Let’s see, we have Rabbis tearing each other apart over kashrut, which is an issue that is totally irrelevant to the vast majority of Jews, the Jerusalem Post, a right-leaning newspaper in Israel publishing the self-serving (and publicly contradicted) words of an American Orthodox rabbi telling us that the technological capacity of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa is so impressive that he can not believe there are real problems there, and the Forward, a liberal Jewish weekly offering an editorial which defends the practice of rabbis withholding Kosher certification from establishments which permit mixed dancing. All we need now is Alice, and the tea party will be complete!

Rabbis claim to be leaders of the Jewish people, but have almost nothing to say about issues that matter to most Jewish people. The Orthodox community continues, by and large, its tradition of protectionism, defensiveness, and paralysis in the face of a real challenge. And the liberal community continues to demagogue an issue that, were it an “orthodox cause”, it would have shoved to the back pages weeks ago.
What I find especially disturbing is how each side loves to find Talmudic proof texts which justify their respective positions, isolate them from all texts which teach a different view, and sloganeer away as if they were running for president. Well here’s an idea that reflects the entire process which produced that Talmud which all sides love to quote. How about making sure that whatever opinion one offers about the issue of the kashrut of Agriprocessors, be it ritual, ethical, or otherwise, be offered in a way that invites the participation of those with opposing views?
The Talmud reflects a conversation that lasted for hundreds of years – one in which there was fierce disagreement, often about matters of ultimate importance, the death penalty, the definition of a good life, etc. And yes, even about kashrut. But in all of these debates, the rabbis conducted themselves in a way that assured and demanded that they would hang in with each other and keep the conversation going. In fact, the evidence all points to a mindset in which having the conversation was the only thing more important than winning it.
How about we bring back that sacred tradition as we slaughter each other over the issues of kosher meat, and over so many issues as well?
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