01 diciembre 2009

Rabbi Einhorn and the Spirit of Reform Judaism

Excerpt from the inaugural sermon delivered by

Rabbi David Einhorn

September 29, 1855

The following paragraphs from that memorable sermon show clearly enough that with Dr. Einhorn's advent in Baltimore a master mind had come to mold and fashion the Reform movement in America:

“In the development of our community we fear no Pharaoh on this sacred soil of religious liberty, no brute force which is used so often in the interest of a court or state religion — where oaths and hearts are equally broken, where the prevailing religion and the masses clinging to it are alike denied the natural unfolding of their powers. Nor within our own fold is the indifference so great as to frustrate our efforts. The sacrifices you have already made to establish a nobler worship, your successful endeavors to lend, provisionally at least, a becoming garb to a religious service that has fallen into such decay, and, finally, the unanimity with which you extended the call to me to repair the breaches of our house — all this gives promise of gladsome and harmonious labor for the high aim we have in view. . . .

The Law of God, with relation to man, consists, like man himself, the child of God, of a perishable body and of an imperishable spirit. The body is to be only the servant of the spirit and must pass away as soon as the spirit ceases to dwell in it. . . . We have here the very essence of the covenant between God and man which is binding for all times, in all places and on all peoples. . . . All other divine ordinances are only signs of this covenant, a fence and hedge around the eternal and universal Law; now recalling holy memories, now proclaiming solemn convocations, and now again urging a whole- some separation from heathen customs. By their very nature they cannot always and everywhere remain the same, as there is nothing in them of an abiding or universal character. Not that man will ever be able to do entirely without objective signs; but their mode an4 degree must conform to the different stages of civilization, to national, industrial and social conditions — in short, to all that is implied by the subjective and objective life of man. The religious idea can no more be held rigidly to the same form through the whole course of its development, from its first blossoming to its full ripeness, than the fruit in the bud, than the butterfly in its chrysalis. And the same alteration that was imperative in the developing process of the religious idea of the Jew in the course of its own growth is demanded also by the Jew's wanderings through the world, by the changes in the stream of life flowing around him. . . .

Our religious history, in fact, shows a transformation of the Biblical religious forms to such an extent that in the past two thousand years by far the largest number of them have completely passed out of Jewish life. True, our pious forefathers went to great pains to keep themselves still attached to these forms from which the spirit had fled ; they mourned over the death of these usages as though Judaism itself had received a mortal wound; and they endeavored to console themselves with the vain hope that they were only seemingly dead, "No," they said, "the glorious house of David has not forever sunk into the dust, nor the wonderful Temple with its sacrifices and priests and Levites; neither has Israel been cast out of his Father's house. A time will come when the Lord will raise up again the fallen tent of David, gather the scattered tribes of Jacob in their ancient habitation, and restore the sanctuary of Zion in full glory." But the lament and the hope alike rest on untenable ground, springing from the attempt to equalize or, more correctly, confound the religious body with the religious spirit. It led them to regard both as equally immutable. Instead of seeking to refine and exalt the body through the spirit, they tried to coarsen the spirit into mere body, applying their standard of ceremonialism even to the sphere of morality. The voices of the prophets had long been hushed who, with indefatigable zeal, proclaimed the spirit of the Law of God as the banner of Israel, around which all peoples would one day rally, by which the pomp of ceremony — sacrifices, fasts, all — would once and for all be rendered useless and un- availing. At the time of the destruction of the second Temple they seemed to call out: "Be comforted! The cerement is now dead, but out of the grave has arisen the unfettered spirit ready to soar over the whole earth in its flight. From the ashes of the Temple of an isolated Israel will gradually arise that mighty edifice for all humanity of which the Lord has said, 'Mine house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations/ Out of the ruins of Judah there shall come forth a Messianic world. Often will you cement the stones in this temple with your heart's blood; but that glorious goal is worthy of those sacrifices, and such sacrifices are more precious than a thousand rams and goats." . . .

Judaism has arrived at the critical stage when it must part company 'with dead and obsolete ceremonies, if it means to keep the Jews within the fold or prevent their moral decay. In consequence of the irresistible stress of everyday life there is a growing antagonism between the activities of the world and our religious convictions — a condition that is gradually robbing conscience of its disciplinary character. No greater evil than the continuance of such a state of affairs could befall Israel. On the one hand, we are wont daily to violate the weightiest ceremonial laws, though as Israelites we acknowledge them as binding; on the other, we give expression in our prayers to pious hopes and aims to which there is not the faintest response in our hearts; which are, moreover, in flat contradiction with the real spirit of the Sinaic Law, It is inevitable that, little by little, our religious sensibilities must either become completely dulled or find expression in other beliefs. In the face of this antagonism, experience has shown that all persuasion and pleading in favor of tradition — to galvanize dead forms into life — is ineffective. Even the praiseworthy attempts to bring back something of the old charm by harmonizing our public service, externally, with modern life are futile and will remain so, because at bottom they only serve to hide the decay within. We have here a flaw which goes sheer down to the very heart of the Jewish faith, which no specious palliation can remedy. The remedy must be thoroughgoing. The evil which is gradually draining our strength and sapping our life must be plucked up by the roots. This we can accomplish only by recognizing whatever is decayed and untenable in our religious life and then, in the name of our faith, by solemnly freeing ourselves from its authority. Thus alone may we effect for ourselves and for our children the liberation of Judaism if we are to prevent a defection from Judaism. . . .

In these endeavors, however, we should never depart from the impregnable basis of the divinely revealed Word. Of this our name, Har Sinai, admonishes us. It suggests the significant injunction:, "Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn — there where the Lord had chosen your forefathers and their descendants as His priests and bound them for all time to His Law." The crumbled ruins of the ramparts that were built about the Law as a defence we may, nay, we should, allow to fall away. We should at once set to work to remove the debris — ^not, however, to destroy, but to build up ; not in a spirit of vanity or self -exultation, nor without that piety which rightfully belongs to holy relics, but with deep reverence for our sanctuary and an ardent desire to shield it from threatening perils. Our repudiation of obsolete religious ideas and usages should bring us with increased and undivided attachment to that real inwardness of our faith which is affected by neither time nor space, which will still endure "when the earth shall wax old like a garment and the heavens pass away like smoke." No, we have no faith to offer that is of our own making, no Judaism tricked out in the approved fashion, no mere polishing of old Jewish customs, no aberrations into a formless void. On the contrary, we want a clean-cut, sharply defined Judaism which, rooted in majestic Sinai, shall yet crown its four thousand years of history by blossoming anew and bringing forth glorious fruit.”*

From the translation of Dr. Einhorn's sermon by Rabbi C. A. Rubenstein. published in commemoration of the Einhorn Centenary Celebration in Har Sinai Temple, November 5, 6 and 7, 1909

http://www.archive.org/details/historyharsinai00rubegoog


1 comentario:

Anónimo dijo...

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article