Hmmmnnnn…….A Word to The Wise (If Only)

I wish I could send the following passage to the right-wing Orthodox courts currently implicated in the conversion crisis, the aguna crisis, and even the Israeli kosher l’pesach crisis, which places greater and greater burdens on Israel and reduces our “wisdom before the nations”. Of course sending it to them would not be enough: they’ve seen it. I wish they would see it, hear it, place it upon their hearts. If taken literally it’s actually quite a scary passage: may it not be prophetic.

Taught Rabbi Yochanan: “Jerusalem was destroyed because they judged strictly by the letter of the law…they established their rulings strictly upon the letter of the law and did not judge within the margins of the law” (B. Bava Metzia 30b) Comments the Maharal: “In other words, even though the people had erred in their ways, the destruction would not have happened….But since they established their rulings strictly upon the letter of the law, destruction resulted as God reciprocated in kind with strict literal judgement…And if they would have ruled leniently, God in turn would have judged them with leniency…The distancing of compassion brings about destruction to the world” (Netivot Olam, Netiv Gemilut Chessed, end of Ch.3) [translation by R’Gershon Winkler]

Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

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