Continuing The Legacy

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

"Continuing the Legacy" was an article that appeared in the Cleveland Jewish News on January 19, 1990, with a heading "A Blue Ribbon Panel Admits Jewish education is in trouble, and is trying to do something about." I too, admit that Jewish education is in serious trouble, but what kind of Jewish education? An education that our sages might refer to as "Sreyfas Haneshomah Vehaguf Koyom" - the consuming of the soul, though the body is intact. That kind of education is in serious trouble. But let me be more specific.

As Jews, we are bidden to establish a Kosher diet. Liberal Judaism becomes all wise - and know that Moses initiated Kashrus as a healthy measure. Now we have systems of curing food, so that Kashrus is unnecessary. All this would be true if it would be a bodily concern alone, but it isn't. Kashrus reflects the soul of the Jewish people. It was never defined by the Torah as a health program. It was commanded, the Torah tell us, as a holiness code. Holiness is a soulful relationship with G-d. It is man's recognizing G-d, even when he eats. His eating is different than the animals - it has a "neshoma" - a soul that hears G-d's law. To reduce Kashrus to a health measure as liberal Judaism teaches, and divest it of its spiritual purity and nobility is the consuming of the soul, though the body is intact.

For anyone to view the right of circumcision as an operation and see in it only the medical advantages to which modern man has become wise in the last few decades, and fail to behold a covenant of Abraham with G-d which is thousands of years old, for anyone to behold only the physical and the spiritual endowment of this fundamental of Jewish being, is to have committed "Sreyfas Haneshomah Vehaguf Koyom", a destruction of the soul.

To behold the Shabbos as a day of rest and relaxation, which each can enjoy as he chooses - on a ride, a ball game, or trimming trees, and not to feel the sanctity of prayer, of Torah study, of scrupulous observance, of absence from work, or even failing to kindle candles and recite Kiddush, is to have developed a dead soul. One may have physical relaxation, but not spiritual rejunenation and elevation.

Once a Jew has removed the Torah from Sinai, and has deadened his conscience by assuming that Judaism does not require of him the fulfillment of the precepts contained in the Torah and, consequently, he may do "that which is good in his own eyes", then he will become estranged from his people, his religion and his G-d.

Only an education that appreciates a constant tug at our conscience and demands adherence to all the above - that type of education is not in trouble.

Morton Mandel says "there is a war going on and under seige is a 3000 year old Jewish community. The trend lines of assimilation and intermarriage," he adds, "prove we are moving away from Judaism, and if we just watch it happen without going on the offensive, we will never forgive ourselves." As a solution, Mandel believes sending kids and families to Israel to Jewish summer camps and providing week-end retreats and other appropriate programs at Jewish Community Centers, and oh, yes, higher paying teachers will solve our problem. I beg to differ.

Not Jewish education, but Jewish living. Liberal Judaism must take the risk of turing back the hands of time and admit that liberal Judaism and a Judaism that caters to the whims of its adherents, has failed. A Judaism not based on the revelation at Sinai is putty in the hands of assimilation and doomed to fail. We must launch a sincere effort to select teachers who are G-d imbued, and have an insatiable desire to transmit authentic Judaism. Neither Jewish summer camps, nor programs at Jewish Community Centers, nor institutions of G-dless higher learning, nor millions of dollars, will win the war that Mr. Mandel says is going on.

Tallis, Tfillin, dietary laws, observance of the Shabbos, circumcision on the eighth day, will assure us the soul of our people and our physical being.