by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
I received the following email today…
“I would like to ask you a very important question about Judaism and Christianity.
I was raised as a Reform Jew. After graduating from Harvard College, I moved to Israel and became involved in the Chozer Beteshuvah movement and ended up living as an ultra-Orthodox Jew for 18 years.
In the year 2000, I met South African missionaries working in Israel who led me to accept Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMoshiach, as my Lord and Savior.
Since that time I have engaged in much dialogue with Jewish people. For example, I know Rabbi Moshe Shulman, who is a leading anti-missionary activist, as well as Tuvia Singer. I am well aware of their disdain for the Christian Faith….”
Oy oy oy. I’m not going to bother with his “important question”, as it’s not a question but an argument for worshiping a dead man god. Instead I’m going to note that a solid Torah identity requires 3 legs of a stool.
Torah – One must learn Torah. This includes the written Torah, the oral Torah (Mishneh and Gemora), as well as Navi’im and Ketuvim (the biblical prophets and later writings). A solid foundation in the words of the Living G-d are critical, with clear understanding of the language and traditional commentaries.
Halacha and Mitzvot – One must observe the commandments of G-d and understand the parameters of what that observance is. Unfortunately today we have added many chumrot (extra stringencies), and often people do not learn and understand the difference between the religious law, the added customs of the generations and the added stringencies. Added stringencies are to protect from religious accidents and to help a community focus properly, but in some situations are overbearing on some people. They are NOT required yet people often think they are AND that they’re part of basic observance (and therefore may feel very guilty when accidentally violating a stringency or not being able to handle a stringency…yet it’s an add-on and there should be no such guilt or bad feeling of not accepting or handling it).
Kabbalah – Chassidus – Mussar – Pure halachic Judaism lacks “theology”. Why? What’s with the soul? Afterlife? Man’s relationship with G-d? The affect of mitzvot bein adom l’makom (what do performing commandments between man and G-d do)? Why should we live a particular way or act a particular way? From different perspectives and approaches Kabbalah and Chassidus and Mussar answer these questions. They add the theology, the secrets and the mystical portion of Torah. The explanations of why and how things relate to G-d. One can be a perfectly observant Jew (even for 18 years or for a lifetime) without learning Kabbalah / Chassidus / Mussar, but if one is challenged on the why and the relationship with G-d (and happens to be in a bad situation at the time) and has no answers…G-d forbid one can be drawn to the other side.
It’s worth noting that missionizing is illegal in Israel, however the law is almost never enforced. Instead those in Ramat Gan are protesting the opening of a Chabad house!