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Naso

Friday, 14 June, 2019 - 3:01 pm

Growing up as a religious kid in a secular world, I was often taunted by non- or anti-religious people about my “archaic, outdated, silly,” etc. etc. religious views.  “Come on, how can you believe that silly old-fashioned stuff?”  I was taught by my parents and teachers, and firmly believed myself, that the Torah is truth, given by Hashem at Sinai to all Jews of all generations, its explanations faithfully passed down through the ages by the greatest, wisest, saintliest scholars and thinkers.  I read in Devarim (4:60 that the Torah is “your wisdom and your understanding before the nations, who will hear all these laws and say ‘How wise and understanding is this great nation.”  And yet, the world around me said otherwise and I did not have the wherewithal to combat these statements.  Scientific advances have shown that this part of the Torah is wrong or that part of the Torah is wrong.  The Torah laws really don’t make sense for our advanced and enlightened society (unless a specific law fits whatever current agenda the person may have). 

I met with a very prominent, famous Jewish psychologist a few times and we had some very interesting discussions.  He describes himself as an “Atheist.”  At one point during our last conversation, we were discussing Creation, and he asked me whether I believe that the world was created by G-d so many thousands of years ago.  When I said yes, he looked at me with a look somewhere between pity and condescension, heavy on the latter, and said: “How can a person as smart as you believe something so foolish?”  I did not retort:  How can someone as smart as you believe that suddenly, out of nowhere, some matter appeared with no source and no creator?  I just figured we have nowhere to go from here and let him have his final word.

As recently as a couple of days ago, someone wrote me (this is an exact quote):  “I have knowledge of the science of the 20th century. It allows me to question whether the rabbis making halachic decisions 500 to 1000 years ago would be changing their opinions if they were alive today.  And, I do admit to ignorance about many aspects of Judaism”.  He hit the nail on the head.  Derision of the wisdom of Torah comes from ignorance of its wisdom.  Think about it, what percentage of Jews knows the name of the mother of the founder of Christianity, and what percentage knows the name of Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother?  (This is one of the many reasons that Jewish education is so important, and while I’m at it, why you should use the summer break as an opportunity to put your child or grandchild into a Torah true camp (like Camp Gan Israel).)

Why did this come up today?  One of the things that people throughout my life have told me is old-fashioned and silly is the Jewish approach to modesty.  Modesty in dress and modesty in behavior.  How prudish and outdated it is to say that men and women (except immediate family) shouldn’t touch each other, dance together or be locked in a room alone?  We have progressed as a society, and there is no reason to keep those silly boundaries.  In this week’s Parsha we read about a “Sota”, a person who is suspected of adultery.  The word “Sota” shares a root with the word “Shtus”, which means foolishness.  Our Sages taught that there is a connection between the two, because promiscuous behavior is indeed foolish, and in general, a person only sins when they are overcome by a spirit of foolishness.  This is what I learned in Torah, while the whole world around me told me that the enlightened, civilized and intellectual way is to tear down boundaries between men and women.  Somehow protecting the lines between the genders is seen as foolish and derogatory toward women. 

Well, fast forward to our decade.  Rampant abuse in the military, on college campuses, in the revered leadership of various religions, in the work place, in the great icons of Hollywood and congress.  The entire MeToo and other movements came about because of what is happening throughout society.  So I ask you, is the Torah right that two people of the opposite gender being locked in a room alone is foolish?  Or have we moved to a more enlightened and intellectual society?

This is only one glaring example, but if we open our eyes to what is happening today in the sciences, we can see how the Torah’s truth permeates everything in existence, and slowly but surely the Torah’s teachings are being recognized as true wisdom.  (This is a much larger subject, of course, and I am only presenting one example as a glimpse.) This is all part of the lead up to the time when G-dliness will be revealed throughout the world with the coming of Moshiach.  As the Rambam concludes his book Mishne Torah: “at that time… the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the seabead.”

 

 

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