Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Place of Torah in Mainstream Judaism

Seen as a mere one step from being wholly assimilated, Mainstream, Reform, or 'Pick and Choose' Jews are often criticized for being unfamiliar with all but the most basic Jewish concepts. The question often comes down to how we see the Torah, the seminal Jewish holy book. Is it a divine book, is it a divinely inspired book, or is it just a book, a work of fiction designed to give a people a cohesive identity, history and collective consciousness?

For many Jews, unfortunately, the question is often, who cares?

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. From the earliest ages, we tend to ignore some of the really gripping and juicy bits of Judaism. In presenting Judaism as a list, and focusing on the literal words, and the post-modern liberal interpretation of those words, without an understanding of the paths and debates that led us to where we are (beyond Hillel vs. Shammai debates), we take the engagement, the substance, the very living element out of Judaism.

For this reason, when I came across David Levy's most recent post on, Lies We Were Taught in Hebrew School, I had to read it.

David presents an interesting (and judging by the comments below, controversial) look at the idea of 613 Mitzvot (commandments) in the Torah. The perspective he presents is an definitely worth a read and even if you don't agree, his tone and knowledge are the type that might be replicated to engage people and encourage them to get their learn on.

The article can be found here.

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