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A Dvar Torah for Vayishlach

Our Dvar Torah: Resist Assimilation Within, Assimilation Without
A Dvar Torah for Vayishlach: Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
and Likutey Moharan Lesson # 28

By Rabbi Shlomo Nachman ben Ya'akov © November 19, 2021

The Pew Research poll of 2020 is a generally accepted gauge of social norms. It reveals something that should concern every Jew and all of our allies. Judaism is dying! Is that an overstatement? Consider:

Nearly three-fourths of all married non-orthodox Jews in America today are married to a non-Jew.
Twenty-two percent of all American Jews describe themselves as having no religion.
Two-thirds don't belong to a synagogue.
One-fourth doesn't believe in G-d.
And one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year.

With this report, what was long assumed is now confirmed: For the vast majority of American Jews, Judaism is at best "a cultural pastrami-and-rye thing," as author Howard Morton remarked, "not a religious thing."

In the early 1800s, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev warned that "Great Atheism" would consume the earth before the coming of Mashiach. He said, there would come a time when even a simple religious person who observes the most cursory of Jewish laws would be as rare and unique as the Baal Shem Tov [the founder of the Chasidic movement]" (Sichot HaRan, #35, #36).

Remember, he foretold this decades before the atheistic theories of Darwin, Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and Haskala (the so-called Enlightenment that created the Reform Movement). When our Rebbe spoke these dire predictions, practically all the Jews in Europe were religiously observant, without an established Orthodox Movement. They could not believe such a prophecy! But here we are.

Today in the United States, which has roughly the same number of Jews as Israel, according to the Pew poll, only 19 percent of Jews say observing Jewish law is essential for being Jewish. Only 10 percent of Jews consider themselves Orthodox.

What does this figure really tell us? That American Jews are bad people? No, I think it reveals something far more troubling about the future of Judaism!

Read Likutey Moharan lesson 28:1

Judaism has survived the millennia because it was strong enough to maintain its essential Torah paradigms with steadfast emunah and flexible enough, like water flowing down a twisting streambed or the trees of Lebanon withstanding harsh winds, to survive. But that is changing!

Why?

We should recall the words of the Chofetz Chaim:

Our Sages state: "Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants limited their decisions to the [letter of the] law of Torah; as stated at Bava Metzia 30b). This is difficult to understand since Scripture records many sins of which that generation was guilty. Our discussion sheds light on the matter. Had the people overlooked the wrong caused them, then HaShem would have forgiven them as well. However, they were absolutely unrelenting toward each other, demanding from one another whatever they could possibly extract according to the law -- and Heaven judged them accordingly.

Friends, the sectarianism and rejectionism of current Rabbinic Judaism pushes people into other religions, Agnosticism, and Atheism rather than strengthening their emunah and providing them a reason to maintain the Covenant and the theology passed down to us. If Rabbinic Judaism has nothing to offer but endless, sometimes baseless, rules, holier-than-ism, and judgementalism, is it surprising regular people do not see any reason to remain? It's not their fault!

But it's not too late! Judaism can once again be revived and made relevant, as happened in the days of Baal Shem Tov! Rebbe Nachman said the following in Sichot Haran #40

We believe in God with emunah (faith) alone, not because of philosophical analysis.
We believe that He created the whole universe, that He sustains His universe, and that in time to come, He will renew it. Philosophical works pose what appear to be tough questions while providing feeble answers. On further inquiry, anyone can challenge these answers, which will be of no avail, merely generating more questions.
The truth is, their interpretations amount to nothing; they are mere vanity and striving after the wind. It is best to avoid such works altogether.

And again, our Rebbe teaches at Sichot Haran #101:

No sophistication is required to serve God - only simplicity, sincerity, and faith.
Simplicity is higher than all else. How do we know? Because God is undoubtedly higher than everything else, and God is ultimately simple!

The point: Assimilate ONLY with Devekut: Attachment and Proximity with the One True God, not with manufactured religion!

He is One. Be One with Him through your emunah!

 

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