This really gets under my skin and on my nerves

I am about to post an article here that came out a few days ago which really got me PO’d. I am so sick of the media lumping all Jews together and expecting us to not speak up. Mind you this article was published by Virtual Jerusalem, which is a mouthpiece for the Ultra-Orthodox. Kinda like Fox News is really nothing more than a mouthpiece for the radical far right wing of the Conservatives here in America. So here is the article:

Riots Force Out Top US Rabbi from Temple Mount

Date Posted: 2014-04-21 01:18:56

riots on the temple mount
Rioters pelt police with stones on Temple Mount
Flash 90

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik’s tour of the Temple Mount was cut short this morning when violent rioting broke out at the holy site. It was the first time that the Temple Mount had been open to Jews since the beginning of the observance of Passover this year.

The riots forced Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and his family, who were accompanied by Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman, to leave the site within two minutes of ascending to the Mount. Two police officers were injured in the confrontation, and 24 arrests have been made.

The visit provided an opportunity for the influential American rabbi to join the struggle for Jewish prayer and presence on the Temple Mount and to hear about the preparations that The Temple Institute has actively made for the Third Holy Temple.
Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik is a world renowned American Torah scholar, teacher and leader. He is the son of Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, grandson of the late

Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik and the great nephew of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik – all of whom are credited for founding what has become the Modern Orthodoxy movement of Judaism.

After graduating from Yeshiva College in New York City, Soloveichik received his rabbinic ordination at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and went on to receive a PhD in religion from Princeton University.

Aside from his teaching and writing, Rabbi Soloveichik proudly became the first Orthodox rabbi to give the invocation at the opening session of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He currently serves as rabbi of the Sephardic Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. Rabbi Soloveichik was a rumored frontrunner to replace Jonathan Sacks as Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.

“We are honored to welcome Rabbi Soloveichik,” said Rabbi Richman. “His visit to the Temple Mount this morning was both spiritual and emotional for all involved.

Above all else, his visit sends a strong message to World Jewry that we cannot abandon our holiest site, emphasizing that visits to the Temple amount are not only Halakhically acceptable but are a halakhic imperative for all Jews.”

Rabbi Soloveichik was witness to the deteriorating security situation on the Temple Mount and saw, first-hand, Jews being ushered quickly and expelled from the holy site when Muslim rioters began throwing rocks. He expressed consternation at the desecration of the holy site.

“Under the current circumstances, even to go to the Temple Mount for two minutes was a tremendous privilege,” said Rabbi Soloveichik. “I am very much in favor of ascending the Temple Mount according to Halakha and after taking the appropriate halakhic precautions. It is critical for Jews to understand the importance of the Temple Mount. I applaud the increasing number of Orthodox rabbis and heads of yeshivot that are going to the holy site, and I predict we will see even more Jews ascending in the future.”

The Temple Institute is an educational, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the Biblical commandment of building a Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Institute’s multi-disciplinary studies and outreach focus on the universal significance of the Holy Temple as a house of peace and prayer for all nations. Since its establishment 25 years ago, the Temple Institute has become the primary authority on all Temple related matters. The Institute has published tens of books, in multiple languages, including The Illustrated Encyclopedia of The Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

 

 

Well let’s start right off with the title of the article, “Top US Rabbi”. First off, there is no such animal as Top or Chief rabbi of the US.It doesn’t exist.It is 100% made up. Rabbi Joseph Telushikin in “Jewish Literacy” tells the story of a rabbi from Eastern Europe, in the 1890’s on New York’s Lower East side, had a sign painted designating himself as “The Chief Rabbi of the United States”. When people asked him who made him chief rabbi,he replied the sign painter.

This comes straight from the Orthodox’s erroneous belief that they are the only Jewish game in town. They are not. In fact in the US, Orthodox Judaism only represent 10% of the Jewish population,see Pew Study here. Reform make up 35%, Conservative 18%, Reconstructionist/ Renewal 6%, and lastly, and maybe most importantly, 30% who have no identification with a Denomination or Movement within religious Judaism. That basically means that just about the last people anyone should be listening to, about Judaism, are the Orthodox, considering that there are 90% of Jews in the US who couldn’t care the least about what any Orthodox rabbi has to say.

Next this rabbi is head of a Sephardic synagogue. Now admittedly, it is the oldest synagogue within the US, but Ashkenazic Jews far out number the Sephardic in the US. So again,this man represents another minority of US Jews. Why is he being called “Top US Rabbi”?

Let’s move on to the fact that this fool supports the building of a Third Temple on Temple Mount and the restoration of the sacrificial system.Aside from the cruelty to animals issue let’s jump right to the fact that this idiot wants to start World War Three with the Muslims. Though I disagree wholeheartedly with fundamentalist beliefs in any religious tradition, I always try to respect the fact that others have a right to their beliefs no matter what they are.However not at the expense of starting a world war. The man and his family should have been run off. If he is going to hold insane beliefs he surrenders his right to inflict those beliefs on others, and should be treated accordingly. I consider this man and who he represents as the same kind of crazy as the late Fred Phelps and his crazy followers over at Westboro Baptist. The less we hear from him the better.

I get so tired of watching Judaism, which I love,(yes, all branches and the “nones”) get trashed by a miniscule percentage of it’s ultra fundamentalist religious adherents. It smacks all Jews everywhere when others(non-Jewish) read these insane kind of stories and then lump all of it on us assuming “we” all think alike. It is the same for my brother and sister Progressive Christians who see their faith lumped with a bunch of racist,bigoted,misogynistic,homophobic lunatics who hide behind their religion like a shield and pretend they “speak for all Christians” everywhere.

The time has come for all adherents of progressive,liberal religion to take a stand against these crazed fundamentalists of all colors and kinds, and show the world what religions based on love, and not hate, are all about. I hope to see you all out there on the front lines soon. Peace and Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

 

 

A blast from my past

I figured it was time for me to see how much has changed for me spiritually in the past few years and to share with you some of the changes I have been through. I am now going to post a blog I wrote a few years ago,in its entirety, then afterwards tell you what has changed and what has stayed the same.So here goes:

 

                          What is Unitarian Judaism? One man’s opinion

First let me address any landsman that may be reading this brief essay.Allow mw to say upfront what Unitarian Judaism is not.It is not Messianic Judaism or any derivative thereof.Commonly refered to as Jews for Jesus,which is actually a singular organization within this “Messianic Jewish movement”.Unitarian Judaism is not fundamentalist Christianity with Jewish trappings.We do not believe that Jesus was G-d,or the only son of G-d.We do not believe he died for anyone’s sins,or that his blood was a sacrifice or atonement to G-d replacing the Jewish sacraficial system.We do not believe he rose from the dead,then ascended into heaven.We do not believe Jesus performed any miracles or taught something that could not be found in the Torah or the whole of the Tanakh.


With all that being said,and this is of course just my opinion,I can appreciate the teachings of Yeshua(his proper name)of Nazareth.I consider him a prophet of G-d within the great prophetic tradition of Judaism.His words are the teachings
of a first century rebbe to his hasidim,all of whom lived and died as Jews.(1 pg206)There was nothing different or “un-Jewish” in his teachings.He was a liberal;he was against all injustice,in the tradition of the prophets.He taught the observance of Mosaic Law.Nothing he preached,taught,or said was in contridiction to what other Jewish prophets,rabbis,sects said or taught.(12pg 139-140)


So what does the Jewish community say about Yeshua of Nazareth.From the time since Yeshua’s teaching career many Jews have commented on him,including Maimomodies(The Rambam,author of the Thirteeen Principals of Faith)but for brevity sake I will name just a few modern Jewish authors and scholars.


Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi states can we say that Yeshua of Nazareth,through whom countless people had a bridge to the living G-d,was not a guise(as Elijah tends to disguise himself)of such good news as we refer to in our Grace after Meals,when we ask G-d to send Elijah the prophet with the good news(besorot tovot)of redemption and consolation.(1pg213 paraphrased) Rebbe Zalman goes on to say that it is only when we try to make Yeshua,G-d or a god,and say everything in Torah and Yiddishkeit is already superceded,that we as Jews,must draw the line.(1pg213)Unitarians would agree,I think.


Let’s move on to authors, Rabbis Ted Falon and David Blatner.”While Jews cannot accept the Messiahship of Yeshua,many Jewish teachers over the ages have acknowledged his great importance.Maimonides said that Christianity was a way in which
G-d brought important parts of Judaism’s message to the rest of the world.”(10pg330)


Author Rabbi Michael Learner-“Indeed,as we move away from the historical period in which Christian’s oppress and demean Jews, it will be possible for Jews to look at Yeshua’s teachings with fresh eyes,and reclaim the “Jewish Jesus”as an honored
teacher without having to reject everything he said merely because of the ways it was subsequently used to hurt us.When we can come to that point Yeshua will regain his rightful place as a respected and sometimes insightful teacher of the Jewish
people.(13pgs 141-142)


Martin Buber argued that no other faith has invested so much in his concept of G-d as the Jews,but he refers to Yeshua(Jesus) as “my brother”,a great Jewish teacher.While Yeshua is a great teacher and a great historical figure,as a Jew he cannot accept
him as the Messiah.(3pg445)Again most Unitarians would agree.From the same book as this,author George Robinson referencing Exodus”An eye for an eye” states Yeshua explicitly denies its validity implying that the author acknowledges Yeshua’s teaching
authority.


Finally,as far as modern Jewish opinion goes we come to Rabbi Joseph Tellushkin.”Like many of Judaism’s great rabbis he saw love of neighbor as religion’s central demand.(2pg121)”Is there a concensus on how Jews are to regard Jesus?Perhaps not, but in recent
decades many Jewish scholars have tended to view him as one of several 1st-2nd century Jews who claimed to be the Messiah,and who attempted to rid Judea of its Roman oppressors.However almost no Jewish scholars believe that Jesus intended to start a new religion.(2pg126)”Jesus was a Jew,his apostles(Hasidim)were Jews,his message was to the Jews, and the Jews,the only people who knew him,rejected the claims Christianity made on his behalf.”(2pg187)


So as we cam see Judaism has had plenty of commentary on Yeshua of Nazareth for a very long time.Now lets look at Unitarianism.


By definition “Rationalist Unitarianism”- G-d is one being who consistes of one person-the Father.Jesus is not the Son of G-d but merely a “good and wise man”who taught others how to lead a better life…It’s proponents took a highly intellectual approach to religion,rejecting most of the miraculous events in the Bible including the Virgin Birth.They embraced evolutionary concepts, asserted the “goodness of man” and abandoned many principals of Christianity.Rationalist Unitarianism is distinguished from Deism(with which it nevertheless shares many features)by the fact that RU’s believe in a personal deity who interacts with His creation.(11)


Looking at the principals of the American Unitarian Conference we can find nothing in opposition to progressive liberal Judaism.(14) In fact the organization”s motto of Faith,Freedom,and Reason resound loudly in Reform Judaism.”Faith and reason are two beacons “each shedding it’s own light”,but both ultimately meeting and fusing into one bright beam.”(5pg9)Israel remained loyal to that spirit and to knowledge,never attempting to confine freedom.(5pg9)


In reading the Constitution of the World Union for Progressive Judaism(5pg32),”Prayer and a growing G-d”-Henry Slonimsky in Gates of  Understanding-Lawrence A. Hoffman pgs77-79(3pgs38-40)Ethical Monotheism-Levi A.Olan(5pg40-41)The Philadelphia Principals,The Pittsburgh Platform,Guiding Principals of Reform Judaism,Reform Judaism,a Centenary perspective,and a statement of Principals of Reform Judaism,
now ratified.(5pg196-212)we again can find nothing in conflict with Rationalist Unitarianism.

We even find a Reform rabbi being hired as a Unitarian Universalist clergyman according to Interfaithfamily.com in the article “The Rabbi serves the Unitarians” by Jill
Suzanne Jacobs,where Rabbi Howard Berman is quoted as saying that Unitarianism is “basically Reform Judaism without the Hebrew.”Unitarians have particular affection for the religion of the Jews…affirms the strict unity of G-d.(7pg66)

Just a few more quotes to think about.”G-d is thus one and is the core belief of Judaism/Classical Unitarianism.”(9)”Judaism has always been rigorously Unitarian.”(9)Please note the aforementioned website, I just quoted from, I have a great deal of disagreement with but freedom,reason,and faith preclude me from passing judgement.Each to their own. “Jesus was a man.Jewish religious teacher,prophet,regarded by the Unitarians as an example to follow,a master of religious and ethical life in teaching and acting.”(15)


Now I will speak of the question I am asked the most often-Why don’t I just become a Unitarian Universalist or join a Reform/Liberal/Progressive/Reconstructionist congregation?


I’ll start with Unitarian Universalism.I am a Jew plain and simple.I believe in G-d.I celebrate the Sabbath from Friday sundown till Saturday sundown.I celebrate all the Jewish holidays and only those holidays.For me(even though there is a great deal I agree with in UUism and it boasts 10% Jewish membership) UUism is too much of a hodgepodge of different religions or no religion.The domination of atheism and polytheism make it untenable to my personal belief system.


As for Reform Judaism,it has moved away(as has Reconstructionism)from its classical roots.They are now becoming more demanding of what you should believe to be a “good”Reform of Reconstructionist Jew.This not only attacks my freedom but my reason as well.Also the denial of Yeshua of Nazareth as a prophet and teacher in the proper Jewish prophetic tradition is like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


So to sum up for me,Unitarian Judaism is the practice of liberal,progressive Judaism hallmarked by faith,freedom, and reason with the inclusion of Yeshua of Nazareth as a great Jewish teacher and prophet,and honing the best of the teachings from the gospels
only,of the Christian Scriptures.I also include Jewish Universalism as defined here.(16)


All of these things I have listed and stated has led me to self-identify as a Unitarian Jew.Combining these two great faith traditions has given me the best of both worlds and led me into a closer realationship with the G-d of my understanding.I hope I have explained my position well and also hope that unaffiliated and disenchanted Jews might read this,give it some thought,and maybe even find a new spiritual home.Shalom!


Rav Ya’akov Litman

1)Jewish with Feeling- Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi
2)Jewish Literacy- Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
3)Essential Judaism-George Robinson
4)Judaism;Myth,Legend,History,and Custom-the religious to the secular-Abraham J.Arnold
5)The Reform Jewish Reader-Meyer and Plaut
6)Explaining Reform Judaism-Eugene B.Borowitz,Naomi Patz
7)The Elements of Unitarianism-George Chryssides
8)The Age of Reason-Thomas Paine
9)http://www.sullivan-county.com/id2/judaism.htm
10)Judaism for Dummies-Rabbis Ted Falon and David Blatner
11)http://www.indopedia.org/Unitarian.html
12)Jews,G-d,and History-Max Dimont
13)Jewish Renewal-Michael Lerner
14)http://www.americanunitarian.org/
15)http://www.unitarius.hu/english/principl.htm
16)http://www.simshalom.com 

 

Well let’s go through this bit by bit and see what has evolved in time with me.

First off, my God concept has changed completely. I no longer believe,in any way shape or form in the Judeo-Christo-Islamic Yahweh myth. That god is not worth my time of day. Brutal,sadistic, racist and IMHO a downright evil creation.Thank G-d it’s just a story/myth. My God concept now is more in the ways of Spinoza and Kaplan. Life and Nature are my G-d now.It is impersonal,logical,and rational.But believe me when I say it was the most monumental paradigm shift for me and it literally changed my world. When you no longer believe in some capricious god who has it out for some and not for others, and change to Life just doing and going along as it does impersonally,there is a freedom and a love for self and others which truly passes all understanding. I am eternally grateful for the change.

Next let’s move on to Yeshua. First, theologically nothing has changed from my beliefs that I previously wrote about.What has changed is my belief in the historical truth that there ever was a Rabbi Yeshua.So many other ancient religions and cults came up with a son of God story that I personally cannot be sure Yeshua ever existed. But someone very wise once told me,if you meet a teacher who answers a question with “I don’t know” then you have met a teacher worth having, so on this subject I will say I don’t know if there ever was a Yeshua(Jesus)but I do accept the reality that a great number of people do believe there was therefore I will act accordingly.

As far as the Torah,Tanach, Talmud, Christian Scriptures,and the Koran goes,they are just plain stories and stories about stories with some spiritual truths mixed in for good measure,. They are all reflective of the socio-political worldview of ancient peoples who thought the world was flat,God was just above the clouds,and many other backwards ass thinking and thoughts.They cannot be blamed for their ignorance but their worldview is not ours in a scientific age, when we just plain no better.Their writings should be taken with a grain of salt.

Now on to Unitarian Universalism. Let me say I am a proud member of a congregation(Church of the Larger Fellowship U.U.)within the UUA.My position against the atheism and polytheism within the UUA has laxed considerably since this previous writing. I now am more open and inclusive in these points of view because I now understand everyone has a different path to be on and no one path has all the answers.Who am I to say they are wrong.I can only say that they are not right for me.

My views on the Jewish institutions I previously mentioned have remained unchanged which is why I have placed myself within the Humanistic Jewish world with Polydox Judaism as my footing.Check out Polydox Judaism here. You will find it quite refreshing.

So to sum up, I now consider myself a Polydox Jew, currently living in the Humanistic Jewish world. As my current congregational rabbi states,(located at Our Jewish Community,a sub congregation of Congregation Beth Adam found here.) we should say what we mean and mean what we say. So unless specifically requested, I do not use God language in Life Event ceremonies or services. I will only do so with the complete understanding of all parties that I do not believe in a supernatural life-intervening God and if they have issues with that they can find another rabbi out there who does believe. No sweat off me.

Well again I hope I have explained myself well and look forward to my next blog…when I figure out what it will be about.:-) Shalom for now!

Rabbi Yaakov

P.S.There has been another rabbi(female)elected to run a Unitarian Universalist church.

What this blog is about?

Greetings all. Welcome to my blog.My name is Yaakov Litman and basically what this blog will be about are my occasional rants and raves about all things Jewish(or whatever else that catches my ire on a particular day..lol).

I won’t be kvetching everyday by any means but when I’ve got something to say,believe me,I will speak up.I hope you find something of interest here and maybe even take something away with you(nothing contagious hopefully). So without further adieu let’s begin.I will be seeing you soon. Shalom and a Chag Pesach semeach to all of you on this 4th Night of Passover.

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