Dear Rabbi Amar
I don’t know you. We have never met. We don’t travel in the same circles and we don’t have any friends that I know of in common. You are a chief Rabbi in Israel; I am a Conservative Rabbi in South Florida. We are literally and figuratively worlds apart.
I am not afraid of you and your state power, but apparently, you are very afraid of me. We have some very serious differences in the way we approach Judaism. You are a fundamentalist and I am not. I see Judaism as a rainbow of ideas and possibilities and you do not. In any conversation I have had with other Jews or non-Jews, I have never disparaged you or your position. You cannot say the same about me and my position. I have never disparaged any Jew in my search to bring them closer to God and Torah. You have disparaged those Jews who have found meaning and commitment in my synagogue.
I understand that there will always be Jews who want and need the kind of Judaism you teach. There will always be Jews who need the structure and tight community; a community that will make decisions for them because they are unable to decide for themselves. These Jews will need your Halacha to show them the path every minute of every day in their lives. They will study Torah and be happy to only see it as interpreted by you. I don’t have a problem with that at all.
But you seem to have a problem with Jews who believe that there are many ways to approach Judaism. There are many different opinions of what the Torah says, how to interpret Jewish law and how to celebrate Jewish holidays. There are Jews who are not afraid to see how different authorities have ruled differently in history and who then feel they can and should decide which authority they should follow, even if that authority is not you. These Jews are not afraid to ask the Rabbi, “Why?” and if they don’t like his answer, they will go on searching.
You accuse me of “poisoning the well” when they come to satisfy their spiritual thirst. But I don’t believe that Jews who thirst would drink poison. They just don’t find your stagnant water refreshing to their souls. They seek the living waters of Judaism; the rapids of the Jewish river where Rambam and Ramban disagree; where Ashkenazi and Sephardi differ; where Hasid and non-Hassid approach their Judaism differently. They don’t seem to have the same problem that you have of seeing both “Hillel and Shammai as the words of the living God”.
Rabbi Amar, you don’t have to fear me or my fellow Rabbis. You don’t need your high Israeli office or fancy ministry to protect you and the Jewish people from the likes of me. If you are so sure of what you teach and the reasons behind it and if you believe that every Jew should be exposed to your version of Judaism, then come out here with me and let us teach side by side. Let the Jewish people, “who may not be prophets but they are sons of prophets”, decide if your teachings move them more than my teachings. But don’t hide behind your chief rabbinate office and make pronouncements about the Jewish People who have rejected your teachings and who have rejected you.
God does not need police to enforce God’s law. God does not need border patrols to keep undesirables out. God does not need you to defend God’s honor. I prefer the approach of Rabbi Benny Lau who said, “Delegitimization and war doesn’t work. The best way to reach out to people not connected to Judaism is to do what is good and what is right and to be professional, to serve the community, to provide the best possible service and then the public will choose those who are good in their eyes.”
Neither you nor I can make any Jew love God. We can only teach what we know and model a good life and the rest is in God’s hands. If you can’t do that, then you are not a chief rabbi, you are just another politician protecting your power and your turf.
And if that were true, that would be a true Hillul HaShem and it would not be my poison in the well.