Israel as idolatry: Michael Lerner

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In a sardonic but true comment Rabbi Michael Lerner opened his recent article on “Israel as idolatry “with these words:

Go into any synagogue in the US or Israel and you can tell people that you don’t believe in God, don’t observe the commands of Torah, don’t observe the Sabbath, or even that you plan to be eating a pig sandwich on Yom Kippur and the majority of people will shrug their shoulders, and welcome you in. But dare to say that you think that Israel is violating human rights or, worse, that it really is just a political entity like all other political entities and does not have any particular claim on your loyalties, and you will be treated as though you had just spoken the greatest of Jewish heresies.

Lamentabile dictu as we used to say in Latin…extremeley sad to speak like this.

Yet this truism, this Jewish fundamentalism has its analogues in the other Abrahamic faiths as well. We need not single out synagogues where in my city the signs proliferate outside: Time to stand for Israel.” Note not to stand for Torah and authentic Jewish universal values, the great gift of the ages to humanity but time to stand for Israel.

This would not be so bad if it meant to really stand for Israel: love her—unreservedly, even in he brokenness, even in this moment of her radical defensiveness and blindness. Even to turn the great Jewish gift of the prophets on the ugly state that Israel has become, a virtual pariah among nations, one which stands alone in vote after vote in the United Nations propped up by the United States.

If outside a Catholic church we saw signs “time to stand up for “The Vatican”or “the Curia”, we might say,”yes, but…” our first commitment is to the reign, the malkuth Yawweh, that Jesus proclaimed, the kingdom of peace and justice. Is the institution carrying it? Can we challenge it to model these values?

Lerner as a rabbi is duty bound to preach Torah…and that means prophecy.


Many great Jews of course have repeatedly warned against the loss of faith in Torah. Many years ago Alexander Schindler the then leader of American Reform Jewry put it powerfully ”We do ourselves irreparable harm when we make Israel our surrogate synagogue.”

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