I picked up a copy of “Oregon Jewish Life” magazine yesterday. It’s a free publication and it seems to be geared more toward Reform Jews. Naturally, it has a liberal bent. A recurring theme seems to be that traditional Judaism has always touted some of the values that today’s liberals support. For example, there’s an article about interfaith outreach to Muslims, a blurb about an “MLK Shabbat,” where “Beth Israel has collaborated with local African American communities… honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” and even a piece touting the virtues of “marriage freedom.” In this latter piece, a Portland teen (Duncan McAlpine Sennet) actually made the argument (in a “Torah” discourse no less) that since opponents of gay marriage cite the biblical definition of marriage “as the union between one man and one woman,” and yet we find Jacob marrying two women, therefore everybody should be able to marry whomsoever they love. Sennet was encouraged to share his flawed logic with the world and his video went viral.
It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or to cry. But two articles, in particular, caught my attention. One is titled “Should vegan be the new kosher?” In this column, Joseph Lieberman claims that:
A vegan lifestyle isn’t just a healthy choice for our bodies, it’s also an ethical choice that embodies the Jewish ideal of compassionately “healing the world” – tikkun olam.
For the record, “tikkun olam” does not mean “healing the world.” It means “fixing the world,” and refers to a totally different (kabbalistic) concept.
Lieberman goes on to claim that “eating vegan is like a mitzvah,” and he quotes the book “Judaism and Vegetarianism” by Richard Schwartz:
I think that eating meat or fish is a denial of all ideals, even of all religions. … How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood? Every kind of killing seems to me savage and I find no justification for it.
In all fairness, Lieberman does point out that traditional Judaism requires the use of certain animal products, that “blood sacrifices were a major part of the Temple rituals.” But he goes on to imply that, in light of current mistreatment of livestock, even livestock destined for kosher slaughter, it no longer makes sense to eat meat.
The second article is called “Tu B’Shevat: New Year of the Trees.” Here we find Rich Geller implying that the Jewish new year for trees, which goes back to the times of the Mishnah, is intricately connected to environmentalism. He writes:
Tu B’Shevat is also an opportunity to teach kids to reduce, reuse and recycle. Go green and start composting if you don’t already.
There’s nothing unusual, or objectionable, about tying in traditional Jewish concepts with contemporary issues; this is a long-standing tradition. But when a pattern emerges where all these issues are liberal pet causes, it gives the impression that the starting point is Liberalism, not Judaism.
Reading this magazine reminds me of an article about the pope, written by my friend at diversity chronicle. That article reported that the pope had declared “All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them.” But that article was satire. Unfortunately, this magazine is not.
I’d like to ask the editors of the Oregon Jewish Life magazine if there is any belief or practice at all, in traditional Judaism, that modern Liberalism would not agree with. Can they find even a single value, embraced by liberals today, that Judaism would frown upon? I think the answer would be “no.” In their minds, the Torah is but a tool for the advancement of whatever the liberal establishment deems worthy. For them, Judaism has been reduced to an “Amen machine.”
For what it’s worth, I agree with Duncan Sennet that gays should be allowed to pair off as they please, without interference from government. I agree with Joseph Lieberman that a vegan/vegetarian diet is a worthy goal (or at least that its adherents’ intentions are often noble), and that animals should not be made to needlessly suffer. I agree, overall, with the environmental goals of Rich Geller. What bothers me is how they slavishly follow every liberal cause, as if were the word of God – and how they try to force our ancestors to follow along as well. They rather remind me of the old Mormon practice of posthumous conversions.
It’s true that modern Liberalism was largely founded by Jews. It’s even possible that some of Liberalism’s tenets were based upon traditional Jewish ideas. But Liberalism soon took on a life of its own and became master – while Judaism became subordinate. If left-leaning organized Jewry has disdain for whites, it’s not due to any statement in the Talmud, rather it’s due to its slavish adherence to Liberalism (which preaches tolerance toward individual whites, but vile hatred toward whites as a group). Secular, and non-Orthodox observant Jews, give very little credence to Talmudic texts – unless they happen to agree with the Liberal narrative.
When a nation tries to embody everything that is good, then it ceases to be a nation. We don’t try to cook Italian cuisine so that it includes the flavors of Thai food, Japanese food and Polish food. We don’t try to encompass the qualities of rock, blues and country into our opera. We don’t attempt to incorporate the fashions of Shogun Japan, Renaissance Italy and late Czarist Russia into our tuxedos. So too should we not strive to claim that every contemporary popular idea is actually a part of Judaism.
The same is true of America. Politicians speak of “American values” – but I have yet to hear that term defined. I have not yet seen anybody give an example of an “American value” that is not also considered a universal one. For all these lofty words, shallowness and stupidity lie underneath.