Among my Christian friends I am a Jew, but among Jews such as Rabbi Sacks, I would be excluded from my own religious life because I am a liberal Jewish woman. So, while I appreciate some of the words Rabbi Sacks had to say, his very soft, kind voice did not win me over nor change my opinion that his talk is cheap. Easy to be inclusive of those outside his religion, it never requires him to allow that not only can there be diverse paths to God in the world at large, there can also be diverse paths within the various religion; it never requires him to give up believing he and his alone are the ones 'living true to their faith'. IMO, all he has done is put on a pleasant public face to cover up the 'true believer' lurking beneath the surface.
In Torah we are taught first to love our neighbor, then we are taught to love the stranger and not until Deuteronomy are we taught to love God. Yet, it seems we religious people find it easier to do these in reverse. Many of us claim to love God, it's quite simple to say the words and really nothing is required from us to back them up. Many of us find it easy to reach out to the stranger. They're exotic, interesting, not one of us and don't require much of us. They're not going to intrude on our sacred spaces, their voices can easily be ignored, who are they to speak about our religion, after all. We can pat them on the head with a quick, "The righteous of all the nations have a place in Olam Haba, I've helped you with whatever it is you need help with, I've been gracious enough to support you having your own sacred spaces, now go away and leave me alone." We don't have to treat strangers as equals, we don't have to look them in the eye, and we can feel oh so much more righteous than those who would relegate to eternal damnation all who don't believe like them. Everyone has a place at the big table in the sky...except our neighbors.
Our neighbors, our co-religionists. That's the tough one. Why should I listen to a rabbi who speaks so eloquently of diverse paths to God on the one hand but doesn't back up his words with his own actions? I read how Rabbi Sacks refused to attend the funeral of Reform Rabbi Hugo Gryn(z"l), said Rabbi Gryn was "among those who destroy the faith", proclaimed himself an enemy to liberal Jewish denominations, did not allow Rabbi Louis Jacobs, a liberal rabbi, to be given an aliyah in honor of his, Rabbi Jacob's, granddaughter's wedding. What happened to that oh so soft, kindly voice on these occasions? Easy to be kind while speaking to a Krista, a woman who will never present a challenge to his own religious understanding because she makes no claims to it, much harder to be kind to those who would. Rabbi Sacks may be willing to talk with Krista, but he will not daven with me. So, of what value is his religious expansiveness to me, his neighbor?
So, I am drawn to Judaism, I consider myself to be a religious Jew, I study constantly, am active within my community, yet many within Orthodoxy consider me a heretic, a woman trying to be a man rather than thanking God each day for creating me as I am. I have become quite cynical about it all. I could write a book on pluralism within religion as well, spinning tales of all the wonderful interfaith dialogs that take place between my non-Jewish friends and myself, but in the end I know that I will always struggle with trying to find a way to accept those within my own religion who cannot except me unless I become the kind of woman they just know God has decreed for me to be, out of sight and silent in shul.
I'm honest, but not angry; I don't try to hide behind a facade of gentleness and acceptance. I acknowledge my own struggles, my own hypocrisies, my own lack of acceptance towards some of my neighbors, my own sense of disappointment with God and many religious men. I listened to the whole of this interview, it was nice, pleasant, feel-good, but in the end all I could think was, the Rabbi spoke of the value of really talking to each other but talk is cheap. Incredibly cheap. Hurtfully cheap.
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