The Leap Frog Fallacy and The Unwise Rejection of Rabbinic Culture

July 12, 2015

The Leap Frog Fallacy is a concept I developed in 1990 for a course I taught about the siddur from a missiological perspective. From recent response to one of my blog posts, it is still needed. Commenting on my advocacy of Jewish believers in Yeshua living Jewish lives, that is, covenantal Torah living, a respondent complained, “What you define as ‘Torah’, has nothing to do with Torah… (You don’t really think Moses wore a Yamakah (sic) or wrapped Tefillin do you??)." The Leap Frog Fallacy is part of my answer to her question.

The Leap Frog Fallacy is my term for the widespread error of imagining that we can or should relate religiously to Jewish people while by-passing instead of utilizing rabbinic forms. A “form” is any behavior, artifact, or term that conveys agreed upon meaning within a given culture. It is an anthropological term. For example, certain hand gestures, both aggressive and friendly are forms. Blowing a kiss is a form. A yarmulke/kippah is a form: it is a type of head covering that connotes respect for God.

TEFILLINMy respondent also mentions tefillin, a.k.a., phylacteries, a rabbinic form worn to concretize the idea of binding God’s commandments on ones hand and one’s mind, as stipulated in the Torah. Lighting candles at Hanukkah from the 25th of Kislev to the second of Tevet is also a form from rabbinic Judaism.

Some people, steeped in conservative or fundamentalist Christian concepts, consider all of these forms to be “unbiblical” and therefore illegitimate and expendable. They prefer to share their Yeshua-faith with Jewish people purely by sharing Bible verses, theological schemas, and proof-texts while avoiding validating “rabbinic Judaism” and its forms. They want to leap-frog over at least 2000 years of Jewish history and relate to Jewish people strictly on the basis of the Bible.

To which I say, “Good luck.”

This antipathy to rabbinic Judaism and its forms is grounded in a conviction that the traditions of men are bad, to which I say, not necessarily.

The only traditions we have are the traditions of men (and of women), and we all have these. All of us. Traditions are habits of behavior and thought of an individual or group of individuals. And just as we naturally form habits, so we naturally form traditions. These are inevitable and widespread, even in circles that pride themselves on being tradition-free. Some will be conscious and others unconscious. Once I spoke at a fundamentalist school. Before I spoke, I asked the students to join me in a word of prayer. As I prayed, they bowed their heads and closed their eyes. When I finished I asked them. “Why did you bow your heads and close your eyes? It’s not in the Bible! In fact, it is a tradition of men!” They were stunned. Although ideologically opposed to “the traditions of men” they of course were swimming in them. But like a fish that doesn’t know it is in water, even so conservative evangelicals, fundamentalists, and Christianized Jews are swimming in the traditions of men but don't recognize it. My favorite illustration? Such people, when they seek to lead others to embrace their faith commitment, will unfailingly invite them to “ask Yeshua to come into your heart.” They invite people to bow their heads and to say words to this effect. The only problem? This is nowhere in the Bible. Nowhere. But it is a shibboleth, a non-negotiable axiom of Christian fundamentalist, conservative evangelical, Christianized Jewish culture. It is a big fat tradition of men. And there are many more.

There are three kinds of traditions, and only one of them is bad.

  1. Traditions that underscore the faith and walk to which the Bible calls us.
  2. Traditions that are neutral, neither advancing nor retarding that faith and walk.
  3. Traditions that negate the faith and walk to which the Bible calls us.

Of the three, it is only the third that must be avoided, of which Yeshua said, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. He was also saying to them, 'You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition'” (Mk 7:8-9). That is the only kind of tradition of men we should reject, one that nullifies or neglects the commandments of God.  The other two kinds of tradition are perfectly legitimate! And in Matthew 23:23, speaking of a human tradition of tithing mint, dill, and cumin Yeshua said that these purely human customs ought not to be neglected.

And When You Share Your Faith . . .

This discussion is highly relevant to the sphere of faith-sharing. Speaking especially from a Diaspora perspective, but not only that, when we speak to other Jews about our faith and they reflexively determine whether we and our message are legitimately Jewish, they will invariably want to determine “Was your mother Jewish?” “Do you celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas?” They will expect that we go to a synagogue rather than a church. If we are clergy, they will expect that we wear a kippah. All of these are markers from the culture of rabbinic Judaism because modern Jews are not fundamentalist Christians. While fundamentalist Christians establish legitimacy through producing Bible references, Jews establish Jewish legitimacy through conformity to established and respected patterns of religious life. Therefore, when faith-sharing with Jews, it is naïve and ineffective to leap frog over rabbinic culture and go diretly to the text. To do so is to fail to establish our legitimacy as Jews with a Jewish religious message.

Where does all of this avoidance come from? From a widespread aversion to rabbinic culture and “the traditions of men.” But we have shown that not all traditions are bad. And more to the point: if we will not live within Jewish traditions, we will live within non-Jewish traditions because those are the only two choices. Are you going to pray like Jews do or like Gentiles? Are you going to celebrate your holy occasions as Jews do or as Christians do? Are you going to live within Jewish religious tradition or substitute another? Are you going to venerate what the Jewish people have venerated for hundreds or thousands of years, or jettison a custom and tradition because you can’t find a proof-text for it in your Bible? Are you going to pretend the past two thousand years never happened? They did! And they are a proud part of our heritage and are the markers whereby Jews determine if something is Jewish or a foreign import. And that is a crucial distinction.

HEAD BOWEDJewish believers in Yeshua who reject rabbinic culture will pray with heads bowed and their eyes closed, urge people to invite Yeshua into their hearts, celebrate “the Lord’s Supper” with little plastic cups and squares of matzah, and do just about everything else they do as a manifestation of their own religious culture, also the traditions of men—all of them. They will not see their own behaviors as steeped in such traditions, but will avoid and warn others against  that culture and those traditions handed down by the generations to the Jewish people. I cannot agree.

The Jewish response to the commandments of the Bible occurred over time, thousands of years. These are attempts to understand and to honor the commandments of God. All of this is a holy pursuit. I am reminded of what David Weiss-Halivni wrote about Samuel ben Meir, the Rasbbam,  (c. 1085 – c. 1158), grandson of Rashi, who believed that the tradition of tefillin was a misunderstanding of the text of Torah. He believed that the command to  bind God's comandments for a sign upon our hands and as frontlets between our eyes was not about tefillin, but a metaphor for guiding thought and action by God's commands. Yet, in one of his halachic works he spent considerable space detailing the right way to make tefillin. This was due to the phenomenon of private truth and public truth. While we are allowed, even encouraged to have our own opnions on matters, we are not therefore entitled to tear asunder the fabric of holy intergenerational transmission--holy traditions. We should avoid acting like wise guys who know better. Far better to act with respect and maintain the fabric of religious life we sustain with each other, our ancestors, and descendants. What a concept!

If God wanted me to believe in Yeshua and then be sure to stop living as a Jew as long as I had a Bible verse for what I was doing, then, sorry, I didn’t get the memo. I suggest you too mark it “Return to Sender.”

Let’s not leap frog over our people’s precious tradition. Instead, let’s meet them in it and even draw them back to to it.

Or would you rather teach them another?



11 comments on “The Leap Frog Fallacy and The Unwise Rejection of Rabbinic Culture”

  1. No one is blowing a kiss thinking that it's how he earns salvation.
    On the other hand, Rabbinic Oral Law is the most significant part of Israel’s blindness and hardness of heart toward Yeshua to this day (Rom 11:25). As long as people try to work out their own salvation by keeping man-made traditions, they fail to understand their need for the Savior. The “Oral Law” has been the main reason Yeshua is a prohibitive, unknown person to Israel until this very day.

    The rabbis do NOT honor God. In the Talmud, rabbi Joshua then makes one of the most significant declarations in the Talmud: "It is not in Heaven!" (a phrase taken out of context from Deut. 30:12). By this, Rabbi Joshua was saying that God no longer makes the decisions in heaven; rather, the rabbis make them on earth.

    You, Stuart, are following the man made tradition of those who rejected God and His Messiah.

    Men wearing a Yamakah like you do, is NOT honoring God:
    "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God" (1 cor 11:7)

    But you friend, much rather follow rabbinic tradition than the Word of God.

    1. Your attack on me, that I would "much rather follow rabbinic tradition than the Word of God" negates anything else you might have said. Ad hominem attacks are perhaps the lowest form of argument. You also make absolute statements that are impossible to prove. Here's a hint: avoid overstatements which reveal your passions but are clearly unsupportable such as, "Rabbinic Oral Law is the most significant part of Israel’s blindness and hardness of heart toward Yeshua to this day." Really? Where does it say that? And this one. "The Rabbis do not honor God." Another blanket statement. And BTW, this statement has nothing to do with anything I have said or recommended, " As long as people try to work out their own salvation by keeping man-made traditions, they fail to understand their need for the Savior." What you have done, my friend, is give us a tour of your opinions, but no convincing argument. But you most discredited yourself by your personally directed hostility. Not good. Do better next time.

      1. ​​
        ​Ari's attitude might not be in place, but I really do see his point Stuart...

        Jesus: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"


        Jesus: “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.
        (no offense, but you love to be called rabbi all over...)


        Jesus: "
        Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father and mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
        ‘These people honor me with their lips,
        but their hearts are far from me.
        They worship me in vain;
        their teachings are but rules taught by men’.”
        Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.”
        Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you not know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” 13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”


        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
        “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
        “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
        “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation."


        Revelation: " I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."

    2. Ari,
      If my earthly dad gives me rules to follow and I seek to understand them and honor him with my obedience that would not be trying to earn my place in the family since I was his child from birth. Religious Jews are only doing the same.
      The Oral Law is NOT the biggest factor keeping Jews from knowing Yeshua. Father God is the One keeping most from that knowledge until the set time to awaken them.
      With regard to the Talmud the quote seems to be about delegated authority. Yeshua said to honor those who sit in Moses' seat and that whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven.

      P.S. I hope you never wear a regular hat since you feel that way about a guy covering his head. 🙂

    3. @Ari -- Since you mentioned the egregious error of taking quotes out of their context, let me point out that you have done the same with your citation of 1Cor.11:7. The context was a discussion of authority, symbolized among Rav Shaul's gentile readers by hair or head coverings. Also among them, a common familiar symbolic head covering was the veil of a vestal virgin or a female prophetic oracle. Hence, a man covering his head could invoke what we moderns might view as an essentially transvestite image; but even if not that, at least one of pagan origin. Rav Shaul's observation cannot be connected at all with the wearing of a kippah (yarmulkah), nor even with the head coverings that Torah required of Levites serving in the Mikdash. The modern "rabbinic" tradition of the kippah is much more reminiscent of the latter, which is thus absolutely justified and suitable for Jews (including messianic ones); and it has become also a symbol of respect for Jewish worship space for gentiles who enter it. This Jewish context that is both ancient and modern is quite different from the gentile context that Rav Shaul was addressing.

      I would suggest also that the primary reason Rav Yeshua is unknown to, and calumniated by, Jews today, has nothing to do with the notion of Oral Torah and has everything to do with centuries of traditional Christian persecutions against Jews, supposedly in the name of "Jesus" (so-called), thus misrepresenting horrifically the purposes of the original authentic Israeli rabbi.

      Curiously, the notion of quaking with fear and trembling as one works out the results of one's salvation (cif: Phil.2:12) is precisely the meaning of being "haredi". Should we not consider this model for the proper behavior of Rav Yeshua's modern Jewish disciples?

  2. Stuart says: "Are you going to pretend the past two thousand years never happened? They did! And they are a proud part of our heritage and are the markers whereby Jews determine if something is Jewish or a foreign import. And that is a crucial distinction."

    I reply: Here's the rub, for those who know those 2000 years of rabbinic history. The "markers" were trashed by the rabbinic establishment. Following are just a few of the landmark examples.

    The rabbis of Yavneh began jettisoning parts of 2nd-Temple-era Jewish heritage, most notably with their famous "Tanur Aknai" decision, "We no longer pay attention to a Heavenly Voice (Bat Kol)". We might argue that right here they vacated the Seat of Moses, because Moses regularly consulted with G-D on halachic decisions.
    Not surprisingly, later gaonim decided they would "no longer pay attention" to Yavneh either. The "majority rule" established by Tanur Aknai was ignored by Rambam, who trashed key rabbinic teachings... including the one about G-D being able to show Himself in a human form. Yet the man who was declared a heretic by other rabbis, whose books were burned by the Torah community in France, is a leading light of today's rabbinic Judaism.
    Then there is that saving distinction between d'oreita commands (written Torah) and d'rabbanan commands (oral Torah). Ever try testing that theory when one clashes with the other? Today the operative distinction is Rashi's conclusion about Deut.17:11: "even if they [the rabbis] tell you 'left' is 'right' and 'right' is 'left' - you are to obey them."

    That's why we have earnest Torah-keepers by the thousands praying at graves. That's why prominent rabbis embrace the Hindu torah of reincarnation as a "Jewish truth". That's why I was told by a rabbi in charge of an orthodox school that getting rid of our hametz at Pesach, instead of using the legal fiction of selling it, is as offensive to the Jewish people as my faith in Yeshua.

    So while I agree that MJs should not ignore Jewish tradition, there's been some leap-frogging over the complexity that goes along with relating to it. We can't call people to a simplistic ultimatum like "Are you going to live within Jewish religious tradition or substitute another?" Jewish religious tradition is already a mix of Torah and substitutes passing for "Torah", and many of the latter are NOT subject to an individual's "private truth". At least not here in Israel.

    1. Dear Hannah Weiss - What a wonderful letter! I thank you for it! Let me at least begin an answer. First, I recognize that being a Jewish believer in Yeshua and living in Israel is a special case situation. The social tests for Jewish loyalty are different there, and the oppressiveness and power politics of the Orthodox rabbinic establishment breeds widespread negative reaction and defensiveness across a very wide spectrum or the population. I add to this that Jewish belivers in Yeshua also suffer a level of stigma and occasional oppression, exclusion, and persecution that most others in the diaspora know nothign of. SO let me saw first that I respond to you with awareness and respect for all of these factors. And one more preliminary matter: Of course I was aware of everything you have written prior to reading your letter. These things were not done in a corner, to borrow the languate of Paul.

      Now. First, one must remember, as I am sure you do, that not all ORthodox Jews are Gerer Hasidim. There are many shades of orthodoxy, although truth be told, as you know, they love discounting each other! Granted! Similarly, not all Observant Jews are Orthodox. There are Conservative (Masorti) and Reform (Progressive) and even Messianic Jews who are observant, who conform to the patterns of piety that have evolved at the core of what we might call the Jewish communal religious consensus. All of this being the case, it is neither accurate nor helpful to consider, imagine, or to rehtorically postulate a standard Jewish interlocutor modeled on on one's experience with Haredim in the Land. It is too narrow a frame of reference for this discussion.

      Second, one must remember that among truly observant Jews there is much debate and informed respectful dissension on matters such as the very ones you name. Again, this is WITHIN the community that honors the Jewish religious consensus. I strongly recommend you read two fantastic books by Marc Shapiro, The first talks about the 12 principles stated by he Rambam, including the alleged non-corporeality of God, and demonstrates from deep research in rabbinic sources, that the Talmud Sages themselves would have been discounted as heretics if this standard were applied to them! The book is this one:"The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised"

      A second book by Shapiro which I have not yet read is "Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History," again, written by a committed religious observant Jew. You may read more about Rabbi Shapiro here:

      And he is not alone! WITHIN religious Judaism there has always been flux and dissension. and there is today. But this dissension and flux should be respectful and informed, and yes. I DO believe that it is better to live as a religious Jew by Jewish religious standards, and to adhere to a revered way of life that has been crafted to honor God, even in matters where I respectfully disagree, as long as that adherence does not involve sin or dishonor to Yeshua our Righteous Messiah.

      I am not claiming of course that the development of Rabbinic tradition has been a straight-line path of pristine holiness free of politics and cultural borrowing! NO! In fact, Solomon's TEMPLE was built on the floorplan of a Phonecian temple where the Phoenicians used to sacrifice their children in fire, with their screams drowned out by pipes and drums. But God was pleased to inhabit the Temple, making it to be the dwelling place of His Glory. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Protestant customs and habits of thought and persepctive that prevail among many Jewish believers in Israel are likewise merely human artifacts, yes, "the traditions of men." Shall we therefore discount them wholesale? Of course not! How else can we live except amidst our own imperfect perceptions and justifications!

      Some would argue that all we need is to be "biblical." But Mennonites are biblical. Lutherans are "biblical," Pentecostals are "biblical," just about EVERYONE is "biblical," and also culturally naive. I am in favor of being "biblical," but not when being "biblical" is code language for wholesale dismissal of the rabbinic tradition because we are transposing onto the Jewish world Martin Luther's battle with the Roman Catholic Chuch whereby he postulated a sharp cleavage between what was "biblical" and what was "traditional." EVERYONE has his traditions. And if you don't believe me, go to a Lutheran service some time.

      So, I believe that the God who was pleased to inhabit a Temple built on a Phoenician floor plan my representatives of Hiram the King of Tyre, also is pleased to inhabit and bless those of us who choose to serve Him within Jewish life. I believe it is sad, unfortunate, wounded and wounding for Jews to reject the birthright of their own religious culture for another bowl of lentils, no matter how well prepared.

      Shalom Hannah. We should talk again.

  3. Stuart says: "it is neither accurate nor helpful to consider, imagine, or to rehtorically postulate a standard Jewish interlocutor modeled on on one’s experience with Haredim in the Land. It is too narrow a frame of reference for this discussion."

    I answer: True. I wasn't talking about Haredim. My examples were from the wider Torah community.

    Aish Ha-Torah, a hugely popular site managed by a range of orthodox rabbis (and not just in Israel), promotes reincarnation as normative Jewish belief. The grave of Shimon bar-Yochai is mobbed by all kinds of Jews who go there to pray for miracles - 2 million visitors a year, second only to the Kotel (Western Wall).

    The rabbi I mentioned, the one who was offended that we didn't sell our hametz, was knitted kippah (for those who understand the nuances of traditional headcoverings). He was both spiritual guide and Torah teacher at our kids' grade school. It was a school in the state-sponsored religious sector (mamlachti-dati), which is the broadest mainstream Torah education available in Israel. (And yes, the school knew that we and our kids embrace Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel... hence his comparison.)

    Because this issue of believers returning to Torah is so important, I try not to post anything which is untested rhetoric, or something I imagine might happen. For the past 30 years our family and a network of friends have been keeping the mitzvot -- not an arbitrary MJ definition but mitzvot as all Israelis understand them (i.e. whether they themselves keep Shabbat or not, they all know what "keeping Shabbat" entails). I am sharing our real-life Israeli Torah experience, and I hope to add a perspective that will keep the pro-Torah Messianic brethren clear on the difference between an academic discussion and the real experience.

    Will comment on Rabbi Marc Shapiro later. Thanks for your warm welcome, Stuart. I hope my direct approach will not turn anyone off... I realize the cultural difference can cause me to come across as abrupt.

  4. Stuart recommends Rabbi Marc Shapiro as an example of healthy challenge within the orthodox community. I checked him out.

    I saw that his attempt to "speak truth to power" had some strict limitations, which are relevant for this blog thread.

    I read his latest blog entry, from last month, which is apparently a follow-up related to "Changing the Immutable".

    Here R Shapiro charges the ArtScroll scholars with censorship that looks arbitrary and inconsistent. He gives examples of deletions and even rewrites of accepted rabbinic commentaries. His documentation shows that he is right, but modern scholarship has established that this in fact happened a lot in rabbinic history. I did scratch my head over one statement:

    "I think everyone can understand that if people were simply allowed to emend or delete texts based on their own understanding, not a single talmudic tractate or medieval work would emerge unscathed."

    With all due respect, how can he write that as a "what if"? There are whole sections of the Jerusalem Talmud missing!! In light of the extreme dedication in preserving the Babylonian Talmud, "losing" text from the JT was a deliberate rabbinic choice, which ignored the testimony of the BT itself that the JT was superior.

    The Lesson:
    Once the gate was opened by Rabban Gamliel, there was no shutting it - what Yavneh did was later done to them. And so on. The only difference today is that the centuries of accumulated contradictions are getting harder to hide. Thanks to the electronic age, Jews everywhere have access to competing rabbinic literature, whether their rabbis want them to have it or not, and they can choose between blind loyalty and critical evaluation.

    Rabbi Shapiro is well aware of that, and describes the dilemma our ultra-educated community poses for the rabbinic authorities. I listened to a lecture he gave a year ago. It's entitled, "Have the Rabbis Always been Honest with Their Readers?" and includes material from his book "Changing the Immutable".

    He gives a number of examples of rabbis who knowingly and obviously lied to enhance their personal position, starting in the Talmud. Then he explains the rabbinic justification for bearing false witness in Torah instruction. In some cases, it's to keep the uneducated Jew from coming to the wrong conclusions. This is the rationale I had heard up till now.

    But he reports that falsifying Torah is also practiced to protect rabbinic authority in the eyes of "the masses". This includes lying about (knowingly misrepresenting, deleting or inventing) Torah decisions of other rabbis, protecting the liars by hiding the lies from the Jewish community, and falsely using Torah as a reason to forbid involvement with competing authorities, like Reform rabbis (...or MJs?).

    He explains the rationalization fairly well. I summarize from his hour-long lecture:

    The idea of truth as an absolute good is a modern invention, and yet even we admit it's okay to lie in order to do a greater good for someone (the usual example of saving lives). The rabbis have defined the "greater good" as keeping the trust of the people... at any price. Torah guides who practice falsehood in Torah instruction are not in violation of Torah - that law about lying is for "the masses" in relating to one another, not for the teachers of Torah.

    But if the rabbis are known to approve of occasional lying in Torah matters, the people will no longer trust them as Torah guides. So we can't fault them for covering up their lies, or even misusing Torah to support their lies. It's all for the sake of saving their personal reputations as trustworthy Torah guides. The rabbi's honor is a greater good than Torah truth, because no one can learn Torah truth except from the rabbis.

    Only two rabbis who both know the real Torah will perhaps privately admit to each other that the lie is a lie. At rare times a knowledgeable Jew might corner his rabbi, and then the latter will admit the truth - IF there is no one else around, and IF he thinks he can trust the questioner not to go public. In either case there is a tacit agreement not to betray the lie by letting the truth get out - because "who knows what that might lead to".

    (From what I hear in the Israeli grapevine, this appears to be the way they are handling people who figure out from rabbinic sources that Yeshua really is the Messiah after all.)

    But as Rabbi Shapiro points out, this is a dangerous game. The more "the masses" of Israel become aware of the truth and recognize that they've been lied to by their spiritual guides, the more "problematic" it becomes for the rabbinic establishment to keep their trust. What will it lead to, other than "chaos"?

    Well, maybe chaos for the elite. What is more likely for the people is the fulfillment of Malachi 2:7-9. Followed by Zechariah 12:10. And then Ezekiel 34.

    The only hiccup in R Shapiro's otherwise honest lecture is that he calls this practice of self-serving censorship and falsified Torah instruction "an alternate tradition" in rabbinic history. As someone who is personally invested in the system, I guess he can't afford to say that this is the dominant tradition. But he admitted at the end that the "alternate tradition" is taking over the rabbinic world, and that modern orthodoxy is supporting it.

    A reviewer of his book for the Jewish Journal last month noted another pulled punch: "Unfortunately, Shapiro doesn’t provide much moral guidance regarding the permissibility of such distortions. Rather, his readers are left wondering if there are any red lines at all or if all is permissible." Again, I would suspect this is probably due to Shapiro's investment in the community which is on trial. On the other hand, the rabbi reviewing the book had his own hiccup: He was intent on confining these excesses to "the haredi community"; yet first on his own list of justifiable reasons for "this intentional deviation from the honest transmission of Torah" was the desire to "protect sages' honor".

    The perceived obligation of rabbis to honor one another more than G-D or Torah truth goes all the way back to Yeshua's day, and it's a spiritual problem. As also pointed out by Messiah, the root of the problem is prophesied by Isaiah: "They honor Me with their mouth... but they remove their hearts far from Me."

    This just reinforces my view:
    Redeeming Jewish tradition is going to be an uphill battle, working our way past those self-glorifying falsified rulings, and restoring a commitment to the truth in Torah as the greatest good - "let G-D be true, and every man a liar".

    Ezekiel 11 ties the ability - or inability - to "remove the abominations from the Land" with the ability - or refusal - to receive the "new spirit and new heart". Returning Israel to pure Torah will be done by His redeemed Remnant filled with His Spirit, or not at all.

    1. You write and think well, Hannah. A few points. First. the fact that Marc Shapiro writes as he does and takes the positions he does demonstrates a capacity for rabbinic truth-telling which you deny exists. He is living proof that things are not as monolithic as you state. Second, I trust you will admit that the capacity for self-serving politics and either hiding or bending inconvenient truths is at least a prevalent among Christians (and Messianic Jews) as it is among rabbis. This is certain. Third, I acknowledge certainly that there is a lot of political chicanery in the ewish religious world as well.

      Finally, I deny the validity of your assertion that the paucity of manuscripts of the entire Jerusalem Talmud is due to chicanery by other rabbis. This is a canard born of suspicion and not evidence. See here, and in many books that touch this issue.

      I would counsel you to follow the wisdom of our rabbis: והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות. to weigh everyone on a scale of merit. I think that pervasive distrust of the rabbis is a horror. We should of course be wise as serpents, but also harmless as doves. And viewing the rabbinic establishment as characteristically corrupt is, in my view, a contaminated generalization.

      Thank you for writing. You are brilliant and I wish you well.

  5. Regarding the comment about dismissing the holy voice, it is a misunderstanding of what is being said. In the dialogue it is as G-d responding back to the Rabbi who wants to go with the heavenly voice, and G-d says, (remember) the Torah is not in heaven it is on earth - as G-d had given Israel Moses and the 70 elders to assist him in judging the people. - That is considered his direction to be abided by.

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