August Message from Rabbi Allan Finkel
I haven’t watched the “No religion owns God” video that showed up in my inbox, but I sure like the title. I’d actually go further and assert that within Judaism, no singular denomination “owns God” or owns the only acceptable interpretation of the Torah.
There is no joy in having to make these statements, but with what is happening in Israel – small religious extremist parties trying to mold a whole country into their image and worldview by emasculating the oversight power of its Supreme Court – how can I stand by and not say these things?
I’m not alone in my concerns. Earlier this year, the Union for Reform Judaism stated that these proposed changes are particularly egregious given that the current coalition is specifically attacking the rights of Reform Jews, members of the LGBTQ+ community, Arabs and Palestinian-Israelites, and other minorities. Minority groups are best protected by the courts and without the basic separation of powers, many millions of people will be vulnerable to the whims of a narrow majority bent on imposing their will on all of society.”
Moreso, it is about a minority imposing its narrow religious will – its own ideas of God and Torah — on a majority, that will turn back the clocks on equality and human rights by hundreds of years. And it is being done in a mean-spirited and oppressive way that frankly does not represent the kind and loving teachings about God or the beautiful Jewish ways of living that are central to the Torah as I understand it.
I stand with the core teachings of “Jewish Universalism” that framed my rabbinical seminary experience: that all paths to the divine are equally holy – yours and yours and yours and mine — and that one’s religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth. And there’s another one, just as important — that “all people who follow the dictate to love your neighbour as yourself are “chosen.” Again, that means you and you and you and I can all be “chosen” regardless of our religious or non-religious path. It’s a way of life and of living. Just imagine that world and let’s aim in that direction only.