July 15, The Jewish Press
Assimilation is like a virus in many ways. It spreads primarily from close contact with those who are already infected, though casual contact is also dangerous. Carriers may exhibit a variety of symptoms, and may even be asymptomatic. Many get away with only mild cases of the disease – and tend to downplay it as a result – but many others suffer severe cases that lead to permanent damage and even spiritual death.
More parallels can be drawn, but let's proceed to the main point.
We tend to think of assimilated Jews as those who have married gentiles. Until recently, that was the “test”; assimilation was equated with intermarriage. Most people would agree that Jews who are indistinguishable from gentiles, even if they marry another such Jew, can fairly be described as assimilated, though their chance of recovery is significantly greater.
The truth is that assimilation is a subtle and sinister disease. Even Jews who keep Shabbos, are strict about kashrus, and maintain the exterior trappings of a Torah-observant lifestyle can be infected with it. These cases are the most difficult to detect, which also make them the most difficult to cure. The intermarried Jew knows he is not living in the ways of his ancestors; he can have a sudden awakening and return. The assimilated Orthodox Jew can hardly be convinced by sage or even prophet that he is not in perfect health.
Here are four tests, in no particular order, to determine if you are an assimilated Orthodox Jew.
1) You live outside of Israel, with no intention to change that, and teach your children how important it is not to make a chillul Hashem.
The latter clause is not necessary for the assimilation aspect, but it sheds light on it. There is no greater chillul Hashem than the Jewish people living outside of Israel. This is irrespective of whether Moshiach has arrived, or the quality of life inside or outside of Israel. The definition of galus is the Jewish people exiled from Israel. It is a greater chillul Hashem for Jews to live in a pristine religious bubble outside of Israel than for them to live among idol worshipers inside their own land. This is because the banishment of Jews from their land is proof to the nations of the world that God has abandoned the Jewish people, or that He cannot protect them. This idea is emphasized throughout Sefer Tehillim.
So if you live in a nice Jewish community in the Diaspora and worry about making a kiddush Hashem in your interactions with gentiles, consider this. Your very presence there is the ultimate chillul Hashem; nothing else compares to it, and no amount of good behavior will make up for it. If this does not bother you, and you are not actively striving to rectify it, then you are an assimilated Orthodox Jew.
2) You take moral cues from the goyim.
Morality is not subjective, nor does morality evolve or progress from one generation to the next as does technology. That belief is incompatible with belief in God – Who alone determines what is right and what is wrong – and the Torah, where these determinations are immortalized.
Everyone lives by some type of moral code – even criminals, gangs, terrorists, and those who profess the vapid belief that there are no rules. As long as the world is populated by more than one person, there will always be rules. The only question is whether these rules will be based on the Torah, or invented by man. The morality of any particular rule or system is determined strictly by its fidelity to God's objective truth.
Our very existence as Orthodox Jews is for the purpose of implementing God's complete Torah in our land and spreading the basic Noahide teachings to the rest of the world. Moral enlightenment is supposed to flow exclusively from Torah to Jew to gentile, never the reverse. Knowledge of science and art may be obtained from a variety of sources, but when it comes to morality there is only one authentic source.
Many Orthodox Jews receive moral direction from gentile society. It is no coincidence that “new understandings” of a woman's role directly parallel gentile movements awash with atheism, socialism, and a general rebellion against tradition. Orthodox Jewish women did not wake up one day and decide they are oppressed, kept down, unappreciated, abused, and erased by a barbaric patriarchy. These ideas seeped into the Orthodox world from impure sources and gradually poisoned people's minds. Isolated cases of real crimes against women were sensationalized and blown out of proportion to create a false impression of a corrupt system, with the goal of undermining tradition and eventually burying it completely.
Sincere, well-meaning Orthodox Jews imported an impure goyish movement with a kernel of truth to address problems in Jewish society real, exaggerated, and even fabricated. The goyim decided there were to be new understandings of right and wrong, and the Jews followed.
The same is true with such causes as vegetarianism and veganism. Their explosion in popularity among Orthodox Jews directly followed new understandings of morality among “enlightened” goyim. These goyim believe that they are morally superior to those who eat meat, to the extent that meat-eaters are referred to as murderers. They have also decided that taking the life of a plant to sustain oneself is perfectly fine, based on arbitrary considerations. They simply make it up as they go along.
Needless to say, slaughtering an animal and offering it as a sacrifice on an altar is anathema to many Orthodox Jews, who maintain they want a Bais Hamikdash but seem to have forgotten what we actually do there. It's not a Kotel with four walls.
Orthodox Jews who believe they are more moral than the Torah and those who transmitted it to us throughout the generations, based on goyish movements, are assimilated Orthodox Jews.
The same is also true with movements pertaining to “rights” of homosexuals and their ilk. A gradual erosion within the Orthodox world from the Torah's clear positions on these issues, to eventual sympathy and even support for that which the Torah abhors, directly mirrors the “progress” of these movements in gentile lands.
We have lost the ability to be outraged by anything anymore, except at fellow Orthodox Jews who stubbornly cling to tradition in the face of new morality. Orthodox Jews are supposed to be the leading and most outspoken voice when it comes to moral issues, clearly and proudly articulating the view of the Torah. Instead, our voice is the very last to be heard, suppressed as long as possible, and then meekly attempting to reconcile the goyish morality of the day with the Torah's eternal teachings.
Can there be any greater sign of assimilation than that? Can there be anything more humiliating?
3) You believe interlopers in our land should be given control over any part of our land.
I recently saw a film by Ami Horowitz called Interview With A Murderer in which he interviewed a senior Hamas terrorist. He asked the Arab if abandoning any part of “Palestine” would be a breach in the promise between Allah and the Muslim people.
The Arab replied as follows: “You are talking about our rights. Why abandon your rights? There is no way that you can abandon part of your home, willingly. It belongs to all the Muslims. We are talking about the Holy Land here. It belongs to every Muslim in the world. I cannot give away, Abu Mazen cannot give away, Yasser Arafat could not give away, nobody can give away any part of it.”
If you are an Orthodox Jew, and you do not firmly echo this response, with “Jews” and the names of Jewish politicians substituted where appropriate, then you are an assimilated Orthodox Jew.
4) You have a problem with the mitzva to wipe out Amalek.
The Torah's position on this is crystal clear. Shaul lost his kingdom and his life primarily because he took pity on Amalek. King David repeatedly emphasized his desire to pursue the enemies of the Jewish people, which are synonymous with the enemies of God, and wipe them out.
The latter is the leader we pray for three times a day, which presumably means we should vote for him in an election.
Today a great many Orthodox Jews want nothing to do with this mitzva. Since Orthodox Jews cannot simply do away with an uncomfortable or inconvenient mitzva as do their more “progressive” counterparts, they simply define them into irrelevance. Amalek is transformed from an actual nation of actual people to an idea – preferably an amorphous one – that must be abolished, particularly from inside ourselves.
See, dear gentile, we Jews are good – based on your definition, of course.
More traditional Orthodox Jews will maintain that Amalek does refer to actual human beings that we are commanded to wipe out, but we cannot possibly know who they are and we probably never will. Even if we did know who they are, due to a number of practical considerations we would not be allowed to do anything about it.
That may be true, but they say this with relief, not regret. If Eliyahu Hanavi delivered Amalek to them, gave them a sword, invited them to perform the mitzva, and assured them that no Jew would suffer for it, the Orthodox Jew would want nothing to do with it.
This Orthodox Jew is assimilated. The same Jew who would run to wear techeiles if he were confident that the opportunity to perform the mitzva had been restored should run with the same eagerness to fulfill another mitzva that has been denied us for generations. If you are an Orthodox Jew, how can you claim there is a difference? How can you desperately wish to remain exempt from a mitzva that is fundamental to achieving our national destiny? It is only through assimilation.
If you exhibit any of these symptoms, then I
am afraid that you have contracted the disease of spiritual
assimilation. Fortunately, with early detection and an honest
assessment, the chances of a full recovery are high.