Blind to the Truth

A pauper, going house-to-house in an affluent neighborhood, knocked on the door of a wealthy family, just as they had sat down to lunch.

Upon the instructions of the owner, the pauper was allowed into the elegant dining room where the meal was being served. As he was being handed a small donation, the maid served the appetizer, a plate of freshly-made, succulent-looking cheese blintzes, whose delicious aroma filled the room. Deeply impressed by the look — and the smell — of this tasty dish, the poor man couldn’t get it out of his mind.

When he arrived at his simple hovel that night, exhausted from his rounds, the first thing he asked his wife to do was to please make him some cheese blintzes.

“I’d be happy to,” she replied, “but we don’t have any cheese in the house, nor can we afford to buy such delicacies.”

“All right,” her husband answered. “You can make it without the cheese.”

His wife, who knew a bit more about cooking than her husband, was reluctant.

“I am afraid we don’t have any sugar, or even oil.”

“So make it without sugar or oil,” he replied. “All I want is some blintzes.”

The dutiful wife complied. She took a little flour, and mixed it with some water and salt to create a dough. She then kneaded the mixture and rolled it into something that vaguely resembled blintzes.

After letting it bake in the oven for twenty minutes, she served it to her husband.

He eagerly took a bite, only to find himself choking on it.

“For the life of me,” he remarked later. “I don’t understand what these rich people see in blintzes — they have no taste at all.”

The headline of the Associated Press story released earlier this week was striking:

“Israel reaches out to save U.S. Jewish community.”

The first two paragraphs were equally compelling:

“More than 100 Israeli leaders gathered with Jewish-American counterparts in Jerusalem last month with a daunting mission: to save Jewish life in North America.

“Jewish American leaders have known for years that assimilation and intermarriage were slowly shrinking their communities, but the early November gathering took on an extra sense of urgency. Just weeks earlier, a landmark study had found that young American Jews are growing increasingly estranged from Judaism.”

The organizers of that gathering in Yerushalayim were right to worry about the devastating toll that assimilation and intermarriage has had on the Jewish nation.

“It’s clear to us that if you are not part of the Orthodox world and are not connected to Israel, you assimilate,” said Natan Sharansky, the Jewish Agency’s chairman.

What Sharansky — and apparently some of the organizers — failed to take into consideration is why Orthodox Jews don’t assimilate.

According to the AP story, Israel has already invested more than $125 million to bring young Jews to visit; however,  studies show that while the trips foster a connection to Israel, that link does not always last.

Now, beyond just pumping money into Israel-related programs, Israel has established a task force  to consider a longer-term strategy to keep Jews Jewish.

But the Netanyahu administration is apparently going about this in precisely the wrong way.

In what has been called “a historic shift,” Prime Minister Netanyahu became the first Israeli prime minister to address a gathering of the Reform movement when he delivered a speech via satellite during the movement’s Biennial meeting in San Diego.

In his address, Netanyahu rolled out a welcome mat for Reform Jews at the Kosel.

“While the Wall may be in Israel,” he told the group, “it belongs to all of you, it belongs to you and to all the Jewish people, and I am committed to making sure that all Jews feel at home in our holiest site.”

What Netanyahu failed to say is that Jews of all backgrounds — as well as gentiles — are already allowed free and equal access to the Kosel. What the Reform really want — and what Netanyahu was in effect promising them — is the ability to turn at least a portion of this holy site into an area where prayer services would be held in manner that is against halachah, is deeply disrespectful of Jewish tradition, and is devastating to the observant Jews who comprise the overwhelming majority of supplicants there.

What went unmentioned is the obvious fact that the only true connection Jews have to the Kosel — or Eretz Yisrael for that matter — is through the Torah.

In his speech to the Reform group, Netanyahu didn’t even hint at the undeniable, historical fact that the Reform movement has played a central role in spreading the epidemic of assimilation, and that its clergymen regularly officiate at weddings of intermarried couples.

Instead, he declared, “I want to thank the Reform movement again for all your hard work to strengthen Jewish identity.”

Netanyahu’s outrageous pandering to the Reform movement is the latest illustration of a wide-ranging, comprehensive effort to destroy the longstanding status quo in Israel, and replace Torah-true Jews with a secular prototype, an “Israeli,” a Jew who identifies himself primarily in national rather than religious terms.

What Netanyahu and his governing coalition stubbornly refuse to acknowledges is the basic truth:

The only genuine way for a Jew to stay connected to Judaism is through the study of Torah and the keeping of mitzvos. The only effective antidote to assimilation and  intermarriage  is to give  every Jewish child a real Torah education, and to help all Jews experience the beauty and warmth of a Torah-true life.