It has been said by some residents of Rockland County that God has no place in the lives of those Jews who do not follow the tenets of the Haredi sects. They may be correct regarding a portion of secular Judaism, but they have insulted members of Modern Orthodox, Conservative, reform and other denominations of Jewry. The fact is that there were no Haredim prior to the 1700s. Prior to Bal Shem Tov, a Jew was a Jew no matter where he or she lived.
Where does God belong in our lives? God was present before our lives began and will be around long after our demise. We Jews exist as a people because of our belief in the one God, the Creator of the Universe. God saw fit to give man the ability to reason, the ability to create, the ability to adapt and the ability to communicate. Through the use of thee gifts, man can better the lives of mankind. The Jew, being the first to recognize the oneness of God, assumed the responsibility to other people. The Torah, the Old Testament, is not solely a collection of laws and commandments by which Jews should live. It contains history and myths, stories of good people and bad people, examples of obedience and disobedience, and endeavors to create God as man sees God.
Unfortunately, the original Ten Commandments, the basis of Jewish ethics, have been violated in a multitude of instances throughout Jewish history as well as by the Jews of today…even the “Ultra-Orthodox.”
The Haredim would have us return to the days and ways of the little almost self-contained village. Following rituals does not make you a better Jew, according to God’s prophets. Maimonides, the great physician, philosopher, writer and rabbi, reaches against the continual use of the same prayers day after day. The Psalms are not prayers but are recitations that were accompanied by music as per the words “to the chief musician” preceding them.
Jews have evolved an additional system of ethics because of their life experiences. It is up to all Jews to live ethically in order to attain peace and harmony with our fellow Jews and our neighbors of other religions. The time and effort devoted to prayer and ritual would be better used in service to our families, our communities and the country in which we reside. God never asked for our required words of adoration. God needs appreciation, and that is illustrated by, as the Prophets told us, doing the right thing in every situation (living according to the Ethical Commandments), practicing equal justice and caring for the needy no matter the source.
An additional word to those who are separatists. Individual fingers have little effect or strength, but when made into a fist, the conclusion is obvious. We Jews should also remember the Holocaust and its effect on Jewry, no matter how or if we practiced our religious beliefs. Evidently, that has had little impact on the Haredim today who practice separatism.
The world today is full of the same separatism in the major religions. It has caused death an devastation to mankind century after century. Why do we get together to face danger and then separate when the danger is over We do this as nations, as religions, as communities and as families. It is time this separatism ended.
We, in Rockland County, can be the beginning of a new era. We, of all religious persuasions, should bad together to solve our mutual problems. Isolation is a fantasy and impractical. It also leads to negativism and ill will. The Haredim presently shun others and live in their own world. We Jews who are not like them do not shun others and live in the real world make the following request: You, of other religions, faiths or non-believers, no consider them as representatives of Jewry. They are in a world of their own, which is certainly not ours.
Fort Lee, NJ