Newsweek published its list of the 50 most influential rabbis, and the usually entertainingly acerbic Failed Messiah comments blandly, “Star power trumps community influence.” There’s much more that we can say than that.
This list, which will be the talk of the Jewish community for the next week, along with that comment from the normally ferocious blogger, illustrates the whole problem with our Jewish leadership. There are some wonderful individuals on Newsweek‘s rabbi list. But do you see anyone — apart from the idiosyncratic Shmuley Boteach — whose influence has anything to do with the Jewish mission as Jewish tradition, and this blog, defines it? “Influence” upon our own little “community” is well and good, but it’s not why God made Jews. True, the top rabbi on the list, David Saperstein, exerts an influence on the wider world, but in a direction either tangential or diametrically opposed to Judaism.
Saperstein runs the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. In the most recent press release on the RAC’s website, we find Rabbi Saperstein taking a firm stance against tobacco, supporting the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Which of course has zero to do with Judaism. It’s an example of what I call the moralesque — pseudo-moral issues that are a favorite of the Religious Left.
What is the Jewish mission? Providentially, a few days ago as I was inaugurating this blog, I came across a succinct definition in the classic Torah commentary of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. More on that shortly.