07 July 2016

The Critical Difference Between the Reform Movement and Secular Jewry

The Critical Difference Between the Reform Movement and Secular Jewry
Rabbi Baruch Efrati
This is a position paper written for the Zion and Jerusalem Conference to take place next week on the topic of the Reform Movement and Israel (printed in Arutz Sheva)


In contrast to the words of individual rabbis who called on Israel to cooperate with the Reform Movement, our message is a call to stand firm and declare, in the immortal words of the Prophet Isaiah "Your plans will not be realized nor will your words be upheld, because G-d is with us."

Let us explain our stand on the matter.

Historically, G-d fearing Jews approached the Zionist Movement in one of two ways. Some turned their back on the Zionists because most of the new movement's adherents were not religious. They placed prime importance on negating anything secular, thereby protecting their communities, but also ignoring earthshaking Jewish national developments. Rabbi Kook, zts"l, did not respond that way, but sought to join the Zionists, to be involved and try to raise the spiritual level of our people, of every sector, by imbuing their endeavors to return to Zion with an aura of holiness.

Rabbi Kook spoke and wrote often on the uniqueness of Israel and on the obvious and revealed Redemption that was taking place before his eyes. Non-observant people of integrity, he said, do not come here to be free to lead a decadent and erring way of life, but because unconsciously, they long for the truth and Divine light found in the Torah. Ideological secularism is being revealed in confused souls whose hidden inner desire is the light of the Almighty, the light they lacked in the exile before our nation's coming back to life here. The secular world is one of impurities. but in its depths there is a spark of holiness that keeps it alive – and that allows the appearance of the true Jewish soul to come to the fore.

This viewpoint led Rabbi Kook to have faith in the tikkun that the secular Zionists would experience, and, he believed that even those most adamant in their antagonism to the Torah would return once the vibrant and holy light of the Torah was apparent to them - and in the end, they would contribute much to the revival of G-d's Word in Israel. We believe in the Almighty Who has stretched out His hand to redeem His people, he said, and all the vicissitudes of Israeli culture are attempts to reach spirituality, to search for the grandeur of a G-d without limits - and will, eventually, lead to tikkun.

In contrast to Rabbi Kook's loving and empathetic approach to the non-observant Israeli, he castigated the Reform Movement - not Reform Jews - vehemently in his writings, and wrote the following letter to American Jewry, which he saw as fated to disappear because of the activities of this movement:

B"H, The Holy City of Jerusalem (may it be rebuilt speedily in our time), 1922 
To our brothers, to the beloved and holy congregations in the United States of America and Canada, may G-d protect them, those who seek to keep the word of G-d, believe in the heritage of Moses, the Written and Oral Law, G-d's Covenant with the people of Israel: 
Greetings to you from the Holy Mount of Jerusalem.
My dear Brothers,
The state of true Judaism as it is upheld by the faithful in your midst has been brought to my attention and it breaks my heart. The despoilers have come, those who have destroyed the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, and are even now are causing many to abandon the G-d of Israel and His eternal Torah – They, the inventive Reform leaders to whom many, even from within the faithful religious camp have been drawn unwittingly, uproot the foundations of the world that are intertwined with the basic principles of Torah and Judaism. 
And these cracks are in the wall of sanctity, evidenced in the words that are publicly uttered, the actions that leave their mark on entire congregations, including the way synagogues are constructed and what customs they follow – and they go from evil deed to evil deed, one sin leads to another, destruction brings on more destruction, to the point where they have laid their hand on the holy mesorah, in place from the beginning of time, that mandates separate prayer sections for women and men. 
We know what happened to the first despoilers who began destroying and abandoning the original Jewish tradition and heritage, we know what happened to them, that almost all of them are lost to the people of Israel, having left the faith along with their offspring. Many of them have been swallowed up without a trace by the non-Jewish world, and those who have not yet been lost are like an atrophied limb festering in the nation's body, devoid of Torah and the light of true Judaism. Our eyes see this and are filled with longing for them, while the best of them regret the sin of their fathers once they see the spiritual ruin that it spawned.

There is no way to justify granting the Reform Movement the slightest entry, and neither legal nor public legitimacy in the state of Israel.

Why did the sainted Rabbi Kook have such a vastly different attitude to Reform Jewry than the one he evinced towards secular Jews? Why didn't he seize the opportunity to call for cooperation with the Reform Movement the way certain rabbis do today? Why did he refer to them using sharp names such as: "despoilers"" "destroyers of the vineyard," "wreckers," "uprooters of eternal foundations," "instigators," "cut off from the house of Israel," "atrophied limbs in the body of the people" – epithets that the rabbi never used in describing anyone except the Reform Movement and Jews who converted to become heretical Christians?

The answer is crystal clear. The secular world and the observant world live side by side. The non-observant have chosen wrongly, the Rabbi felt, but they are open to tikkun because of the light spilling over from the religious world existing beside them and their sacrifices for the Jewish people. The secular Jewish world does not want to take over the religious world from a theological point of view, but to live beside it – hence, the possibility of influencing that world, listening to its hearts' desires, elevating its holy sparks to their heavenly source. The secular are actually non-observant Orthodox, they do not present an alternative organized religion that turns transgressions into an ideology intended to take the place of the Torah. They have not invented a made up religion but are in the midst of a process where secularism is withering and faith is blossoming, as one can see over the last few years in which there is constant strengthening of ties to Torah, baruch Hashem.

In contrast, the Reform Movement has a "progressive" ideology that wishes to exchange the Oral Law's G-d-given message. It does not wish to ask questions about the Torah but to create a religious empire of its own. It has an organized theology that grants legitimacy to transgressions and turns them into religion. There is no possibility of living side by side, but a theological battle over who will lead the nation. Our dialogue is thus one between enemies, not lovers. It is either we or them, the holy or the ritually impure and their ideological rebellion against the Oral Law.

Isaiah describes idol worship as gaining strength because it justifies man acting according to his baser desires. When a man bows to idols, he is really bowing to himself and his desires, turning his sins into an ideology and sanctioning them a priori as religious activities. Idols were always lascivious or murderous in their design, and an example of this is Ashtor, a nude female holding weapons of war and symbolizing lust and bloodshed. The idol is really the worshipper himself, he alone decides what constitutes ethical behavior with no heavenly agent above him. The lust for idol worship is so pervasive, that people would sacrifice their own children to prove their loyalty, but really succeeded in proving that they were true to their basest instincts and not to a Supreme Being who restrains and sets limits for human behavior.

The Reform Movement originated in a form of heresy that wished to establish a new religion based on plundering that which is holy. It is a model that does not speak of raising one's level of purity in order to accept the Torah, but uses ideological terms to lower the Torah to accept our desires and the modern liberal western ethos (some of whose beliefs are beneficial to man in themselves). It does not sacrifice children, but it sacrifices G-dly values in the same fashion, and that is just as grave.

The Reform Movement wishes to accomplish exactly what its name says, to effect a critical change in the foundations of Torah, putting man in the center to define truth and falsehood, good and evil. It denies G-d's revelation to us through prophecy and the Holy Temple, denies the eternal life he planted in us through the Torah commandments. Its goal is not to strengthen efforts to achieve a higher plane, as Israel's non-observant Jews do, but to lessen and remove the sanctity of Jewish tradition. It does not believe that Jews are the Chosen People and wants the world to unite, as do the Christians, under one faith – that of belief in man, his desires, his wants. The Reform Movement is against a biological definition of the Jew, instead emphasizing his personal feelings and self-definition.

This is not Judaism

Confronting this heresy, there are no compromises and no cooperation. Just as no one would join forces with the man who steals his wife and wrecks his home, so there can be no joining of forces with a movement that wishes to do the same to our home, the State of Israel, to our Jewish identity, to our Torah-true values.


As I have written before, this movement made a strategic decision to infiltrate the State of Israel from the United States and to change the balance of power in Israeli society so that the religious world would not continue to be a place of commitment to mitzvot and the guidance of Heaven, but, become, instead, a folkloristic tradition. The movement donates large sums of money to yeshivas and other organizations and it is hard to stand strong in the face of this temptation, so that one can already discern their devious influence on rabbis and concepts in the religious Zionist world.

This has to be the rule: individual Reform Jews are our brothers and we will welcome them warmly as part of the Jewish people (those that actually are Jewish), and we are prepared to explain their mistaken view of Judaism to them if they wish to listen. We see that among them are those who do return to the true Judaism and we welcome them with love. However, we will wage an everlasting war against their ideological movement, a war that does not affect our relations with individual members There is no way to justify granting the Reform Movement the slightest entry, and neither legal nor public legitimacy in the state of Israel.

Two shining luminaries, the High Priest of Modern Orthodoxy, Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveitchik and the High Priest of Religious Zionism, Rabbi Avraham Hakohen Kook, were unequivocal about this issue and came out strongly against legitimacy and cooperation with this misguided and destructive movement. At the same time, they told us to love every Jew. We, their students and the students of their students must grasp the folds of their garments and not swerve from the path of our Torah, even if we have to pay a high price – literally and figuratively - for our principled stand.


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Translated from Hebrew by Rochel Sylvetsky

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, we must bless these true Rabbis who will fight these apikorsim tooth and nail.

The Reform movement is part of the other 'isms' that have been, through the centuries & millenia, the inventions of the Erev Rav within our midst; all to water down Judaism (Torah) until there is, chas v'chalilah, nothing left. They are chotim and machtim (sinners who cause others to sin), thus making their sin very grave.

This same Reform movement in the mid twentieth century (1950', 60' and on) left out from their 'prayer(?)' books, the words, Jerusalem, Zion and anything to do with our holy city and Beit Hamikdash. Their 'shmoneh esrei' (18) had three paragraphs. They despised the return to Tzion (home) and now they have the unmitigated gall of wanting to take over and being a part of Judaism, when at the same time, they despise every commandment H' gave us.

We must keep up the good fight against these destroyers. It is one thing to be a secularist (that is a personal thing and is between him/herself and H), but to think these reformists have the right to change one iota of G-D's Holy Torah is outright heresy.

They are just part of the whole new shpiel being pushed by union of Esav/Yishmael & ErevRav to literally change Torah and make Israel is country for all its citizens and allow every abomination on earth to be accepted.

Neshama said...

No one has to my knowledge written an expose on just what Reform does and does not have in their version of being Jewish. I would like to read a detailed list of everything they do believe and don’t believe. This article came the closest to anything I’ve read.

Personally, I think that if this is done correctly, Am Yisrael will get back those Jewish neshomas that have been lost to Reform.

I think that historically, when we look back on these days, they will be the beginning of the Jewish transformation of the misguided Reform Jews. It has to be, because we are in the days of the ingathering. Mashiach will be able to declare just who is a Jew, when that day comes. In the meantime, we must welcome the Reform Jews to Eretz Yisrael, NOT THE REFORM RELIGION. This is a tough job.

Neshama said...

Anon: You are right. But how do we "keep the baby and throw out the bathwater?"

Leah said...

Good article. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

Those who have joined the Reform mvmt cult, just need to know that they are just a cult and leave it; join a modern orthodox shul and start learning the basics of mitzvot and Jewish history, etc.

Of course, we accept every Jew. Just because he joins a club and doesn't realize that club is corrupted, doesn't mean he chas v'sholom is not a Jew anymore; all he has to do is leave the club and learn the truth about it and their real intentions (to water down Torah). A Jew is a Jew and nothing can change that fact. Even, chas v'sholom, a Jew who converts to any of the avoda zorahs, still remains a Jew!

We pray that every emmeser Yid will all be in EY one day (hopefully soon) and all types of real Jews should be wholeheartedly welcomed to come; that is the greatest mitzvah, but the reform movement must not be allowed to have an even an iota of influence in holy EY!!!

Do not forget the millions of Jewish lives they destroyed where descendants are no longer Jewish because of them.

Anonymous said...

In the United States we see the Reform movement as a practice of liberal ideology as opposed to Jewish theology.
A prime exhibit would be the movements experimentation with the idea of a Bar Mitzvah skipping the learning and Hebrew and doing a good deed like for a Boy Scout project. Another example is the serving and eating of non Kosher food and drink in the sanctuary as part of a Kiddish.
In the US Orthodoxy we see the spread of a movement (out of YCT) into what is called the Open Orthodoxy, the elimination of the separation during prayer, the ordination of females and and of LGBT.
In Israel we see it in things like the Women of the Wall.
Both the Reform movement and the Open Orthodoxy is a separate religion from Judaism and should be recognized as such.
We must leave Shuls who become OO.

Anonymous said...

To Anon. @20:38, you are absolutely right.

With this new meshugas, OO and the rest that's part of this new heresy - the ugliest part of this is that they call themselves 'orthodox' (which is oxymoronic as 'orthodox' cannot be 'open' to anything and everything). At least, they should have the decency to call themselves a new branch of 'Reform'.