It has been pointed out that religion, understood in the fullest sense, can be all-inclusive. The Woke faith, to take the latest popular example, provides much more than a priesthood. It comes complete with a political system that defends a thorough corruption of democratic principles. Speech is controlled. Every aspect of life, from how we travel (electric/bicycle) to what we do with our nights (sorting garbage and watching indoctrinating shows) is mandated by our priesthood. Since Nature is the ultimate good, our desires, being natural, define the good. Even our sex is a matter to be decided only after we truly connect with our natural, animal selves.
Judaism, and its foundational document, the Torah, is nowhere near as ambitious. The Torah does not tell us what kind of government to have. The rules it lays out are for one purpose only: maximize the holiness of our relationships. Everything else is up to us. Which is why when Yisro (Jethro) offers organizational efficiency improvements to Moses, G-d offers no opinion. Judaism is highly pragmatic on these issues, which may go some way toward explaining its resilience over thousands of years.
On the other hand people seem to really crave being told what to do! Although the Torah is agnostic on many subjects, people seem to want to fill the hole, adding other “isms” to Judaism. As such Jews have been quite susceptible to passing fads – in the last century-plus we have seen strong influences of communism, socialism, zionism, feminism, and most recently, the Woke faith. Many synagogues – even Orthodox ones – have decided that being “organic” and “natural” and “sustainable” is essential to their mission and self-identity. Instead of recognizing that Woke is itself counter-Torah and thoroughly evil, they wrap it around Torah Judaism, obscuring and suffocating the opportunities to create real holiness between people, and man and G-d.
How do we know that Judaism is actually about the enduring power of symbolism and not the nuts-and-bolts of civil code? We know from how Moses explains his day job to his father-in-law, Yisro:
כִּֽי־יִהְיֶ֨ה לָהֶ֤ם דָּבָר֙ בָּ֣א אֵלַ֔י וְשָׁ֣פַטְתִּ֔י בֵּ֥ין אִ֖ישׁ וּבֵ֣ין רֵעֵ֑הוּ וְהוֹדַעְתִּ֛י אֶת־חֻקֵּ֥י הָאֱלֹ-ים וְאֶת־תּוֹרֹתָֽיו׃
When they [the people] have an issue, it comes before me, and I judge between a man and another, and I make known the laws of G-d and his Torahs.
The problem with this verse is that the word for “laws” is not mishpatim, the laws given for practical civil disputes. The word is instead chok, a word that refers to symbolic commandments. Which seems to be entirely irrelevant for a civil dispute! If Bob and Mike are fighting over a cow, you might think that the judge should explain why Bob gets the cow, and Mike does not.
But Moses is not – really – teaching the civil code! Instead, the Torah uses the word for symbolic commandments! And I think I know why: Moses does not really want to spend his day adjudicating arguments or even teaching a civil code. Moses’ goals are much loftier: he is trying to create a lasting legacy for G-d’s Torah. The Torah says there should be a civil legal system and it should be impartial, etc. But the details of the law are not core, any more than is the kind of government we should have. What really matters, what really lasts, are the concepts enshrined in the symbolic laws: pursue holiness in all your relationships. That is what the Torah (also named in the verse) is all about, after all. It is the core of Judaism, all the symbolic laws wrapped into one. So Moses teaches those laws, even to people fighting over a cow.
In this way, the relative fuzziness of the commandments in the Torah makes sense. The spirit of the Law matters! The letter of the Law is in the Oral Tradition, capable of growth and flexibility over time, providing a means of compliance. It plays an essential role. But in the Torah itself, Moses is described as trying to explain what it all means. Even a dispute about a cow can be an opportunity to keep the big picture in mind as we move forward in life.
All the other details? The Torah offers no opinion – except to warn against other deities in all their forms. The pagan earth worship at the heart of Woke is a corrupting and corrosive influence. We fight it by studying and internalizing the symbolism of the Torah, of always prioritizing building holy relationships with each other and with G-d.
[an @iwe and @eliyahumasinter work]