By Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer
Jonathan Neumann’s To Heal the World? is nothing short of a lethal indictment – actually a conviction – of the leadership of liberal Judaism, documenting the gross distortion and massive destruction wreaked by an assortment of misguided and agenda-driven left-wing icons and activists during the past half century.
We have all read about the rampant rates of intermarriage and assimilation among heterodox Jewry, which are resulting in projections for near disappearance of the non-Orthodox American Jewish community over the next several decades. And we all know about the heretical bases of the heterodox Jewish movements, whose denial of the Torah as absolute Divine Truth has led to dissolution and disintegration; such has been the case of all deviant movements within Judaism, from the Sadducees to the Boethusians to the Karaites and beyond. A new book about these phenomena would not have been needed.
To Heal the World? therefore propels the discussion to the next, unchartered step, demonstrating with extreme detail and clarity how heterodox leadership has crafted a novel, political-oriented version of Judaism, based on liberal social values which are foreign to Judaism and which have been twisted like pretzels into a new creed, resulting in a “Tikkun Olam” (“Heal/Repair the World”) pseudo-Judaism that has become a fierce weapon against Torah tradition and support for the State of Israel. The warped concoction that is Tikkun Olam Judaism has in fact come to replace old-fashioned non-Orthodoxy, such that what was a very weak and diluted vestige of tradition has now become the antithesis of Judaism.
For those of us who are blessed to have received an advanced Torah education, the distortion of Tikkun Olam Judaism is obvious. We know the source texts which are misrepresented by Tikkun Olam Jewish leadership and are morphed into messages that convey the exact opposite of the texts’ content and meaning; we see how the slogans of Tikkun Olam Judaism are comprised of a mongrelization of Judaism and that which is anathema to it; it is clear to us that the architects of the Tikkun Olam movement are ignorant of Judaism and, since they know slightly more than their followers, they take advantage of their followers’ ignorance, dosing large amounts of Tikkun Olam Kool-Aid into their followers’ mouths and minds.
However, the majority of the Jewish public lacks the knowledge to appreciate what has been foisted upon it – and even the more educated Jewish public is largely unaware of the broad schematics and the sweeping agenda that constitute the Tikkun Olam Judaism movement. Jonathan Neumann has done us all a service by methodically laying forth the facts with a well-organized, rich historical presentation, including the provision of all major source texts upon which Tikkun Olam Judaism is based and demonstrating how these texts have been hijacked to serve a false cause, and documenting how that cause has developed into a Judaism that is a mere front for social liberalism and radicalism that lacks Jewish content and that has basically erased all Jewish vestiges from its manifestation.
As the massive data mustered by Jonathan Neumann substantiates all too well, Tikkun Olam Judaism has become the embodiment of anti-Zionism. Many of worst enemies of the State of Israel and Jewish security and autonomy over the Holy Land are products of the Tikkun Olam movement, who have attempted to embolden support for the Arab position and to arouse self-doubt among Jews regarding their right to their Land. One must read the detailed, factual portrayal of this all in To Heal the World?. It is one thing to read a story here and there about heterodox (and even fringe Orthodox) Jewish support for such enemies; it is something else to be presented with a systematic pattern and sweep of the problem, documented with full sources and context, that bring the issue home in a shocking manner, as Jonathan Neumann has done.
Readers are also advised to go through a great and important clarification of the true nature of Tikkun Olam, as posted by Rabbi Y.A. Korff. Had heterodox Jewry followed Rabbi Korff’s advice, there would not have been a need for Jonathan Neumann’s pivotal new book.
Why have the heterodox Jewish movements invented and embraced a pagan Tikkun Olam religion? You may be surprised for me to write this, but I believe that the root is a noble one. Please allow me to explain:
God endowed His chosen people with a thirst for spirituality and meaning, and to strive for lofty goals. The Jew of tradition, who finds immense inspiration and life purpose in the Torah, quenches this thirst and satisfies this quest by living and studying the dynamic and all-encompassing Word of God. The sense of meaning and fulfillment that one experiences by following a Torah life, in the real sense, cannot be underestimated.
However, for the Jew who has abandoned the Torah, there is a huge existential void that must be filled. Sadly, contemporary heterodox Judaism has created Tikkun Olam to fill that gap. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the gap was filled by heterodox Jewry’s immersion into various new political movements and social causes, as well as acute involvement in the entertainment industry and secular academia; this still holds true today in large measure, as the Jew’s spiritual DNA propels him to keep searching for something that he believes will satisfy his profound thirst for meaning and fulfillment. Once heterodox Judaism became diluted to the point of seeming empty and farcical even to many of its own adherents, and once those adherents no longer identified with traditional values and beliefs, the next stage was a natural synthesis and merger of liberal social and political values with highly-diluted Judaism, resulting in Tikkun Olam Judaism. Perhaps appreciating how we got into this mess is the first step of getting out of it. Certainly, To Heal the World? serves as a venue toward this important realization and the need for serious action.
As I recently wrote elsewhere on a very related topic:
The Torah requires us to follow the example of Abraham, whose trajectory was one of counterculture relative to the surrounding society’s values. Abraham’s divine mission, which established eternal path and precedent for Judaism, set him apart and provided the narrative of submission to God’s laws, irrespective of prevailing moral values and considerations. As Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explained, when addressing the Torah’s curious omission of the sacrifices offered by the Biblical Patriarchs on the altars they erected:
“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 — [such 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…”
And, as Rabbi Soloveitchik stated at a 1957 convention of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA):
“Any attempt to inject contemporary meaning, which should be in agreement with the morality and the value system of the pagan New York Times, in sinful, and a crime on the part of the rabbi.”
Being a Jew means to choose the Torah’s ways over those of contemporary society. Torah is a challenge, but if we choose to defend that which is antithetical to the Torah rather than choosing to follow the Torah, what does that say about us as Jews?
(This article first appeared in Arutz Sheva.)