The "Denominational" Deception

There is a great misunderstanding in America that Judaism is simply a religion, a creed like any other, with which one may affiliate if he so chooses. If the "Orthodox denomination" doesn’t suit his fancy, he may choose from among any number of other "denominations of Judaism." Well, almost.

It seems that even in the world of "denominational Judaism" some "denominations" are beyond the pale. The most obvious example are those confused so-called "messianic Jews" who have converted to syncretistic Judaeo-chr*stian Fundamentalist Protestantism. But there may be others as well. Where do "Jewish pagans" (Jews who celebrate their pre-Monotheistic heritage) fit in the world of "Jewish denominations?" And for that matter, where are the Qara’im and the Kutim ("Samaritans")?

In America, there are three standard "denominations of Judaism": Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform (sometimes a "fourth denomination," Reconstructionism, is included). Members of these non-Orthodox "denominations" are quite vehement that they are just as Jewish as the "Orthodox," and they bristle at the charge that their "branches" represent something other than authentic Judaism. Now, this being the case, why do these non-Orthodox "denominations" then turn around and close the door of their little denominational club and sit in judgement on the authenticity of other "denominations?" The answer is that they can’t, but of course they do. The reason for this inconsistency is that denominationalism is a fraud. It has no place in Judaism. It is the self-serving invention of its advocates, and they are actually being quite consistent when they deny legitimacy to other "denominations." Whether demanding recognition for themselves or denying it to others, they consistently pursue their own selfish interests.

Judaism is not merely a creed. It is a covenant between G-d and the Nation of Israel. All who fit the Halakhic definition of a Jew, regardless of "denominational affiliation" or level of observance, are bound by this national covenant. Judaism can be fully observed only in ‘Eretz Yisra’el, under a Theocratic Torah government. In the absence of this Torah State in ‘Eretz Yisra’el, Jews are in a state of Galut (Exile). They are not citizens of other countries who just happen to practice a different religion. They remain a people set apart, even in Exile, and they remain bound by all applicable Torah laws. This means that they are in fact a state within other states, with their own leaders and courts of Torah law. That the ideology of enlightenment that destroyed this situation is associated in many minds with Jewish political activism is merely another irony, along with the association of Jews with the legal profession (since Torah law forbids Jews to even appear before gentile courts of law).

Before the "enlightenment" and "emancipation," Jews were recognized as self-governing autonomous communities wherever they resided. All Jews were subject to the Torah law of the Sages and the Battei Din. They were no freer to reject Torah law than gentiles were to reject the law of the land. When summoned to appear before a Beit Din (court of Torah law), the summoned party did not have the option of begging out on the grounds that he chose to affiliate with a "non-Orthodox denomination." Even in Exile and in circumstances in which the death penalty was not applicable, the Jews were a State and their laws had teeth.

Then came the "enlightenment." Jews were "emancipated" (from the Torah and their Rabbis) and made abstract citizens of France, or Germany, or Britain, or America, or whatever country in which they found themselves. They were Germans (or Frenchmen or Americans or Britons) of the Mosaic persuasion, not a nation in exile. Judaism was redefined as a mere "belief," a "creed." Being a Jew was to be no different than being a Baptist.

It is little wonder that this new situation led to the proliferation of "denominations" of the Jewish "creed." "Reform" was the first, followed by the "middle road" of "Conservative" or "Traditional" Judaism (it was from the latter that "Reconstructionism" was spawned). And now we find the Jewish world splintered even further into "orthoprax," "egalitarian," "secular-humanistic," and even "pagan" denominations. The Rabbis and the Torah courts still exist, but they have no teeth. "Orthodox Judaism" is, after all, merely a "religious creed" with which one may affiliate or not depending on one’s individual conscience, and rabbis are merely "clergymen" (rather than judges and teachers of Israel).

The problem with this autonomy is of course where to draw the line. At what point does one’s "religion" cease to be Judaism? The Reform are quite insistent on the legitimacy of their religion, and this is understandable, since no man is a villain in his own eyes. But why do they then close the door on "denominations of Judaism" of which they do not approve?

The mainstream triumvirate of American Judaism, as noted before, is made up of Orthodoxy, Conservative, and Reform. The two latter have insisted on a purely ethnic definition of Jewishness in order to gain acceptance by the Orthodox. The necessity of observing Mitzvot, of accepting that the Torah is from Heaven, or even believing in G-d were dispensed with. In fact, leadership of the organized Jewish community passed not only from the Orthodox rabbinate to the "rabbinates" of the other two groups but eventually to secular Jewish leaders with no pretenses of being "clergymen." Again, never mind the inherent contradictions between Judaism as religious creed and as an ethnic group. The two were blended carefully so that heresy was acceptable so long as it remained "within the family." But at what point does one’s heresy exclude one from the ethnic family?

The one most important requirement is rejection of the Nazarene. Of course, the Notzerim themselves have long insisted that Rabbinic Judaism is not the organic continuation of Biblical Judaism but rather an "apostasy" that began with the rejection of the Nazarene. Non-Orthodox (and some Orthodox) Jews are, as always, only too happy to both buy into this definition and to confirm it. All that matters, the triumvirate insists, is to reject J*sus. Does that make all non-chr*stians honorary Jews? The picture is further muddled by the overt religiosity of Jewish converts to Fundamentalist Protestantism. The new convert, perhaps for the first time in his life, now believes in G-d, in the inspiration and inerrancy of the Torah, and in an objective religious truth. The fact that their religiosity is tied to belief in the Nazarene rather than in HaShem is a great tragedy, but the secular and liberal interests in the apostate Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist "denominations" could not ask for a better confirmation of their own belief that Judaism is at its root a secular rejection of religiosity. The poor, misguided "messianic Jew" who is passionately "witnessing" and passing out tracts is countered by a triumvirate-based counter-missionary establishment in which Orthodoxy is swallowed up and neutralized (similar to the principal of bitul beshishim) in a sea of liberalism. The true Jewish objections to chr*stianity cannot be presented by Orthodoxy, less they offend their "partners" from the liberal "denominations." Instead the world sees a Jewish people united only by its liberalism, its hostility to all religiosity, its implied condemnation of the "fanaticism" of any concept of objective religious truth. The Orthodox "counter-missionary" condemns the "messianic" Jew for believing the Torah, though from Heaven, has been superceded. He cannot condemn his Reform and Conservative "co-religionists" for believing the Torah is the work of men or a compendium of ancient Middle Eastern mythology. The world sees this and judges. Obviously to Judaism belief in G-d and the Torah is less important than the secular liberal rejection of the supernaturalism and religiosity represented by "messianic" Jews. Jews are united by ethnicity—until someone becomes "too religious." Then the offending party is expelled from the "family."

This explains why the non-Orthodox "denominations of Judaism" do not include the Qara’im. The Qara’im are most certainly not chr*stians. They are an ancient heresy that, like Protestantism in chr*stianity, rejects religious authority as represented by Sages or an authoritative oral interpretive tradition. Their exclusion from the "spectrum of the Jewish community" cannot possibly be because of these things. After all, Reform Judaism is quite as vehement in its rejection of these same things. But unlike Reform, Qara’ut is a more traditional, "orthodox" (with a small "o") heresy. It still believes in objective religious truth. Its presence in the "spectrum of Jewish belief" would work against the secular, liberal image of Judaism the liberal heresies seek to establish. So why then include Orthodoxy in the "spectrum?"

The reason is simple. "Orthodox Judaism" is Judaism. The presence of Orthodoxy is absolutely essential to even make the claim that the other movements represent Judaism in any sense whatsoever. It is also Orthodox Judaism that must be defiled, compromised, and associated in the public mind with liberal secular anti-religiosity by its participation in the "counter-missionary spectrum." The public attitude toward Qara’ut is of no consequence (and besides, how many people even know it exists?). It is the presence of "Orthodox Judaism" alone that legitimizes the liberal heresies and confirms their liberal secular worldview that chr*stianity is wrong not because it is heretical, but because it is "fanatical," too religious, too pre-modern.

Obviously the true leaders of Jewry—the "Orthodox Rabbinate"—must at the very least cease all cooperation with non-Orthodox "movements" and "branches" (this does not mean that the members of these movements are not themselves Halakhically Jewish, but only that the movements are not Judaism). But this is only the beginning. Jewry must reassert its identity as a separate nation governed by separate laws even in exile. The Torah-mandated system of governance must be restored to its fullness in the Exile as a prelude to the restoration of the Full Torah system in 'Eretz Yisra'el. And this system of governance has authority over everyone who meets the Halakhic definition of a Jew, regardless of his personal conscience. This is necessary because in the long run, when the fullness of messianic redemption does occur, G-d and His People Israel will be acknowledged universally by all peoples and all idols will be destroyed. This is diametrically opposed to the modern interpretations given the Redemption by the liberal "movements."