BY RABBI SHLOMO PINKUS / AJT //

black hat 2I try to not get personal when writing, but after having my denomination repeatedly attacked, I feel that it is time to speak out.

You have called “ultra-Orthodox,” the “enemy,” “unjust,” “restrictive” and “right-wing rock-throwers.” At the same time, the “left” or “liberals” have been called “respectful” and “sensitive,” praised for their “wisdom and openness.”

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According to others, I am Orthodox (a name given to a denomination by the Reform movement more than a hundred years ago) – but I can assure you, I am not “ultra.” That tag used by people who have distanced themselves so far away from the Torah that to them now we seem extreme.

But we have not changed – we do not become more “extreme” or “ultra” as the years go on.

As for how Orthodoxy has become so misunderstood, I would respond with a question. How many of our detractors really know us?

My house is open to everyone. We continuously have people from all religions coming over, and that includes Jews of Reform, Conservative and Chasidic backgrounds who sit at my Shabbos table together. If we are so closed-minded, why are these people in our home and not in that of one more “respectful”?

I would ask: When was the last time one of Orthodoxy’s attackers had an Orthodox or Chasidic Jew over for a chat or out for a cup of coffee?

We are open-minded enough to accept others; we are just not so open-minded that our brains fall out. Just because we do not agree with a position that does not mean that we are less caring or less involved with that topic, nor does it mean that we are to the right or left; for us, this is not politics – it’s our service to Hashem.

We do believe in women’s rights and equality and have done so longer, and with more opportunity, than anyone else. But just because we are all equal it doesn’t mean that we are different. Why ignore what you can embrace?

As it says in Proverbs 31:10, “An accomplished woman…far beyond pearls is her value.” But would your average Reform Jew even know of Sheerah, who built the lower and upper Beth-Horon and Uzzen-Sheerah. Not to mention the seven prophetesses, and countless women mentioned in the Torah and Talmud who have helped form what we know of as Judaism.

These women would not be looked at so fondly by “the left,” as they made all of their contributions according to Jewish law. Not just Jewish law, but what is being disrespectfully disregarded as “Orthodox, closed-minded Jewish law.”

I have to wonder: If any of these women were around today would they be called “ultra-Orthodox”? Would a “liberal” so quickly spit at them as you do at us?

“Orthodox” is a denomination for those who strictly follow the laws. That would obviously mean that anyone ever caught throwing a rock at another person can’t be “Orthodox,” no matter what color their suit or hat. We do not learn our morals from society; we follow the Torah, so if we are doing something that disagrees with what you may consider the “societal norm,” then perhaps the source to question is society.

The Torah and the Talmud is where we should all find our values and our guidance, and if it says something that you don’t like or that we Orthodox are doing something that your “society” disagrees with, then that should beg the question:

Is your problem with the Orthodox, or with Hashem’s Torah?

Remember, we didn’t write it. We just follow it.

Rabbi Shlomo Pinkus is a rabbinic field representative for the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.

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