“Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge” (Isaiah 3:13).
In a comments thread we’ve been having a sad but fascinating conversation
with a well meaning Jew who seems on the verge of conversion to Catholicism. He wrote an initial comment claiming to be that person who I said doesn’t exist
: The well seasoned, fully cooked Orthodox Jew who in our day — when Christian anti-Jewish persecution and intimidation don’t exist anymore, when Christians are in fact increasingly philo-Semitic — nevertheless decides to become a Christian. The reader, Range Rover, presented himself as the disproof of this particular Klinghoffer’s Law.
So I read his subsequent comments in the thread with care and interest. But he doesn’t disprove the rule, unless I’m very much mistaken. I asked him about his background in Orthodox Judaism. How far did he get in yeshiva? How many years?
He didn’t answer that question but he did write movingly about his father’s religiosity — put on tefillin twice daily — and about his devotion to his dad — when his father died, he said Kaddish for six months. His described his family’s Jewish background as being “very religious in the Mitnagdim tradition.” By that he perhaps meant to say “Misnagdic” (the adjectival form). He perhaps meant to say his father put on tefillin once daily — no one does so twice. (Chassidim, not Misnagdim, may don Rabbeinu Tam tefillin but immediately after the morning service not at some other time of day.) By six months, he perhaps meant eleven months, which would be the standard length of time.
Sound like trivia to you, more harping on “the Law”? Why does any of it matter? Because perhaps when he says he was raised as an Orthodox Jew, he really means that he received part of a Jewish education but not the whole thing. Why do I bring this to center stage? Partly because I’m pretty sure that Klinghoffer’s Law hasn’t been violated at all but instead confirmed. Once you’ve been fully cooked as a Jew, and barring a persecutory culture, then atheism may be a possibility but not Christianity. Understandably, we tend not to know what we don’t know. The apostle Paul also thought he was well steeped in the Orthodox Judaism of his time but couldn’t understand the Hebrew Bible well enough in Hebrew to cite it in his letters and had to rely on the faulty Greek Septuagint instead. So Range Rover, who also like Paul writes in distinctly non-Jewish language (“the Law”), is in honored company.
Partly, too, my purpose is to emphasize the centrality of education in the Torah worldview. When it comes to Jewish faith, anyway, you can’t really “get it” without having been steeped in it for a while, as an adult. The message, the perspective, isn’t simple. I’m still trying to clarify it for myself so that I can pass it on to my kids. One thinks of a born Jew like atheist Sam Harris who mocks the Hebrew Bible in cartoon form, clearly from total ignorance.
In short, don’t think you know enough about Torah to reject Torah until you’ve studied it and lived it as a mature person.