Filling an Imagined Void

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Rabbi David Mark of Temple Sholom in Pompano Beach, Florida, is anxious to fill a void. “There was a need out there among the public for something like this,” he said. “It hurt me so much to my very core that I could not help these people.”

Perhaps more to the point, though, Rabbi Mark was very anxious to help his Temple away from the old, stodgy, tradition-laden Conservative movement. The Temple “recently shed its ultra-conservative image” and now calls itself “progressive conservative.” I think there’s a confusion there between Conservative and conservative, because from a religious standpoint, it’s not the conservatives usually called “ultra-.”

And how better to prove how “progressive” they are by hosting the “first ever commitment ceremony in the county?” This refers, of course, to an alternate form of marriage for two people of the same gender. This was the “need out there” that Rabbi Mark found, that pained him so greatly while the Conservative Movement’s Committee of Jewish Law and Standards refused to give its blessing.

And now that that’s changed, he’s advertising. And advertising. And now it’s in the news: “Rabbi Searches in Vain for Kosher Gay Couple to Marry.” The Temple “wants to be the first of its kind in Broward County to hold commitment ceremonies for gay couples… But it has to find two people who want to take the plunge together.” And thus far it isn’t finding them.

The Mishna says that in the days before Moshiach, “the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog.” According to one interpretation, this refers to the way a dog pulls ahead of its owner on a leash, appearing to lead, but simply changes direction when the owner does — and a moment later is “leading” in the new direction. Religion is not, at least historically, a democracy, where the people choose what they want. To the contrary, true leaders pull us upwards, rather than rushing to endorse whatever we are already bent upon doing. And in any event, it seems Rabbi Mark is pulling at the leash a bit too hard.

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7 Responses

  1. Raymond says:

    Leonard Cohen, your logic is so impeccable, that I must agree with you every bit as much as I must agree that 2+2=4. I guess I just express myself as if those movements are within Judaism, out of linguistic convenience, just as I sometimes call our enemies living in Gaza, Judea, and Sumeria “so-called Palestinians.”

    In response to what L Oberstein said, I have a completely different take on traditional, Orthodox Judaism. I am not at all religious, nor is it likely that I will ever be, and yet on those rare occasions when I do show up to shul, I almost always attend not only an Orthodox shul, but quite an ultra-Orthodox one. And when I want to know the straight facts about Judaism, I consult Orthodox Jewish sources/Rabbis only. I want the standards to be there, whether or not I follow them. Any sort of compromise with what Judaism has stood for, for thousands of years, simply does not impress me nor earn my respect.

    Probably the Talmudic story I most resonate to is the one involving the heretic, Elisha ben Abuya, and his former learning partner, the great Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Meir was the one Talmudic scholar who never gave up on Elisha ben Abuya. Well, on one particular Shabbat, Elisha ben Abuya was riding a horse, which violates Jewish law. Walking next to him was Rabbi Meir. They were engaged in some Talmudic discussion. Then, when the line was about to be reached how far Rabbi Meir was allowed to walk on Shabbat, Elisha ben Abuya warned him to stop. In other words, even though Elisa ben Abuya knew that he could never return to the Torah way of life, he did not want others to be dragged down with him. He wanted the high standards to remain as they were.

  2. One Christian's perspective says:

    “Religion is not, at least historically, a democracy, where the people choose what they want.”

    Actually, Judaism is. AFAIK, the Convenant on Sinai was given only after everybody, male and female, agreed. The consent of the governed.

    Comment by mb

    Why wouldn’t you consider this a theocracy ? Once the yeahs were said,
    the nation had made a committment to God to follow the Covenant. When the nation had bad kings, the entire nation suffered. In a democracy, the bad leader gets voted out (in the ideal situation, but there is a choice).

  3. Chaim Wolfson says:

    “Actually, Judaism is. AFAIK, the Convenant on Sinai was given only after everybody, male and female, agreed. The consent of the governed.” (Comment by mb — June 27, 2009 @ 7:13 pm).

    But once they comitted themselves to the Torah, it became binding on them and their descendants — in its entirety. And, they, themselves, were not given the choice to pick and choose which parts to accept. “Naaseh” came before “nishma.”

  4. L. Oberstein says:

    The demise of Conservative Judaism is sad. The majority of Jews are not orthodox and do not want to affiliate with orthodoxy. If they belong to a Conservative shul, they are “on the way” and can be reached. The might keep a kosher home or attend services and go to Heb rew School. If they are so out of it that they know nothing, it is much harder to win them to mitzvah observance.
    I view this latest manifestation as that of a dying person thrashing around for air to breath as he suffocates. Marrying two men will not save the Movement. I can’t bring myself to be angry as much as saddened that they have to search further and further for gimmics to save the store from going out of business.

  5. Leonard Cohen says:

    Raymond (comment #1) referred to “non-Orthodox movements within Judaism.”

    I would just point out that this characterization is an oxymoron. Any movement which does not accept Torah Mi’Sinai is NOT WITHIN Judaism. I always refer to these movements as “Conservativism” or “Reformism,” and never append “-Judaism” (chas v’shalom) to these man-made religions; to do so is a derogation of Toras Emes.

  6. mb says:

    “Religion is not, at least historically, a democracy, where the people choose what they want.”

    Actually, Judaism is. AFAIK, the Convenant on Sinai was given only after everybody, male and female, agreed. The consent of the governed.

  7. Raymond says:

    To me, this is just another example of a contention I have long held, namely that the non-Orthodox movements within Judaism are really nothing but political radicalism hiding behind a few Jewish words thrown in here and there for the purpose of deceiving an ignorant Jewish public.

    As for the specific issue of gay marriage, it might take the mind of an Einstein to figure out how two men can get married with permission of a Rabbi, when male homosexual behavior itself is clearly prohibited according to Torah law. The whole scario is inherently absurd.