Rav Zev Leff came to speak in my town, and during a portion of his talk, I was daydreaming about starting a blog about showing others why Torah observant Jews . . . are so. I was thinking about back in my reform Judaism days, when you open any Bible sitting in a pew, and the introduction in the reform publication is all about how the Torah was written by man (!) and it’s all a lie.
So why does anyone return to services the following week, or even the following Rosh Hashana?
Aristotle’s Physics Club
My great-grandparents, who were educated and smart, and the generations before them who had not deviated from the words of Torah through pain
of death, were all, according to this theory, just living in the dark. Today, they tell us, we know better and are so much smarter for . . . believing in nothing bolstered by theories of
randomness where your actions, and ultimately, you, don’t matter at all.
Those descended from former Jewish believers then tell the next generation that they should marry someone Jewish. Huh? Imagine an ‘Aristotelian Physics Club’ where they meet once a week on Friday nights and say, ‘Our forefathers believed Aristotelian Physics was true . . . so we continue to come here once a week to keep some of the rituals of the Aristotelian Physics club.’ (For some background, Aristotelian physics was believed for almost two millenia by the masses, to be replaced by Newtonian
Failure of Aristotle’s Physics Club, Eternal Nature of Torah physics, then to be replaced by our most recent understanding, Einsteinian physics.) Now, since your great-grandparents believed in Aristotle’s physics and spent their lives defending it, we meet once a week, or for some, twice a year, and do some of their rituals, but otherwise, look and act like everyone else around us. . . . and by the way, you’re only supposed to marry someone else who is in the Aristotelian physics club.
This, in a nutshell, is what heterodox Jewish movements basis for belief. It’s a failure, and for good reason. The intermarriage rate of reform is something like 50% – 70% today (see Exhibit 4-19 http://www.ujafedny.org/get/196900/ for the New York statistics, while the stats of those in less Jewishly concentrated areas is far worse). The problem is even worse than that, though because the knowledge and understanding of Jewish beliefs is simply lacking, even, too often, in “Orthodox” Jewish education where it’s not always taught why we know the Torah is true and our beliefs are correct.
As I was thinking about my metaphor of “‘Aristotelian Physics Club’ compared to heterodox Judaism as a way to convey this to Jews who, unfortunately, don’t have a good Jewish education, which is most of us, Rav Zev Leff (remember him? See the first paragraph!) pulled me from my daydream to talk about . . . Aristotelian physics. One could call this a ‘coincidence’, but when these things happen to you too many times in life as you strive for a relationship and connection with the creator, a rational person eventually stops believing it’s all coincidence. Rav Leff mentioned Aristotle in the context of each generation fighting philosophical battles in it’s own way, with different challenges. Aristotelian physics holds no sway over us, and no one even knows what it is anymore, but Moreh Nevukhim by the Rambam was all about discussing what was right and wrong with this model to help the Jewish masses understand why their beliefs were correct. Today, however, we need to answer the science and philosophies of our day and reach those who, unfortunately, would like to know what their 3300+ year heritage has to offer but don’t know where to look.