This is the kind of thing that breaks my heart. The Forward, Jerusalem Post, and other media outlets are either chortling over or utterly bemused by a spat between two top contenders to be Israel’s next Sephardic chief rabbi. The subject of the dispute? What blessing to say over a popular brand of Israeli junk food, Bamba, a revolting peanut-butter flavored corn puff thing that comes in a chemical-burn blue wrapper with a picture of an insane roller-skating infant on the front. What have we come to?
I don’t know how accurate the reporting is, but it almost doesn’t matter. We representatives of Orthodox Judaism give little reason to the rest of humanity to think that we’ve got other, more important matters on our agenda.
I struggled briefly with whether even to mention this to you. Part of me wants only to be inspiring or edifying, or at least informative or provocative about serious Torah-related matters. But the only reason I’m here doing this at all, inadequate Jewish scholar and inadequate Jew in general that I am, a mere journalist, is that so much of the rest of Orthodoxy has effectively given up on our once universally agreed upon mission to stand publicly for ultimate truths as transmitted by the tradition of Moses. Instead, we are bickering about a corn puff.
This is the face we turn to the world. What a farce. What a tragedy. Can you imagine such a thing if there were a Rav Hirsch on the scene? The world, Jewish and Gentile, needs to know Judaism is about so much more than this. Infinitely so.
There are Jewish blogs that try to paper over this scandal of Orthodox irrelevance. They want to be only inspirational, and I can appreciate the need for that. Other blogs do nothing but excoriate Orthodox Jews for being flawed human beings, unlike the rest of mankind. I find that, basically, evil. My own view is that at least one voice has to fight the good and Jewish fight (hence, for example, my preoccupation with Darwinism — which poses the question of whether God is superfluous to understanding life’s history, than which no question can be more fundamental), without piously ignoring reality.