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    The changing face of secularism – T’rumah

    ritual-150x150The sidra commences with a command to bring an offering to God.

    Over the centuries the response has taken four forms – spiritual yearning, individual and communal prayer, ethical conduct and practical observances.

    The 19th century ushered in an Age of Elimination with its question, “How much can I eliminate and still be Jewish?” A few Jews tried to remove themselves totally from the Jewish fold but without great success. The Holocaust put paid to the notion that one could be disguised enough to escape being treated as a Jew.

    Hollywood was full of Jews who changed their names and pretended to be gentiles but their Jewish origins came back to haunt them. Currently some Jews try to keep their Jewish identity quiet in order not to be blamed for Israel’s real or imagined sins, but it hardly ever works.

    More important is the strain of Jewish identity which calls itself secular and seeks to be Jewish without God. An out-of-date battle now that there is a general return to tradition (in the USA the increasingly powerful Jewish group is orthodoxy) and the question really is, “How much tradition do I need?”

    Very few Jews throw off the totality of tradition. Sabbath candles and the Seder are alive and well; even the secularists say the b’rachot that praise the God they reject. They even belong to synagogues and give their children a Jewish education.

    As Rav Kook used to say, even the atheists turn out to be believers.

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