by Ludwik Kowalski (4/27/2013)
Today's Torah study reminded me of our Rabbi's recent lecture at the JCC in Tenafly, about Reform Judaism. One of the founders of that movement, Rabbi Abraham Geiger, asked, "how much longer can we continue this deceit, to expound the stories from the Bible from the pulpits over and over again as actual historical happenings ...? All laws and all prayers that are unworthy or irrelevant should be eliminated."
What would Geiger say about the text we read and discussed today, Emor from Leviticus? He would probably be for the elimination of at least 80% of it, for replacement with something more relevant to modern preoccupations, or for a deeper debate of the remaining 20%. I agree with such an approach, and that is why I am glad that the weekly parshah is studied only occasionally, in our temple.
Let me share what our Rabbi quoted in his book Judaism's Great Debates. On page 85 I see the following fragment from the first major statement of Reform Judaism in the United States (1875).
We hold that all such Mosaic and Rabbinic laws as regulate diet, priestly purity and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas altogether foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; and their observance in our day is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual evaluation.
Yes, weekly discussions of Torah should help us to acquire a modern spiritual evaluation of the world in which we live.