The Jewish Reformation
Germany is on the leading edge of social reform. France and the New World (USA) will soon follow.
The Protestant Reformation rejects many Medieval notions. Man is not a passive recipient of his destiny. It is up to man to better himself and his social climate. Life in this world is very significant.
Contemporary Man actively seeks enlightenment and self-improvement outside of the religious framework.
Prior to the Reformation, religion provided governments with a basis and a justification to exploit their citizens. The new model asserts that religion and G-d do not give governments the right to do wrong.
From this break in Christian heritage, some will eventually radicalize upon these new ideas. They will say that there is no afterlife. They will say that G-d does not meddle in affairs of this world. The role of government is to promote social progress without the hindrance of religion. This will eventually give birth to Communism and Socialism (which will redefine exploitation).
Without religious basis, man begins to define on his own what is right and what is wrong, good and evil. This will evolve. Germany itself will eventually declare that it is good, proper, and legal to exterminate Jews.
In the 18th century, the new ideas impress Germany's King Frederick. He adopts a new role whereby he is no longer the people's First Officer. Rather, he becomes the people's First Servant. It becomes his job to improve the lot of his subjects. To test his theory he focuses on the most downtrodden group of them all, the Jews.
Frederick's son befriends a Moses Mendelsohn, who eventually obtains authorization from the king to attend the German university, their first Jewish student.
To date, the Jews live within the walls of the ghetto. They are politically and socially confined. Mendelsohn intercedes with the king on behalf of the Jews to obtain civil rights. He is seen as their defender.
Mendelsohn, himself an observant Jew, is instrumental in removing many political and social barriers. The ghetto no longer confines the Jews.
The transition is sudden. There is no plan, no coordinator to preserve Jewish identity, heritage, and religious practice. Not everyone has Mendelsohn's religious conviction and pride. The genie is out of the bottle.
The Jews of Germany take an active role to better their own lot in this world, within and without religion, like their non-Jewish neighbors. They suspect that Jewish practice was the reason for their severe mistreatment. By acting like Gentiles they hope that they will be treated and accepted like Gentiles. Together with the ghetto walls, Torah practice, knowledge, and identity disappear. Jews cease to be reformed by Torah practice. Rather, they begin to redefine and reform Torah practice.
The German Jewish Reform movement is thus born. It has some semblance to Judaism but its approach about changing Torah practices have no basis in the Written and Oral Torahs. They are contrived, grounded on the 17th century philosophical climate. They assert that Judaism and the Torah are subject to evolution. They claim that they need no basis, there is no basis.
Assimilation is good, they proclaim. The German Jewish Reform movement facilitates and even promotes assimilation. The Jewish clergy wear the robes of the Protestant clergy. The synagogue interior resembles a church. The German language replaces Hebrew in the service. The day of worship is moved to Sunday.
Torah observance on a personal level falls by the wayside, also. Jews dress and act like their cultured neighbors. Unlike their Eastern European brethren, their neighbors and the local culture seem worthy of emulating. They crave acceptance.
German Jews come to have more in common with their Gentile neighbors than they have with Eastern European Jewry. Intermarriage soars and shortly before Nazi Germany, it rises to forty-five percent.
Germany is the Fatherland, the Motherland. They become "Germans of the Mosaic Persuasion." They become so intensively German that when Zionism eventually emerges they immediately become anti-Zionist.
They proclaim that Germany will bring them closer to their Father In Heaven. It will, but tragically.
At the moment, it seems that anti-Semitism is dead. Little does anyone realize it, but anti-Semitism is also being reformed. Rather than being based upon religion, it will now be based on race. No longer will they target the Jewish religion. Rather, they will target the Jewish nose.
In the 19th century, small portions of German Jewry return to Torah practice under the leadership of Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch, who demonstrates the value and relevance of authentic Judaism in the modern world. He teaches that a person can raise the level of both the self and society by studying and observing the Torah. Within his congregation there are university-educated professionals who are fully observant Jews, enjoying the benefits of both worlds.
The Torah adapts to modern life. The Torah provides mechanisms for change. We do not have the need, nor do we have the right to freely change the Torah outside of these mechanisms.
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