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Conservative and Reform Judaism: The Sadducees Reincarnated

August 10, 2015

This fellow wrote a recent article in which he made a point about which he failed to realize the significance.

Reading Lerner’s doomsday projection “no one expects the movement to hold out even another decade,” I can’t help but be reminded of Look Magazine’s 1964 article “The Vanishing American Jew.” In that analysis, author Thomas B. Morgan noted that given the low birth rates, and the corresponding increase in the rates of intermarriage, “slowly, imperceptibly, the American Jew is vanishing.” The American Jewish community is alive and thriving, but Look Magazine has since vanished! I am not suggesting that Young Israel will disappear, but, rather, suggest that more modesty is needed when making predictions about the demise of fellow Jewish movements.

Earlier we wrote about how Maimonides understood the Karaites to be Sadducees. Not because they were a continuation of the exact Sadducee “traditions”, but because of their attitude toward the traditional, halachic understanding of the words of the Torah. According to Maimonides, it does not matter whether you call yourself Ultra-Orthodox, Modern, Open Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or even Reconstructionist. What matters is how you relate to the authority of the words of the sages in interpreting the Torah. If you subscribe to that authority, you are in the fold. If you do not, but instead believe that the halacha is subject to reinterpretation, then you are a Sadducee. Thus, the overwhelming majority of what are now the non-Orthodox streams are Sadduccee by Maimonides’s standards because of their attempts to somehow fit the prohibited into the verses, making them permitted. (We saw that the reverse, prohibiting the permitted, may be done through certain mechanisms.) Among the Haredites, this is not the nature of the underlying halachic problem, because they mostly seek to add additional prohibitions, or minutiae, but not to reinterpret straight prohibitions from the verses.

The Orthodox scholars who foretold the demise of the Reform and Conservative communities two decades ago did not realize that those movements were actually the reincarnation of older jewish movements, and until the Jewish people wholly reunite to serve God as per the Torah, they will always be represented by some group. Yes, Rabbi Regev, you are the proponent of an ancient Jewish tradition. Just the wrong one. 

Rabbi Yuter, Sr. told me about the Conservative movement of which he was a part had two main camps: faithful and committed Jews who did not fit in the Orthodox mainstream, and reformers set on bending the halacha to fit their notions. When he realized the latter were winning, he left and rejoined Orthodoxy. Concerning those who have identified themselves as Open Orthodox, I have already written about about how I tend to see many of them in a positive, light, but I would love to get the attention of some of them, to try to show them that they are treading on dangerous ground, and thereby threatening the movement. This by Ari Hart, is a masterpiece of Sadducee/Karaite Torah, and I agree with the way Rabbi Katz is taken to task in this article. I hope to see some of their colleagues acknowledge that arguing that forbidden relations could somehow becoming permitted because they are qualitatively different from the way they were practiced in ancient times is untenable.

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