A living Judaism demands an exquisite balance between inside and outside, concern for our own and concern for the other, particularism and universalism. From era to era and generation to generation, the balance point shifts. But as long as Jewish life holds fast to both, it thrives. In our time, the balance has broken. Perhaps this is the residual effect of living in the shadow of the Holocaust — a symptom of our collective PTSD. Instead of an active tension, we are left with severe polarization. Jews today turn inward and resent the suggestion that they are responsible for the world. Or they turn outward and reject the value of Jewish identification. One side interprets Judaism exclusively in universalist terms; for them, tikkun olam — repairing the world — is the only mitzvah. The other holds that Jewish concern is entirely internal; for them the only world, and the only repair, is mitzvah. Such polarization will suffocate Judaism.
Rabbis Daniel Gordis and Sharon Brous are among the contemporary Jewish intellectual heroes struggling to resuscitate contemporary Judaism by reviving the balance. That is what makes their controversy so painful to witness. Gordis inveighs against Brous’ concern for the other, and charges that her loyalty to her own is insufficient. In his eyes, her sensitivity to the suffering of Palestinian children somehow displaces her commitment to his own children and the children of Israel. This attack only deepens the polarization.
Read the rest of the story at timesofisrael.com.
Rabbi Ed Feinstein is senior rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom.
More on the compassion controversy:
- Rabbi Sharon Brous vs. Rabbi Daniel Gordis: Betrayal or compassion? by Julie Gruenbaum Fax
- Email from Rabbi Sharon Brous to IKAR
- Rabbi Daniel Gordis: When balance becomes betrayal
- Rabbi Sharon Brous: Lowering the bar
- A response from David Suissa
- A response from Rabbi Mordecai Finley
- A response from Danielle Berrin
- A response from Rabbi Wolpe