Cleaning out the attic in his grandparents house seemed an unlikely place to discover some of the most well kept secrets of Judaism but that is exactly what happened to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, Head of North America's Reform Movement, "Which just goes to show that God really works in mysterious and wondrous ways," said the Rabbi after unearthing several ancient texts, believed to be hundreds and perhaps even thousands of years old. The ancient scriptures, written in a foreign language - later identified as a Semitic language called Hebrew - intrigued the Rabbi, "Deep inside, I had a feeling that there was a hidden message for our generation, waiting to be discovered in those books."
Although it took two whole years of hard work until the texts finally surrendered to the Rabbi's determined investigation, his initial intuition proved correct – the ancient Hebrew texts reveal a Jewish way of life that the Reform Rabbi had no idea existed, "Apparently, our ancestors practiced a completely different form of Judaism, bearing such a meager resemblance to our own practices that it is hard to understand how and when such a complete and radical transformation took place," said the Rabbi.
"For instance, in ancient times, Jews had a special day, called the Sabbath, in which they did not do any work," said the Rabbi, "Of course, such a notion may seem ridiculous to us, but apparently, living in a land of milk and honey called 'Israel' they could afford to take a day off," explained the Rabbi.
However not all the practices have any bearing to modern life, "It is written that the Jews were forbidden to cook the flesh of a young goat in his mother's milk," said the Rabbi, "Obviously such an injunction has no meaning to most modern people who live in the city and don't even have any goats."
"Numerous other practices may seem odd to the modern man," according to Rabbi Yoffie, "But the inner logic of the text makes it clear that at the time they did have some spiritual meaning," said Yoffie, referring to practices such as reading chapters of the ancient texts over and over again, year after year, "One would expect that after a while, people would get bored by the same book," said the Rabbi, who suggested that the lack of printing techniques and materials at the time could have been the reason behind this practice.
Another example is the observance of circumcision,
"This seems a most painful operation and in all likelihood was just meant as a metaphor for a concept that we simply do not understand at this time," said Rabbi Yoffie.
Although the interpretation of the texts is still ongoing and many issues remain uncertain, the Rabbi has already reached conclusions of his own, "After reading these texts it seems to me that somehow we have strayed a long way from our original roots. Judaism has many strict rules – not all of them understandable as of yet – but it is clear that the resulting picture is a far cry from our own permissive, Johnny-go happy attitude," admitted the Rabbi, who said that he believes the young generation will embrace this new, stricter version of Judaism, "As it turns out, Judaism has expectations and demands, but in return it enriches your life. If it is just convenience, then it is not worth anything," said the Rabbi who expects to lead Reform Jews on a new exodus, "From the land of 'anything goes', to the land of respect for our past and doing things the right way."
The original post from the Jerusalem Post with apologies to my Reform friends (although they already know that I believe there must be better ways to practice Judaism than throwing out the baby with the water…)