Promised Land. You adapt yourself – you will survive, you do not adapt yourself – you will perish. And the Torah helped them adapt and survive – they did not follow the Torah blindly and dogmatically, but intellectually resourcefully, as the rabbis had taught them in the “good old” days. Of course, there were those who didn’t understand the Torah and they were assimilated. But those who remained Jews remained Jews not because they implemented the dogma, but because they adapted the concepts of the Torah to life’s new conditions.
Now rabbi is a profession, the goal of which is to teach their synagogue “flock” the ceremonies, rituals and traditions and to help in the study of history and of Judaism… but not the independence of the Judaistic thought of a man created “in the image and likeness of God.” And this relates in equal degree both to Orthodox and Reformist rabbis. There are, of course, exceptions, but they are rare.
The differences between the first and second groups are discernable in discussions held now in Jewish circles. I shall cite several examples.
Many adherents of the first group analyzing the events connected with Jonathon Pollard examine these events through a prism of espionage and treachery, instead of attempting to evaluate his actions as a Jew living in two spiritual worlds and the approaching convergence of these worlds. Pollard tried to help both the United States and Israel in his espionage operations, because, as I believe, he considered both countries as his own.
There are anti-Zionists in the first group who have a dislike for the State of Israel. While evaluating Zionism’s role in Jewish history, such anti-Zionist Jews forget about the spiritual intellectual foundations of this movement which was aimed at the revival of the Jewish nation. Though Herzl, possibly, thought only about the physical salvation of the Jews, and not about their spiritual rebirth, but physical salvation is a necessary condition of spiritual rebirth. And such physical salvation was found in the independent State of Israel. Unfortunately, all of this is not obvious in the polemics of political clashes.
They devote attention only to this celebration’s ritual regarding celebration of Shabbat, though the chief thing here is not the rituals, though they too are important, but intellectual fellowship with God on this day.
Speaking about the unity of the Jewish people, they acknowledge unity only in their interpretation of the Torah and God, which comes down, basically, to ceremonial and ritual activities. True unity of the Jewish people must be in the acceptance of different interpretations of the Torah and of God. One must be convinced in discussion of questions of unity only that all interpretations proposed are based on the concept of the One God and comprehension of Him, which is based on the Torah.
Speaking about assimilation of the Jews, they think their own chief mission is to stop this process, while this process can be considered positive for the preservation of Judaism’s spirituality. Jews who do not want to be Jews do not promote the creation of the Better World “according to God;” Jewish influence on the world is founded not on the quantity of Jews, but on their quality, but an intellectual quality, not ritual.
The fact that God needs quality and not quantity can be confirmed in the numbers which reveal the historic change of the numbers of Jewish people.
During the Exodus from Egypt there were nearly 3 million Jews. Jewish families gave birth to children, as too all other families, but survival of children in Jewish families was supposed to be greater than in other families thanks to better hygienic and nutritional traditions. If one were to make normal mathematical calculations of the increase in population, then the Jewish people should number more than one billion in population by the present time. But right now we have only nearly 15 million. Let’s wait a little while to ascribe it to the pogroms and Holocaust of the past and continue working with the numbers.
There were nearly 4-5 million Jews during King David’s time. Normal reproduction should have given us now something near half a billion, but there aren’t.
At the dawn of the Roman Empire there were just as many Jews – nearly 4-5 million. It may have been able to lead to many hundreds of millions by now, but there aren’t.
It is impossible to carry out similar calculations starting with the Jewish population in the Middle Ages – there is no reliable information for this historic period.
But there is information for the start of the 19th century – it is 5 million Jews. Almost the very same as there were 2,000 years ago.
By the start of the 20th century there were nearly 11 million of us, but now – after the 6 million exterminated in the Holocaust – there are 14 million of us.
There should be more of us now than Moslems and more than Christians, but that did not happen. Of course, they were murdering us, but they also murdered others, and they increased significantly in quantity, but we did not, or by very few. Why?
I can propose only one answer, though, I know, many do not agree with it – it is what God needs! He needs a limited quantity of His Chosen, and he who considers himself a Jew must obey the Torah in order not to end up “overboard!”