Rabbi Gordimer to Rabbi Cardozo: Your Views Would Destroy Judaism

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By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo’s There’s more to Judaism than mitzvotrepresents yet another major departure from normative Orthodox Judaism on the part of Rabbi Cardozo. In a comprehensive interview on some of the fundamentals of Torah tradition, which comprises the text of this new article, Rabbi Cardozo veers away from core beliefs to a staggering degree. While the views presented in this article might conform with the new “Tikkun Olam” (”Repair the World”) Judaism that has been concocted as a replacement for authentic Judaism, in order to align Judaism with contemporary secular-liberal social values, they are wholly outside of the parameters of time-honored and acceptable Torah tradition/Orthodoxy.

Let’s take a look:

Rabbi Cardozo submits that Abraham was actually punished for the Akeidah/Binding of Isaac (“I am of the opinion that Abraham, by being prepared to do so, to sacrifice his son, failed the test“), and that the real sin of King Shaul (Saul), who was castigated by Shmuel Ha-Navi (Samuel the Prophet) for not obliterating Amalek, consisted of showing more concern for animals than for human life. The clear Biblical accounts of Abraham being eternally blessed by God for having passed the test of the Akeidah, and of Shmuel’s rebuke of Shaul being undeniably about the latter’s failure to obliterate Amalek in toto, are disregarded by Rabbi Cardozo’s revisionist rendition of these narratives.

Addressing these Biblical stories and the events that they record, Rabbi Cardozo maintains that undefined moral considerations should be the controlling force in determining how to understand the Torah and observe its commandments:

There’s no black and white — this is moral and this is immoral. It depends on your perspective, on how you walk into the problem. So there are cases where the complexity is so big that whatever you do, from one point of view it is morally correct and from another point of view it is absolutely morally unacceptable…

There is no such thing as black and white responses to these sorts of issues, and I think that plays a role in Jewish law as well. We have to deal with clashing Jewish moral forces…

(B)ecause there’s this tension of how you look into the story, which is purely subjective, therefore in the end you will have to find a way in-between.

Aside from these sentiments directly clashing with the Biblical texts being addressed, they render the Bible, Halacha and Judaism as a whole as fluid and lacking in clarity and direction. This approach to our sacred writings ends in chaos and the undoing of the Torah as a document of God’s authority and the mandate for our religious conduct and views.

Rabbi Cardozo then turns to halachic adjudication/p’sak Halacha, and declares that one’s moral intuition is often the deciding factor. A proper approach, according to Rabbi Cardozo, is for poskim (halachic authorities) to determine in advance how they will rule, based on “a philosophical and ideological attitude which is deeply influenced by the moral intuition”, and to then search for sources that justify this predetermined ruling, which is lacking technical halachic objectivity.

In a 1968 address to RIETS Rabbinic Alumni (published here on pp. 113-119), noting that the Torah records that the Patriarchs erected altars, but usually omits mention of sacrifice thereon, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik explained:

Apparently, the mizbe’ach (altar) of the Avos (Patriarchs) was not for the purpose of offering a live sacrifice. The mizbe’ach symbolized submission, their own surrender. Because the highest sacrifice is not when you offer an animal. It’s very easy when you offer an animal. The highest sacrifice is when man offers himself.

What do I mean “offers himself”? The Torah hated, condemned, human sacrifices… It’s one of the most reprehensible abominations. Yes, physical human sacrifice was rejected, but spiritual human sacrifice – submission and surrender, acceptance of God’s will, to abide by His will even if His will sometimes runs contrary to our aspirations, His will sometimes makes no sense to us – [that was valued and required]. We can’t understand it, it’s incomprehensible. We are full with questions, we can point out so many contradictions. [But] if we surrender and submit ourselves, actually this is the highest.

And that’s what Avrohom (Abraham) taught himself, and he taught others. This means “vayiven sham mizbe’ach” (“he erected an altar there”) actually. Whom did he sacrifice? His own independence, his own pride, his own comfort, his own desires, his own logic, his own reason. He believed. If one believes, it is an act of surrender, sacrifice…

The theme of surrender to the Divine Mandate looms large in the thought of Rabbi Soloveitchik and is common to all halachic authorities across the spectrum of Orthodoxy. Rabbi Cardozo has yet again taken the non-Orthodox position on such matters. (Please also see here and here.)

Rabbi Cardozo then goes much further and brings into question any real sense of codified Halacha being binding, by essentially undermining the long-term authority of the Shulchan Aruch. Rabbi Cardozo classifies the Shulchan Aruch and all accepted halachic codes as relative to their times and not necessarily applicable today. This is one of the classic tenets of the Conservative movement. Rabbi Cardozo explains:

The Shulkhan Arukh (“Set Table,” the most widely consulted Jewish legal code, published in 1563) was meant at the time to be the abbreviated halakhic guide for the layman. It was the product of an historical development. Since we were living in the Diaspora, we had to make sure that Jews would somehow live within the same framework where they were doing more or less the same things, to keep this little nation alive. It required erecting big walls around us to keep the non-Jews and their influence out. So the Shulkhan Arukh, a basic Jewish code, is a typical sociological outcome of a diaspora condition . The Shulkhan Arukh at the time correctly said, we need to make sure that we all operate within the same framework and that requires conformity. This is the only way we can create the powerhouse required to keep us alive among a largely anti-Semitic world…

We never had, as the Catholic Church did, a particular body such as a conclave which decided these matters. Not even in the days of the Sanhedrin. With us it was always fluid. A matter of moving forward and going back and so on.

It is obvious that 99.99% of the content of the Shulchan Aruch has nothing to do with relations between Jew and gentile, Diaspora survival, or the notion of “erecting big walls around us” as “a typical sociological outcome of a diaspora condition”. The laws of blessings, prayer, tefillin, Kiddush, candle lighting and Sabbath work, kosher slaughter, the mixing of meat and milk, kashering utensils, marriage and divorce, and almost all else contained in the Shulchan Aruch and other halachic codes are unrelated to Jewish preservation in the Diaspora, protection from anti-Semitism or the need to erect walls. But by presenting the Shulchan Aruch and other halachic codes as works that were geared and pertinent to certain limited historical conditions, Rabbi Cardozo undermines the halachic corpus and sidelines its greatest written works.

There’s more to Judaism than mitzvot” concludes with “To be continued”; based on the track record here, I fear that the worst is yet to come.

This article first appeared at Times of Israel and is published on Matzav with permission of the author.

19 COMMENTS

  1. The modern orthodox Rabbinate are the greatest threat to our mesorah.
    Here’s a haskama for Cardozo from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks as quoted on Wikipedia:
    “Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has emerged as one of the most thoughtful voices in contemporary Judaism. He is a man of deep faith and wide intellectual horizons, unafraid to confront the challenges of the age with the quiet confidence of one who is attuned to the music of eternity.” (Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Britain and the Commonwealth)

    • Anybody as obsessed with a heretic like Spinoza as much as Cardozo is not somebody who should be voicing his opinion in public in the name of the Torah.

  2. NOTHING NEW….RISHAY YISRAEL THRUOUT THE AGES HAVE DESTROYED JUDAISM WITH THIER ‘NEW’ SYSTEM, TZEDOKIM, CHRISTIANS, KARITES REFORM, CONSERVATIVES ETC ETC ..80% REFORM FROM THE 1700, 1800 CENTURY BECAME christians..end result churben europe .TATS the end result of torah muddah ..

  3. This Bozo Cardozo has diarrhea of the mouth disease. His self importance combined with his yearning to be someone or something he is not ferments in his mind and out comes garbage, or worse, from his pisk. He is so confused. It may help him to learn Torah once in a while rather than to rewrite his demented views of our G-d given Torah.

  4. this cardozo guy..so what does he believe in and what does he call his ‘religion’?judaism it is not because he mocks it. So religion is anything one feels is right which he calls divine inspiration..divine what ? what is’ devine ‘ if its justa personel feeling?

  5. First, in defense of Rabbi Sacks, Cardozo himself was once a great defender of Judaism who believed in everything frum Jews believed in. He wrote books explaining yiddishkeit, and had one of the best articles I ever saw destroying challenges to the authenticity of the Torah. The haskamah was probably an old haskamah.

    Somewhere along the way, he just went off. Now he says straight up kefira, and of course has no relation to what we believe in. It’s a tragedy, but it’s not who he always was at all.

  6. Oh my why fo you waste your time with him i read his latest book it is so ludicrous and uneducated that i csnt believe anyone printed it
    This guy is a joke. I was embarrassed for the author himself, that is how childish his book is .
    Dont even bother with him

  7. Nothing destroys judaism faster than an abomination.

    Hashem has graded us a dream. Jerusalem.

    Leave the reform out. Our family is not a church state.

    There is merit in Torah. Every learned command. A good.

  8. Rabbi Gordimer has again rose to defend Torah values so clearly and eloquently
    Keep up the fight there are many thousands of Torah Jews with you

  9. Once again, we owe a debt of gratitude to R. Gordimer shlit”a for calling out some highly problematic views being disseminated.

    Some of what Reb Cardozo writes may be legitimate. But some Reform leaders wrote similarly. The problem is not just what is written now, the problem is the direction, opening the door to even more radical things.

  10. In the early 1990’s I heard Cardozo speak at a local shul in Michigan. He was serious and said nothing offensive to Yiddishkeit. In the years since, though, he has veered off into a pseudo-religion that shares elements with Reform and Conservative thought, but adds his own unique twists. Don’t waste time wondering what led him to this. Just refuse to support any organization or institution that gives him credence.

  11. CARDOZA IS A CONVERT AND A CONFUSED CONVERT
    AND THISIS WHY THE SYRIAN COMMUNITY IN BROOKLYN DOES NOT HAVE CONVERTS FROM 1935 TILL TODAY.

    LET MASHIACH DECIDE WHO IS AND WHO SHOULD BE
    WE ”’MUST PRESERVE ” OUR TORAH AND NATION
    ITS ENOUGHT WITH THE FAKE RABBIS TRAVELING THE WORLD TO FIND ”LOST TRIBES” AS OF NOW THOSE RABBIS DISCOVERED 86 LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL AND THEMONEY KEEPS ROLLING IN TO SUPPORT THEM WHILE THOSE ‘LOST TRIBE ARE BROUGHT TO POLLUTE ISRAEL AND DESTROY THE KOHAINEEM THROUGH THEIR SEDUCTIONS.
    IS PINCHAS AROUND ?

    • that’s not why the Syrian community doesnt have converts. it has to do with a gezeriah that started in south america. it was either Argentina or Brazil i think. and expanded recently to the usa. the gezeriah wasnt for the whole Americas.
      but it’s nice to finally know what denomination you are after all your derogatory ashkenazi comments. it’s funny when your community starts openly marrying ashkenazim. then you can open your mouth!

  12. <>

    It’s not that you can’t have converts, they shouldn’t be in leadership roles, usually. As for gayrim, Rabbi Miller said the following:

    Q:
    Based on what the Rav spoke about tonight, about how Avraham Avinu was careful to take a wife for Yitzchok only from his family and not from any of the converts he had made, would the Rav say that it’s proper to avoid being mishadeich with a gi’yores?

    A:
    Let me tell you something. To my knowledge, there have been sometimes cases of a gi’yores who have produced the best families of talmidei chachomim. Many fine, beautiful families began with a gi’yores.

    Only that Avraham Avinu, at that time, was concerned with the future of a nation that didn’t even exist yet. He was creating a new nation. And therefore, it was imperative that he choose the best mother possible, to be the mother of that entire family, of that entire nation.

    But today, the nation exists already. The Am Yisroel already exists and therefore it’s different. And Rus is the model of a gi’yores that produced one of the best. If not for Rus, you wouldn’t have Tehillim and you wouldn’t have the Beis Hamikdash. It was Dovid Ha’melech who was the one who made the plans for the Beis Hamikdash. And if not for Rus, you wouldn’t have Shlomo and you wouldn’t have Mishlei. So many of the wonders of our nation, Tehillim, Mishlei, Koheles, Shir Ha’shirim are all because of a gi’yores. And many other achievements as well.

    So today, there’s no problem with marrying a gi’yores. And many times you’ll find that she was one of the best. The very best!

    However, if all things are equal and there are plenty of other choices, and you can marry a girl who comes directly from Avraham Avinu, then naturally that’s first. That’s the first choice. But sometimes your best shidduch will be the gi’yores who has chosen out of her own free will to join our People. And you’ll be successful raising a fine family with a wife who is a gi’yores.
    TAPE # E-165

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