Friday, May 22, 2009

Please Be Quiet

It has been a busy week for the Jerusalem Post - especially on the denominational front. One gets the sense that every time they run an article highlighting interdenominational strife, they get a bump in web hits. To wit:
1. An article where YU Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm declared that Orthodoxy would "soon say kaddish for Conservative and Reform Judaism." For the record, he said that we would say kaddish in sadness, but I'm not so sure he's right. I don't think they'll die. I think they'll merge.
2. A piece this morning about how an IDF rabbi refused to allow a Conservative woman to recite kaddish for her grandmother in shul. It's actually a rather complex issue that was handled rather sensitively by the IDF, if you ask me. But headlines are what's important nowadays - not the facts of the story. If anything, it's more a story about Orthodox vs. Orthodox - but who'd want to read an article about an intra-orthodox debate on the merits of women reciting kaddish in a minyan.
3. A piece quoting a major member of the Knesset slamming Reform Judaism and Reform Jews. It is about this piece that I would like to comment.
This week the Jerusalem Post reported that,
Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said Wednesday that he will block any attempt to transfer state funds to non-Orthodox institutions involved in preparing converts to Judaism.
"The Reform Movement is not a legitimate form of Judaism," Gafni said in a telephone interview. "The Reform are a bunch of treacherous backstabbers to Judaism. They are jokers who operate without hierarchy and without rules."
Gafni insisted that "MKs are not a bunch of marionettes who will do whatever the Supreme Court tells them to do. I will block any attempts to provide state funds to Reform."
So, in the span of thirty seconds, Gafni, who is the chairman of the Finance Committee of the State of Israel:
1. Insulted Reform Judaism
2. Insulted Reform Jews personally (all of whom I am sure he has never met)
3. Announced that he would ignore a decision of Israel's Supreme Court, undercutting one of the cornerstones of democracy. (There is a legislative way to get around the Supreme Court decision. I hope that's what he meant.)

I have a few comments for Mr. Gafni, who I'm sure is a regular Choppingwood Reader.
1. Please be quiet.
2. Thank you.
3. Have you ever met a Reform Jew in your life?
4. What exactly do you - or anyone - gain by calling anyone "a bunch of treacherous backstabbers to Judaism" or "jokers"? Do you think that's going to get them to see your point of view?
5. I wholeheartedly reject (and denounce) both the content and tone of your message.
6. Please be quiet.
7. Calvin Coolidge once said, "I have never been hurt by what I have not said."Good advice. Oh, but he wasn't Orthodox. So I have another quote for you: The Mishnah in Avot (1:17) says:
שמעון בנו אומר כל ימי גדלתי בין החכמים ולא מצאתי לגוף טוב אלא שתיקה
Shimon the son [of Rabban Gamliel] says: For my entire life I grew up among the scholars, and could find nothing better for the body than silence.
Good advice.
And he was Orthodox.