In response to the article by Eugen Schoenfeld in the Rosh Hashanah issue (“Shema Yisrael: Morals More Important Than Rituals,” Sept. 15), I would like to make my feelings known.
As he is a Holocaust survivor, I have the utmost respect for what he went through during that awful period. No one from my generation can possibly imagine the horrors he witnessed and the emotions of losing family and friends in such a brutal way.
However, I do want to point out that his articles have had a consistent theme — that is, to denigrate observant Judaism. He has written many times about how in his youth he and his family adhered to Torah mitzvot but that at some point in his life he believed that the goals of tikkun olam and taking care of fellow Jews superseded the need to keep the commandments (mitzvot). In this particular article, he mentions that his Orthodox Hasidic grandfather told him before anything else to be an eidler mensch, a moral and caring human being. Mr. Schoenfeld goes so far as to say that being Jewish has changed for most people in that the godly humanistic principles override the rituals (commandments).
The five Books of Moses command Jews to adhere to the commandments and to develop our proper relationship with G-d (and humans in specific, godly ways) many times over, and Deuteronomy even predicts that the Jews will lose this path and create other, man-made values.
Yet the Torah clearly states that the commandments between man and G-d (as well as between people) constitute the primary basis for the existence of Jewry in the first place. This is how we become a light unto the world, for a Jew who keeps the mitzvot is not keeping them if he is not moral and caring.
Again, I respect Mr. Schoenfeld for the life he has lived and his themes of challenging Jews to look out for others. Where I disagree is the constant denigration of the Torah commandments.
I would posit that if the Jewish Times had a regular contributor who wrote that the only way to be a “good Jew” was to be mitzvah-observant, including being shomer Shabbos (keeping Shabbat), to the exclusion of being moral and caring, there would be a strong outcry from the readership.
I would ask Mr. Schoenfeld to keep challenging the Atlanta readership to be moral and to continue being an eidler mensch, but to do so by leaving out the advice that the Torah rituals are antiquated, have been replaced and need not be followed anymore.
— Matt Marks, Sandy Springs